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Posted on Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

Storing harvest bounty: canning vs. dehydrating

By Corinna Borden

Borden - jars of dried veggies

I look forward to using the tomatoes, eggplant and green peppers from my garden in the winter.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

Last winter I received Mary Bell’s Food Drying with an Attitude: A Fun and Fabulous Guide to Creating Snacks, Meals, and Crafts - and I put it aside because I did not have a dehydrator. Like last year, I started this season with drying tomatoes in my oven, but the tomatoes take two full days to dry in the oven at 200 degrees. So I bit the bullet and bought an electric dehydrator - one built for the task.

I purchased the dehydrator week ago, reread all of Bell's engaging and intriguing book, and I have not turned the machine off since. I pack slivers of color, once hefty tomatoes and gleaming eggplants, into airtight jars and debate the pros and cons of dehydrating vegetables vs. canning vegetables. Here are my thoughts so far - I look forward to hearing yours.

Dehydrating pros
• Food is considered raw when dehydrated below 105 degrees (because it maintains enzymes and nutrients that are leached by higher temperatures).
• The labor involved is minimal. I cut the vegetables at night and pack them into jars in the morning.
• The equivalent ingredients take up less room when dehydrated than when canned.

Dehydrating cons
• Dried fruit and vegetables do not last as long as canned items.

Canning pros
• The recipe is finished when you open the jar, as opposed to drying the basic ingredients, and then making a recipe in the winter. (This could also be considered a con.)

Canning cons
• The labor involved is focused, hot, and continuous. From cooking the sauce, to the hot water bath, to preparing the jars - unlike dehydrating, it does not happen while you sleep.

This last point for me is the crux of the matter. A food preservation technique that is self-contained, creating results while I sleep, is incredible. To me, that is a winning food preservation technique.

Corinna volunteers with the Westside Farmers Market and wrote a book about many things.



Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 10:11 p.m.

I love my dehydrators,yes plural! I have 2 and I dry everything in season from corn to tomatoes. As long as food is completely dry I have had no issues with shelf life. I like that a dried apple slice can be a snack, an ingredient to a dish, the makings for applesauce etc. No heating up the kitchen and great quality


Sat, Sep 18, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

One addition advantage is that it takes much less space to store dehydrated food than canned or frozen food. I live in a condo and love dehydrating vegges. This year I'm going to dehydrate bell peppers because I don't like freezing them. No matter how hard I try, the smell of the peppers permeates other things in my freezer. Another thing I dehydrate are broccoli leaves and some other edible but normally tough leaves of veggies. When I dehydrate them, I break them into small bits to use in soup in the winter, increasing the nutrition of the soup. I also sprinkle dehydrated tomato bits over various dishes, like pasta with my frozen pesto, or cheese melted on corn chips. One thing I didn't like dehydrated were blueberries. They say to roll them in sugar first, but I didn't want to use sugar and just dehydrated them. They are pretty tasteless, unlike some other fruits, apples and pears that have increased flavor when dehydrated. I love dehydrated apples and pears. This year I'm trying plums, too.


Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

Ms. Borden - Thank you for the response, and the article. Hopefully, you can share additional related articles sometime soon. For what it's worth, a significant portion of the dehydrated food sold and especially eaten (long after being purchased) is substantially older than one year. Several, in fact. Too bad we don't have some kind of a large, co-op style dehydrator for those in need. Perhaps near the food co-op. Folks could dry in bulk for cheap. The co-op could also dry food at risk for spoilage. Something to think about...


Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 12:29 p.m.

I say do what you want as long as you are going to actually eat the food and not let it go to waste. Somethings are better frozen, others are better dried and others are better canned. So doing what is right for your time, taste and comsuption. I know plenty of people that go all out doing all three of these things only to not use the food over the winter. Canned goods sit on the shelf for four years while they go out and buy the same stuff at the grocery store. Cost and energy use over for one method over the other is silly if you don't actually eat the food, controlling what you are eating is better than worrying about the waste of an oven on for 2 days.


Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 11:55 a.m.

I am curious to know which method uses the least energy. I would imagine freezing is more energy-intensive because you have to keep that freezer running all the time, whereas dehydrating and canning both allow products to be stored on the shelf at room temperature. If I had to use an oven at 200 degrees for 2 days as in your tomato example I assume that would use a ridiculous amount of energy and would probably erase any economic advantage gained from growing my own or buying in bulk. So how long do you have to run the dehydrator and how much fruit can you process in that amount of time/energy relative to canning?


Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

What about freezing? Things last about one year in a deep freezer, and the process is fairly simple.


Sun, Sep 12, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

Ms. Borden - The only downside is shelf life? How long is long? Controlling storage variables would minimize oxidation.