Since we joined the CSA here for our produce, I have been preserving a LOT of food.  I have also been doing a lot of experimenting with foods, just to see how things turn out.  Several people have asked me how I do it, so I thought I’d post here.  I will forewarn you though, that I am NO expert at this stuff.  I do it this way based on my limited experience and research of food preserving.   My favorite way to preserve things is to dehydrate them.  The foods last a long time once dried, and I am not taking up valuable freezer space to preserve them!  So here is a quick tutorial of some items I have preserved recently:  

Garlic Scapes:  The stem of the garlic plant is just as edible as the bulb.  While it is still young, it is quite curly and tender, and therefore edible.  Once it begins to mature, it straightens out and becomes to tough to eat.  The flavor is similiar to garlic, but a lot more pungent and strong.  I was warned to used much less of it than of standard garlic in my dishes.  This week, I got more than I could use, so I dehydrated most of it.  

Garlic Scape

  After washing the scape, I simply cut off the lower tip, slice it like a green onion, all the way up to the flower bulb.  S tried the flower (I love having a guy so willing to eat anything!), and said it was relatively tasteless, so I disgard that portion, and dry the sliced stems.  

  

Herbs:  I have been getting a lot of herbs lately–parsley, cilantro, dill, and even some basil.  I primarily use herbs dried as a seasoning in my dishes, so drying is my preferred way to process them.  As soon as I get them in, they are nice and fresh.  I give them a good rinse, pick out any yucky pieces, slice off the lower, thicker stems (they don’t dry evenly with the rest of the plant), and disgard them.   

  I take the top, leafy portion of the plant, and lay them as evenly as possible on the dehydrator tray for drying overnight.  

  Once they are dry, I remove them carefully (they will crumble) and place them in a bowl.  Using my hands (I would use a mortar and pestel if I had one–my hands stink after this!), I just squeeze and crush all the plants and leaves.  The smaller stems get crushed with it.  Any larger or still moist stems that remain get picked out and disgarded.  I then put the crushed herbs into a little, labeled and dated baggie, and stick it the freezer.  Freezing apparently kills off any bug larvae that may remain on the leaves.  It has to be frozen for 24 hours to kill the larvae, but I just store the baggies in the freezer (for now) until I need them to refill my spice jars later.  You could just as easily store them in your pantry or cupboard.  

Green onions:  We love onions, but I can’t use them nearly as fast as get them, so I dry most of them.  I rinse the plant, and pick off any gooey pieces from the bulb.  Then I slice off and disgard any brown stems or tips.  Finally, I slice the green onion stems all the way to where they turn white and join the onion bulb.  The stems then get spread on the dehydrator tray for drying.  

  Next, I slice the roots off the bulbs, give the bulbs a final rinse, and put them in a dish in the fridge.  These could be sliced and dried with the stems, but I use these as my fresh onions in dishes and salads.  It’s a far more manageable amount!  

Other veggies, like squash and zucchini can be rinsed, sliced evenly, and spread on the dehydrator tray for future use in soups.  You could also salt them or marinade them, dry, and eat like chips.

Similiarly, bell pepper can be diced, spread on the tray to dry, and used for future soups and stews.  I love having some of these veggie flavors preserved for dishes on those nights when I am out of the fresh veggies.

Fruits are done like veggies.  They are peeled and/or sliced according to what type of fruit it is.  In the following pic, I dried apricots and cherries.  The apricots get rinsed, sliced into dry-able portions, and sorted into a single layer on the tray.  Cherries are simply sliced in half, pit removed, and layed with the peel down on the tray.  Fruits should be dried until MOST moisture is gone, and it takes on a leathery, chewy texture.  Do not over-dry them.  It really becomes a matter of personal preference, just be aware that the more moisture they contain, the faster they will spoil.

There you have it.  Dehydrating 101!  Have fun!

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