Stopping The Spoilers

Drying preserves vegetables by removing moisture, thus cutting off the water supply that would nourish food spoilers like bacteria, yeasts, and molds. The moisture content drops so low that spoilage organisms can't grow.

Although there's a definite technique to drying vegetables, it isn't quite as precise as the procedures used for freezing or canning. Unless you'll be using an electric food dryer, you'll have to use trial and error to find the best way to maintain the proper oven temperature throughout the drying process and to provide good ventilation so moisture from the food can escape. Drying times are given in the recipes for the individual vegetables, but these times are only approximate. Every oven is different, and drying times also depend on how many vegetables you're drying at once, how thinly they've been sliced, and how steady you've kept the heat. So you'll have to experiment at first with drying times. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to judging when your vegetables are dry enough to keep the spoilers from contaminating them.

Vegetables for drying

There are a great many vegetables you can dry at home for use in perking up your salads, soups, stews, and casseroles. Good vegetables to dry include green beans, corn, peas, peppers, okra, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and summer squash. Herbs also drywell. For more information on drying herbs, see "How to Store and Use Herbs," later in this book.

Although many vegetables drywell, some vegetables should be preserved by other methods for best results. For example, lettuce, cucumbers, and radishes don't drywell because of their high moisture content. Asparagus and broccoli are better frozen to retain their flavor and texture. And if you've got the storage space, you may find it more practical to store fresh carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabagas, and winter squash in cold storage where they'll keep for several months without any special preserving treatment.

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Herbs 101

Herbs 101

Learn what you can do with herbs! How to Plant, Grow, and Cook with Natural Herbs. Have you always wanted an herb garden but didn't know how to get started? Do you want to know more about growing your own herbs in the privacy of your home and using them in a variety of cooking?

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