Presently, food preservation has become a common practice. People are doing it for various reasons including saving money, survival, you name it.
If some of the fruits and vegetables you love to eat are seasonal and you want to enjoy them whenever you want even when they are out of season. Your best option is to get a basket full of your favorite veggies and fruits and preserve them. This way, you can enjoy them at any time you want, even when they are not in season.
Another situation where preserving your food may be of utmost importance is when you are in a survival situation living out in the wild. Finding edible plants in the wild can be quite a task. But, once you find edible plant food, you will want to gather as much as you can, preserve it and you do not have to worry about food for some weeks.
The problem with fresh fruits and vegetables is that the moment they are harvested, they can spoil very quickly. So if you are living in a place where refrigeration is not an option, it means that you need to employ various food preservation techniques to ensure that you have a good supply of food to survive on, for weeks.
There are a number of ways you can preserve foods. The most common methods of preserving food include sun-drying, smoking, salting, pickling, and canning. Some of these methods may not be applicable if you are in the wilderness because they require some specific ingredients.
Pickling, for example, is the process of preserving food by either immersing the food in vinegar or fermenting it in brine. Since it may be hard to obtain these ingredients if you are in the wilderness unless you already have them with you, your only other options are sun-drying, smoking and salting.
The other thing is to consider is the type of food that you want to preserve. Fruits and vegetables are best preserved using the sun-drying method, while meats are best preserved using the salting and smoking methods. Meats can also be sun-dried, but the process takes quite a long time.
Sun-Drying Fruits and Vegetables
The easiest and fastest way to preserve fruits and vegetables is by dehydrating them. While there are various ways of dehydrating these foods, the simplest method is sun-drying because the only thing you require is enough sunshine.
Sun-drying much like salting and smoking is a process of dehydrating food. It may be the easiest method of preservation, but it can take a longer time than smoking and salting. Although the duration is determined by air temperature and humidity, sun-drying food is generally a slow process.
The advantage of sun-drying fruits and vegetables is to prevent bacterial growth, enzyme activity, mold growth and yeast growth. By decreasing the water content in these foods, this inhibits the growth of microorganisms and prevents decay or spoilage.
Keep in mind that sun-drying does not really affect the taste of the food, in fact, many sun-dried fruits taste really good.
How to sun-dry food
There are vegetables that have more water content than others. This goes for fruits as well. So if you are looking to sun-dry juicy fruits, first cut them into halves or quarters if you want them to dry quickly. You may choose to cut your vegetables into small pieces or leave them whole. This depends on the type of vegetable you want to dry. Some experts suggest blanching the veggies in blistering steam before drying them to prevent enzyme activity that causes spoilage.
Either way, whether you blanch them, cut them up or not, as long as there is enough sunlight, the only thing you will require in spades is patience.
Benefits of sun-drying food
- Sun-drying food prevents microbial growth.
- Sun-dried fruits may be eaten as snacks; dried vegetables may be added to stew or soups.
- It is easy to sun-dry food.
- It is easy to carry around sun-dried food.
Some people assume that sun-dried fruits and vegetables have no nutritional value. But, this is not true. Dried fruits are a great source of energy as they contain fruit sugars in concentrated amounts. Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals; however, the drying process does destroy some of the vitamins, particularly Vitamin C and Vitamin A. But, dried fruits are rich in iron and riboflavin.
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals as well. And like fruits, they provide the amount of fiber our body needs. Although sun-drying destroys some Vitamins like Vitamin C. Vitamin A remains preserved in the veggies.
Consuming sun-dried Vegetables
The best way to enjoy sun-dried vegetables is to add them to a stew or soup. Alternatively, you can soak them in water and then prepare them however you like. Sun-dried fruits can be eaten as snacks and are very handy to take when you are going for a hiking trip.
Preserving your food can be useful in many ways. Maybe you are on a budget and you cannot afford to go to the grocery shop every week to buy fruits and vegetables. Preserving your food can help you save money.
Most veggies and fruits can be dried with the exception of a few foods. Foods that can last for weeks like carrots and butternuts do not need to be sun-dried.
How long it takes for your fruits and vegetables to dry completely is determined by temperature and humidity. For example, thin apple slices can take up to 6 hours to dry and if cut in halves, they could take about 10 hours. So it is quite a long process. But, if you want to speed it up, pretreat your food first.
Remember to handle your food safely. Even if you are in the wild, make sure you sanitize your hands and every other thing that you plan on using.
Store your dried food in a place that is away from moisture, heat, and sunlight. You want to keep your food dry, otherwise, if it is exposed to moisture, your food will go bad.