Dried, or dehydrated, Fruits and vegetables may seem like weird, or exotic ingredients only kept on hands by “Preppers” who live in off grid cabins awaiting the end of the world. The reality is that there’s a good chance that you’re already using them in your kitchens. What? You don’t believe me? Let me give you a list of a few of the dehydrated items that are probably already in your kitchen.
What are some of the dehydrated foods already in your home?
- Dried Cranberries
- Herbs and Spices
- Onion and Garlic Powder
- Instant Mashed Potatoes
- Stuffing Mix
All of the items listed above are made from fresh foods that are dehydrated to create something that’s shelf stable, and I imagine that they’re all things that are already in your home. Dried foods really aren’t that exotic.
What are people’s objections to using dried fruits and vegetables?
It’s funny that people who add raisins or dried cranberries to their baking or stir them into their oatmeal without thinking twice, balk at the idea of keeping a jar of dehydrated apples or celery in their pantry. These are the most common objections, or concerns, that I have come across regarding the use of dried fruits and vegetables.
- They don’t have the same nutrient content as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- They have a higher sugar content.
- They don’t taste the same as fresh.
- They’re expensive.
As we did in our article about canned food, and the one about frozen food, let’s look at each of these concerns individually.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables don’t have the same nutrient content as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables do lose some of their nutrients, the amount of nutrient loss, and the type of nutrients lost, depend upon the dehydrating process. Heat and air cause the degradation of some vitamins. Treating the fruit with sulfites helps prevent the loss of some nutrients, but causes the loss of others. Likewise, blanching prior to dehydrating also causes the loss of some nutrients.
The reality is that dried fruits and vegetables aren’t horrible in terms of nutrient loss. Canned, frozen, and even fresh vegetables lose nutrients due to processing or transportation. (Fresh vegetables lose as much of 30% of their nutrients within the first three days after harvest.) While those dehydrated apple slices don’t contain the same nutrients as an apple picked fresh from a tree in your back yard, they may have more nutrients in them than an apple that’s a year old. Plus, they make an amazing apple pie when fresh apples aren’t in season.
Dried fruits and vegetables have a higher sugar content.
This is, and isn’t, true. Since the dried fruit is simply the regular fruit that’s had the water removed, you wouldn’t expect much difference between the original fruit and it’s dried counterpart, and for the most part, that’s true. Check out these nutrition comparisons from Very Well Fit.
As you can see by the nutrition information above, there’s not a huge difference in sugar content when you eat an equal amount of fresh and dried fruit. The problem is that most of us don’t only eat 20 raisins or one prune. Instead, because they are smaller, we can easily eat a lot more. We would never consider eating 10 fresh plums or apricots at one time, but it’s very easy to eat that many of the dried ones.
Lets compare grapes and raisins again:
One cup of Grapes
One cup of Raisins
As you can see, there’s a huge difference between the two when you eat a measured volume. Because raisins are smaller than grapes, there are a lot more of them in a cup. As a result, the nutrition is significantly different. There are more than seven times the calories in a cup of raisins compared to a cup of grapes, and there is more than five and one-half times more sugar in a cup of raisins compared to a cup of fresh grapes, so it is possible to ingest more sugar, and calories, when eating dried fruits and vegetables compared to fresh.
The important thing to remember is to eat dried fruits, and vegetables, in moderation. While it may be possible to eat a large quantity of them in a single setting, it’s probably not a good idea. All of that fiber can cause some digestive issues if you eat too much. Since dried fruits are very sweet, offering your children small amounts of dried fruits as snacks, might be a way to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables without a struggle. My children love raisins, dried apricots, and apple chips as snacks, and they’re healthier than a candy bar most of the time. An important thing to remember when you are purchasing commercially prepared dried fruits, read the labels to ensure that there was no sugar added as part of the dehydrating process. Once, a package of dried apples had corn syrup included as an ingredient.
Dried fruits and vegetables don’t taste the same as fresh ones.
I can’t disagree with this one. Dried fruits and vegetables don’t taste the same as fresh. You’ll never confuse a slice of dried bell pepper with a slice of fresh. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good. My children love grapes, but they love raisins, too. Each of them has a place, and a season, in your diet. Fresh kale, in a salad, or sauteed to make beans and greens, doesn’t taste like kale chips, and the two aren’t interchangeable, but dehydrated kale leaves can be stirred into soups, stews, or sauces to add flavor during times when you might not have fresh kale available to you.
I have jars of dehydrated celery, carrots, bell peppers, and onions in my pantry. If I am missing one of these ingredients, and I’m making a soup, stew, or sauce, I simply add some of the dried ingredients. In order to do this though, I need to understand the different ratio of dry to fresh ingredients.
- About two tablespoons of my dried celery is the perfect amount to replace one stalk of celery.
- For carrots, if I need a cup full of fresh carrots, I use one-half cup of the dried stuff.
- One-fourth of a cup of dried onion is the equivalent of a medium onion, chopped.
- For bell peppers, if the recipe calls for one bell pepper, I usually add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of dried bell peppers.
Dehydrated fruits and vegetables are expensive.
This is definitely true if you’re going to your local store and purchasing anything beyond the kitchen standards that I listed at the beginning of this post, and if you’re purchasing number 10 cans of freeze dried fruits and vegetables, the prices can be even more expensive. Dehydrated, dried, apples sell for seven to nine dollars per pound. That’s a lot more expensive than buying fresh, or even canned, apples.
This problem can be solved by dehydrating your own fruits and vegetables. If you grow your own produce, or purchase it on sale, you can transform it through dehydration for very little money. Fruits and vegetables can be dried in the sun, in your oven, in an inexpensive dehydrator, or over a wood stove.
What’s Patty Cake’s Pantry’s position on dehydrated, or dried, fruits and vegetables?
While we wouldn’t recommend dehydrating your entire garden harvest, we believe that dried fruits, vegetables, and herbs, have a place in your kitchen pantry. They won’t entirely replace fresh, frozen, or canned food in our diet, but they come in handy, and they make great snacks or additions to other dishes.
Do you use dehydrated, or freeze dried, foods in your cooking? What are some of your favorites. Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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