N14 Drying vegetables

Preventative healthcareFood Security

Many vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits can be preserved by drying. Tomatoes, onions, chillies and herbs are examples of crops that are easy to dry and store. Drying vegetables means that they can still be used months after harvesting. It can improve household nutrition during times when few fresh vegetables are available.

Cut up vegetables into slices or small pieces to encourage faster and even drying. Keep the food clean. If possible, dip vegetable pieces into a litre of boiling water containing two large spoons of salt and a soda bottle-top full of potassium metabisulphite, if available, as a preservative.

Simple dryers, like the one below, speed up the drying process, keep off flies and insects, and give some protection from sudden rain storms. When fully dry, store in airtight containers or plastic bags. Check regularly for mould. Dried vegetables can be added to stews and soups for flavouring.

Discussion

  • Do people dry food in our local area? What are the advantages and disadvantages of drying food?
  • What containers could people use to store dried fruit and vegetables that keep out the air?
  • What vegetables are available locally that might be useful to dry? How can we experiment and find out which can be dried effectively?
  • How easy would it be to encourage people to add dried vegetables and herbs to their cooking? How could we encourage this?
  • Is it possible to obtain preservatives such as potassium metabisulphite from pharmacies or health dispensaries? How much do these cost?
  • Could we build a drier like the one shown in the picture? The frame could be made from wire, wood or bamboo and covered with clear plastic. One end is left loose for entry and closed with stones or bricks. The sides can be rolled over a pole to control the temperature. Vegetables and fruit are placed inside on a wire drying frame raised about half a metre above ground to allow air to move around.