Dehydration Nation

By Mir
July 9, 2012

I bought myself a fancy new dehydrator. Wait; that’s not entirely true. I did ORDER myself that fancy new dehydrator, but I didn’t pay for it. I had some credit laying around over at and one day instead of boutiques comprised solely of upcycled vintage shabby chic repurposed milk bottle cardigans or whatever, they had this dehydrator. And I said to myself, “Self, I have always kind of sort of wanted a dehydrator. I think.”

And between that conversation and the fact that we’re not really spending money on anything, I became the proud owner of this here dehydrator a few weeks later. [ is awesome if you 1) want something random and 2) don’t need it for at least a month.]

Here is where I would turn this all into a delightful and poignant metaphor if I’d had a little more coffee. You know—dehydrating food while I am constantly weeping and probably dehydrating my own damn self. It’s poetic. Or stupid. But I’ve only had one cup so you’re spared. Phew.

This is the time of year when I’m all about food, so the timing was certainly right. My garden runneth over! Surely I could exercise my inner Laura Ingalls and… ummm… use my fancy dehydrator find new and interesting ways to put up the bounty for the long cold winter non-garden-season ahead. This was going to be EXCITING!

The first thing I did was read the instructions and recipe booklet that came with the dehydrator. My particular model has four settings, on account of that is fancy. There’s fan only, low, medium, and high. Nowhere in the enclosed materials (or after hunting online) could I ascertain what temperature those settings represent. But at least every single recipe I found dictated a specific temperature.

Oh, well. No matter! Sure the ENCLOSED RECIPE BOOKLET would tell me what settings to use for specific things, right? We had a pineapple sitting on the counter, and I had visions of delicious, chewy dried fruit, so I turned to the “fruits” section. There were all kinds of directives about preparing your fruit (“wash thoroughly and cut into uniform pieces,” for example, just in case you’re so hippified that you planned to just toss some whole apples you found on the ground in there), but then… “optimal heat settings and drying times vary.” Ooooo… kay?

Finally I decided to just go for it and set it on low overnight. Fine. I made Otto cut up the pineapple for me, because I’m a delicate flower and pineapples are kind of pointy. He did an excellent job, and I washed all of the dehydrator racks and then set about arranging the pineapple chunks on them for drying.

I’d guess the whole prep operation took about… oh, maybe 45 minutes. Finally it was all set up and I turned it on. This was a few hours before bed, so I checked it again before we turned in, and it looked about the same. But nothing was catching on fire, or anything, so I figured it was okay.

The next morning, the entire house smelled like pineapple. It was lovely. Instant luau! And the pineapple itself had shrunk down quite a bit. But it still seemed kind of squishy, so I let it go a few more hours before concluding that it was probably finished. Finally I turned off the machine and offered a piece to Monkey.

“Mmmm,” he said. “I like this better than regular pineapple! It doesn’t squirt everywhere!” Yes, that damn fruit and its natural juiciness. We certainly showed IT.

I carefully gathered up the shrunken pineapple chunks, and noted that an entire pineapple and fourteen hours of electricity yields… about a half a cup of fruit. No fooling. Monkey had a couple of pieces, Otto and I had a couple of pieces, and then Chickadee made short work of the rest of it the next time we went in to visit her. [Sidebar: It’s hard not to feel like she’s in prison when we attend regular visitation hours, which take place in the facility’s little cafeteria and are heartbreakingly poorly-attended. Of the three or four other families we regularly see there, everyone but us comes in with fast food for their kids—Chick-fil-A, mostly, but sometimes something else. Us, we bring fresh fruit and sometimes something I baked. Chickie always gobbles down the fruit first, no matter what else we bring. I crack jokes about scurvy that are amusing only to me while she tears into the mango or fruit salad or dried pineapple like it’s her long-sought-after hit of meth.]

Once the pineapple was gone, I turned to the garden.

Hmmm. Dehydrated green beans and zucchini seem… gross. I mean, I consulted the almighty Google, and people do dehydrate them and use them for soups and stuff, but I prefer freezing. Dehydrated tomatoes? Also a possibility, but ever since one of you—apologies, I don’t remember and am too lazy to look, maybe it was TC?—introduced me to this tomato sauce recipe, there is no such thing as surplus tomatoes ’round here. I make batch after batch of sauce and freeze it, and when the last bag is gone there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from THE CHILDREN, who never before liked tomato sauce. So.

Of course, I do have zucchini coming out of my ears. Or, rather, my planting boxes. Stealth ninja zucchinis continue to hide from me until they’ve swelled to the size of Louisville Sluggers, and then I bring them inside and wonder if I have it in me to shred/freeze yet another mutant. So back to the Google I went, looking for something magical to do with my dehydrator and my giant zucchini.

And then, I found it! Zucchini candy! Perfect.

In my continuing quest to become a hippie, I decided that rather than sugar and Kool-Aid, I could make it with organic fruit punch, instead. So I peeled and deseeded and cubed my zucchini, and then I simmered it in fruit juice for about half an hour, and then I drained it and spread out the cubes on the dehydrator racks. I’d used one and a half GIANT specimens, so this took quite a while and used every last rack on my fancy dehydrator.

I let it go for a few hours, then rotated the racks, and then we went to bed. In the morning I rotated the racks again. And eventually it appeared to be done, and I scraped all of the now-gummy bits off the racks and offered some to Monkey.

“Yum,” he said. “This is pretty good.”

And it really was. Which was good, because the yield from this project was… about a cup and a half worth of snacks.

In conclusion: Using a dehydrator takes a lot of prep work, a lot of electricity, and a really long time. But at least at the end of it you have almost nothing to show for it.


  1. SJ

    That is completely my experience with mine, but mine happens to be 1 million years old and has settings like “brontosaurus jerky.” The only time I bust it out anymore is when I have picked too many chanterelles and cannot let them go to waste.

  2. Megan

    My one adventure with a dehydrator (other than childhood hippie memories which I’ve firmly suppressed) was making beef jerky which turned out to be very delicious (I’m told). But since it took forEVER and left the house smelling of warm cow for… um… weeks in my memory AND since only then did I think about the fact that I don’t actually personally like beef jerky the dehydrator was quietly sold at the next garage sale.

    Funny thing is I’d nearly gotten one for my hippie-hopeful daughter who recently moved to hippie-town Oregon. Now I can ask her if she wants her street-cred enough to work and wait forever for something that is actually LESS impressive (visually) than what she started with.

    But, given the lurking habits of your ninja zucchini, I would think there was a grim satisfaction in shrinking them (literally) down to size!

  3. Lylah

    Now I want a food dehydrator!!!

  4. Brigitte

    I pop mine out about once every 5 years for beef jerky, because I like it but always think the store-bought ones are naaaasty, with mystery-ingredients. Then I have jerky until my jaw is popping from gnawing on the stuff, and I can’t breathe on anybody. And I don’t need it for another five years!

    I hope they find good meds for Chickadee soon, that she will TAKE, so you can find the real Chickie more often!

  5. bonuela

    i “tragically” “lost” my dehydrator in the great house move of ought four. why the quotation marks you ask? that is because there is no sarcasm font, and well, the word lost is a straight out lie. i just couldn’t admit to my friends and family that the overpriced item i so desperately wanted was such a disappointment.

    wait until you get to the fruit roll-up phase with your fresh picked apples or berries. between prep, drying time and cleanup those will run you about 5 dollars worth of fruit and a weeks worth of work for something you can buy for a quarter and eat in two bites. ENJOY!!

  6. Nil zed

    Yes, it runs a long time. But how much electricity does it actually use?

    It might be worth it to make apple chips or zucchini chips or dried whatever is dead cheap or overrunning the garden. But fresh pineapple is too good for it.

    Also, now we see why dried fruits or so expensive. A handful of pineapple bits is half a pineapple!

  7. Tenessa

    I like that silver lining. And I pinned that tomato sauce recipe. In my quest to become a hipster I have started collecting recipes on Pinterest and actually making them. It’s a thing.

  8. Valerie

    You never cease to entertain. How terribly brave of you to wrestle with produce rather than just watch reruns of NCIS like us. Totally productive choice, regardless of the output.

    I have come to believe that professionals at eye doctors, dentists, vets, blood donation centers, sumer camps, oil change centers and possibly even septic cleaners and power washers provide services just to keep the rest of us in line. If they have the nerve to pass judgement on our visit lapses, then maybe they could beef up the little post card notifications to get our asses back in the waiting room. No room for those worries!!

  9. Aimee

    Huh. It never occurred to me that one could make candy from zucchini.

  10. TC

    Yep, it was me with the tomato-sauce recipe (and a lack of tomatoes to use for it…DARN YOU DOGS WHO EAT THE TOMATOES JUST AS THEY BECOME RIPE)! I am now feeling about as proud as if I’d come up with the recipe myself instead of just linking it! ;-)

  11. Pats

    I just love the taste of a dried tomato. They are almost like candy. I would sacrifice any amount of sauce for that sweet yumminess.

    I haven’t used my dehydrator in a long time. It has a thingy that you can lay on one of the trays and pour applesauce on it and make fruit leather. And then there are the herbs. I used to grow a lot of sage and dry it.

    Hmm, Mir, you’re making me think I should drag it out and play with it. Although my tomato plants aren’t producing anything this year, apparently.

  12. Katie in MA

    Now if only we could fit all of my problems in there, the fancypants dehydrator could suck the life outta them, and then I would be all, Awwww! Look at my cute little baggy! Because everything looks cuter when it’s tiny. Meanwhile, don’t mock the cup of fruit. It’s tasty AND it cures scurvy.

  13. kopi-susu

    Here in hippie California, you could be using your “free” solar electricity to run the dehydrator, which mimics just leaving things out in the sun…..(maybe that’s only hilarious to me)

  14. Therese

    Ours is only used to make the venison jerky. They (meaning the men of the household) will cut up a huge hunk o’meat into lovely uniform slices and lovingly marinate it for a few days. Then they will fire up the dehydrator, which will run non-stop for about four days until I threaten to kill everyone in the household. This usually yields about a brown paper lunchbag of goodness which lasts about an hour. But it is widely sought after and fought over, with bags being shipped off to boys in boot camp and deployments.

  15. Jan

    Therese took my answer, which is that of the hunter-gatherer household. In my world, it is used exclusively for making duck jerky, which I love (as opposed to duck breast cooked other ways, which I find icky, yet feel obligated to each occasionally,as it placates the hunter in the family).

    I always think I’m going to puree berries and make fruit leather or something, but so far I haven’t gotten around to it.

    But I bought mine at a yard sale (probably from someone who discovered how many hours of prep and wait time it took to turn a whole pineapple into a snack for two children), so at least there’s that. It was a bargain! Let’s have two!

  16. carole

    Sounds pretty fun, and the kids are eating and appreciating what you’ve dehydrated.
    Here in the high desert (SW Utah), we have an abundance of sunshine and heat in the summer. I own a dehydrator which I use from time to time, but in the summer months, I made my own solar dehydrator. I bought some nylon net…extremely cheap, and 72″ wide, and sewed bags approximately the size of standard pillow cases. I arrange my vegetables, herbs, whathaveyou on cookie sheets and slip them insde the bags, and place them in full sun. Voila! Herbs take less than a day, diced bell peppers are often done in one day, MAYBE they will require a few hours the next day. They are nice to have in a jar for months when they are expensive.
    Not sure how long it would take to dry pineapple chunks, but it might be fun to see if it is faster than the elecric one.
    Now, my plan is to construct my own solar oven. I have browsed a lot of sites and they look pretty easy.
    I am jealous of your abundant garden, for sure. Our climate is so harsh that my heart is broken every year, though I never learn and, thus, plant every spring.
    My best to you and the family. Hoping all goes well with Chickadee and she will soon be home where she belongs.

  17. Tina

    I was given my grandfather’s old one last year…and it has sat in the garage, unused all year. And I was just thinking today “I think I’m going to sell that at our garage sale.” Thanks for confirming that for me! :)

  18. JennyA

    I was going to ask if you’d tried any “fruit leathers” yet — that is a really unappetizing name, if you ask me, I prefer “fruit jerky” or “fake fruit roll-up” but whatevs.

    I have one but haven’t used it in ages because once the novelty wore off it was just… tedious. I did use it to dry a whole passel (sp?) of jalapeno peppers for my mother-in-law once. I like to refer to that as the night my mother-in-law drove me to drink — although it was entirely my fault. Let’s just say that cutting and seeding approximately 3 hojillion jalapenos *might* result in the juice and fumes of said peppers getting places it shouldn’t. And that when all other remedies fail, one must simply drink an entire bottle of wine to forget the pain.

    Ah, dehydrators.

  19. bj

    But you got a happy Monkey. I think the next step is train Monkey in using the dehydrator himself.

  20. Jeanie

    How ’bout banana chips or dried apricots? Seems like the prep work would be minimal, but I guess you’d need 50 pounds to make a couple cups.

  21. Susan in SF

    Hurray for distractions! Glad you got this “treasure” via a credit. Sorta takes the sting out a bit. Not to mention the hilarious entertaining story shared with us! So nice to “share” a laugh with you again. Many positive thoughts still coming to you and yours. :-)

  22. addy

    Well, that just sounds like a whole lot more work than I am willing to do. But, congrats on the adventure!

  23. Kateebee

    Just had the dehydrator on yesterday afternoon to make dried strawberries. Yes, it is a bit tedious to quickly scoop of the hull with the tomato tool, then push them through the egg slicer onto the dehydrators screen. But oh man, the taste of those leathery little strawberry slices.

    Sure I could just a tediously core them and then stand them upright to freeze into solid state suitable for smoothies. But these little flavour nuggets probably won’t make it past August. A snack bowl of chocolate cheerios, almonds and dried strawberries. Heaven.

  24. Mel

    I like Brigitte. Awesome.

    Like Carole, I live in Utah but on the northern end. My grandfather had frames similar to what she describes that he would fill with garden produce and put on their flat 50s-era roof. I thought it was just the coolest to go check on the progress of the dehydration. And, he made the best fruit leathers. Apricot was my favorite.

  25. Kelly

    Well your results made me laugh…. I might be saying you have nothing to show for it all day!

  26. Tarrant

    Oh dear, you reminded me of why I gave up on our dehydrator fast. I keep seeing things that make me think oh! I wish I still had mine. Now I remember why it went unused so long that it vanished in a move.

  27. karen

    OK.. so I guess I’m not going there… like, ever.

  28. Kellie

    My hubby crafted a banana cracker recipe that is delicious – and when we’re drying it – we have a house that smells like banana bread baking. OMG. We also dry cantaloupe and honeydew melons – which is really yummy diced up and tossed into trail mix or granola that I toss over my greek yogurt in the morning. We go through spurts -dry a lot of stuff in season – and then pack it away for the year. I like using it on tomatoes, because they become ‘sun dried’ of a sort – which I use in a lot of recipes. (Although I AM making that sauce!)

  29. Daisy

    I keep wondering if I want a dehydrator or not. I keep coming up with “not.” By the way, I have recipes for zucchini cookies, if you wish.

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