My night in with an American Beauty

10/21/15Anyone who’s seen the film ‘American Beauty’ will remember the scene where the blonde girl is wriggling around naked on a bed of red rose petals. I won’t say that I’m in the same situation with the tomatoes but I’ve certainly got enough of them to start hallucinating.

I’m sure a lot of gardeners (and their offspring) have the same moments of desperation at the thought of eating one type of veg everyday for a month. Or who cry at putting uneaten veg on the compost heap. Or who overenthusiasticly give it to friends, who nod appreciatively but whom you suspect have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

I love my tomatoes! And I really want to use every one of them in the months ahead.

Something I’ve never tried before is preservation by drying. I know dehydrating food is very popular with veg-growers in the States, but it’s not something you come across that much here. I have a chat with a couple of dehydrator aficionados on Twitter and begin to wish I had one too.

So a generous offer from UK Juicers to try out an American ‘beauty’, the Excalibur 9 Tray Dehydrator, really is a gift from the gods.

Like a lot of American appliances, it is big and practical. Looks-wise, it is neither modern nor retro. It is not a thing built to be ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ at in a snazzy kitchen. So if your kitchen is super-stylish, or just plain small like mine, you’ll need somewhere to store it when not in use.

What it is is very good at preserving your valuable, loved, home-grown produce.

The beauty of 9 Tray Excelsior Dehydrator is:

  • its capacity (all of my tomatoes are dried in one go, plus room for a few chillies)
  • the uniformity of its drying (it seems pretty efficient at circulating the warm air consistently)
  • the variable temperature control (it can dry all sorts and, because the trays are removable, can fit most things)
  • the timer, which allows you to leave it running over night or when you go out.
  • a really important one for me: it’s easy to clean! and
  • cheap to run
  • although an investment (and I would only get one if you’re serious about growing your own), I’ve heard from other users that they go on and on and on.
  • would make a thoughtful and useful Christmas pressie for any grow-your-own enthusiast.

10/21/15

10/21/15

10/22/15

There are other brands doing dehydrators, and some in smaller sizes. I would say that the larger the size the better, so that you can do everything in one go. If you often harvest more than you can eat then I’d say the 9 tray is a must.

A couple of points I’d like to make:

  • Make sure your slicing knife is really sharp. This makes cutting up lots of produce a doddle.
  • Keep a window open. (Dehydrating tomatoes smells a bit like wet trainers).

Now that I’ve got my harvest of tomatoes safely dried and stored in airtight boxes, I’m excited to try more things. I’m going to try apple rings and dried herbs next… I’ll let you know how I get on.

I’d love to hear more about your experiences with dehydrators, if you have one. And what you do with your dehydrated produce. Or maybe you have other ways of preserving vegetables that you’d recommend?

Please do share your thoughts below 🙂

Many thanks to UK Juicers for providing the Excalibur dehydrator. Please click here to view their full range

 

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