One thing you might miss on a raw food diet is convenience foods—those chips, breads, and cookies that are ubiquitous in a processed-food diet. Never fear, though; the dehydrator can help you achieve raw alternatives to those less-than-healthy snacks. What’s a dehydrator? It’s a small kitchen appliance that dries out your raw food, changing its texture. It transforms raw “cookie” dough made from fruits and other raw ingredients into a more cookie-like product that you can pick up and creates slices of “bread” containing no wheat or yeast that you can use for sandwiches. Because the food dries in a low-heat environment, it’s still raw, even though the consistency changes.
You’ve probably had dehydrated foods in the past, like fruit leathers and beef jerky, but with a dehydrator you can make a variety of foods that just aren’t that great raw unless you dehydrate them. In addition to pseudo breads, cakes, crackers, fruit leathers, and cookies, you can make vegetable chips and dehydrated diced vegetables that make a nice pop-in-your-mouth snack. The only caveat with dehydrated foods is that you need to drink more fluids to compensate for the loss of fluid from the food.
There are numerous dehydrators on the market, all with their own features, benefits, and drawbacks. The gold standard of dehydrators is the Excalibur series. These are excellent for people who are serious about dehydrating and plan to process a large quantity of food—say, most of the food from their backyard garden or a lot of raw fruit and vegetable snacks. The Excalibur is pricy but invariably draws raves from its users for its excellent dehydrating ability and large capacity. There are several models of Excalibur, but all of them work exceptionally well in terms of drying food evenly and in minimum time.
Of the many smaller, less expensive dehydrators, the Nesco FD-80 American Harvest dehydrator is rated among the best. Like the Excalibur, it is square rather than round, giving you more room on each tray for food and less wasted space. In addition, it does a better job of drying the food evenly than most inexpensive dehydrators.
Check out some raw food recipe books featuring dehydrated foods at a local bookstore, and you’ll see what a great variety you can make. Ani Phyo’s cookbooks generally contain some dehydrated foods, as do other raw foodists’ books.
1. If you’ve never tried dehydrating and aren’t sure you’ll like dried food, don’t invest in an expensive model up front. Try the dehydrated foods at your local organic grocery, like the flax crackers at Nutra Foods or the dehydrated cookies or kale chips some health food stores carry.
2. Be sure to use liners and racks specifically made for dehydrators. Although that plastic mesh at the craft store may look the same, it is not food grade material and will leach toxic chemicals into your food from the plastic.
3. The more thinly and evenly you cut your food, the faster it will dry.
4. The less you crowd food in the dehydrator, the better it will dry.
5. Check your small appliances at home to see if you have anything that can double as a dehydrator. That way, you can try out the process and the foods without investing in a new appliance until you’re sure you’ll use it. If you already have a Nesco Air-Roast roaster or a convection oven, for example, you can give dehydrating a try.
To buy locally (Call ahead to be sure what you want is in stock):
Fresh organic fruits and vegetables to go into the recipes
Dick’s Sporting Goods (3 locations locally—Beavercreek, Dayton, and Huber Heights), theKoolatron™ Total Chef Food Dehydrator-5 Tray
Gander Mountain (Huber Heights), the Open Country food dehydrators and Gander Mountain Guide Series dehydrators
Olympia Health Food Center does not stock dehydrators but can order them for you. You can try other health food stores in the area, as some occasionally stock them.
Books & Co. at the Greene has dehydrator recipe books and can order anything not in stock. Ani Phyo’s recipe books contain dehydrator recipes.
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