So it’s harvest time at the moment, and we’re busily trying to squirrel away our excess produce for the winter. Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden or allotment, now is a great time to buy seasonal local produce, which is often at reduced prices in many farm shops around the country.
One of the challenges is storing all this bounty. Last year, we cooked up pans of onions, garlic and tomatoes and froze them to add to winter casseroles. This year I thought I’d try something different. We were given a dehydrator for a Secret Santa Christmas present a few years ago (see last post), and I’ve not really tried it out until now.
A couple of days ago, I dehydrated cherry tomatoes and blueberries with it (we have five blueberry bushes which are heaving with fruit) and the results were fantastic. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and placed them cut side upwards (the image at the top shows my trial batch – after that I really filled the layers in the dehydrator as much as I could), and I also stabbed the blueberries with a knife so that the excess moisture could escape. It took a while (a day or more) for them to fully dehydrate, but it’s definitely worth the wait. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use an oven on a very low heat.
The dehydrating process concentrates the flavour – both the tomatoes and blueberries are bursting with sweetness and have a real kick to them. I’m intending to use the blueberries for my Christmas biscotti biscuits, but I’m not sure they’ll last that long. The tomatoes will be put into casseroles and sauces. They’ll both keep for weeks, if not months in airtight jars.
There are plenty of other foods that can be dehydrated – bananas, melons, mangoes, strawberries to name a few. You can make crisps with potatoes, kale, carrots, parsnips and so on. Or why not try a fruit leather? Take some ripe fruit, add a spoonful of honey and some lemon juice, whizz in a blender, spread on a baking sheet and dehydrate in your oven’s lowest setting for about 6 hours.
And if you don’t fancy dehydrating, you can always make chutney, pickle, ketchup, soup, pesto, jam, bottled produce or jarred in olive oil. It’s great keeping the summer going into the winter!