The Nesco Food Dehydrator -- Dry Your Own Fruit and Vegetables

by kajohu

Easily dehydrate your own fruit and vegetables with the Nesco Dehydrator. Good for making your own healthy snacks, or adding to soups and stews, or for light-weight camping food.

Drying fruits and vegetables is a very easy process with the Nesco Food Dehydrator, and the results are healthier and much cheaper than buying store bought dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

Dried fruits and vegetables are great if you're a backpacker, such as my husband, who likes to pack healthy, nutritious, and light-weight food for his trip. They also make good snacks anytime, whether you're out and about during the day and need a quick bite to eat, or if you want a healthy snack for your kids when they come home from school.

Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is also an excellent way to preserve good quality food for later, to rehydrate for stews or other special dishes.

Dehydrating Your Own Fruits and Vegetables

Easy to Use Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator

As a long-distance backpacker, my husband has to decide what foods to take along for healthy and interesting meals while keeping the total weight of his pack as low as possible.

This year, in preparation for his 2 week trip out west, he purchased this Nesco Dehydrator and Jerky Maker to dehydrate vegetables and fruits for his journey.   

He figured the cost was less than half of what he'd pay for dried fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, and much less expensive than the specialty freeze-dried backpacking food. 

The whole drying process using the Nesco Dehydrator was very simple.

After he left for his trip, it was my turn to experiment with the Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator (see zucchini chips photo, below)!

Drying Fruits With the Nesco Dehydrator

Dehydrating Fruits is Easy!

Drying fruits is an easy process that produces great results.   Fruit is high in natural sugars and acid content which results in good-tasting dried fruit that can be stored for a long time.  

Whether you use the Nesco Dehydrator or another drying method, choose fresh, ripe fruit and process it quickly so it retains more of its nutritional content.  Prepare the fruit by washing it and removing any blemished spots.  

Some fruits, such as apples, pears, and peaches do better by first slicing them directly into an ascorbic acid solution to keep them from browning and to reduce loss of nutrients while drying.  My husband soaked mango and peach slices in a lemon juice mixture before drying to maintain their color as they were being dehydrated.

Fruit with more moisture, such as melons and cherries, will take longer to dehydrate than drier fruit such as coconut, apples, and bananas.

These mangoes and bananas were sliced about 1/4" - 1/2 " thick.   The mangoes took about 10 hours to dry, and the bananas took about 7 hours.  And they were very tasty when finished! 

Drying time will also depend on how much food you have in the dehydrator (more food increases drying time), and your preference for dryness.

Halfway Dehydrated Mango Slices
Halfway Dehydrated Mango Slices
Dried Banana Chips
Dried Banana Chips

Dehydrating Vegetables in the Nesco Food Dehydrator

Good Results When Dried With Care

Preparing Green Beans for Drying

Dried vegetables have a shorter shelf life than dried fruit. Because of their lower sugar and acid content, they're more prone to spoiling.   But with careful processing and storing, they can last for a few months.  

As with drying fruits, start with fresh vegetables and process them as quickly as possible, paring away bad areas and peeling them if you prefer.   You'll get better results with many vegetables if you blanch them first.   This will reduce dehydrating time, and also make it faster to rehydrate the vegetables when you're ready to use them.

My personal preference would be to freeze or can vegetables for later use if I have the time, but drying vegetables is also a reasonable way to preserve them.    Dehydrated vegetables are good in stews and soups, and make excellent backpacking food (as experienced by my husband).

Also I discovered that making zucchini chips in the dehydrator is a wonderful use for the many monster zucchinis that we have had in the garden this summer!

Zucchini slices ready for dehydration
Zucchini slices ready for dehydration
Zucchini chips and dip
Zucchini chips and dip

Nesco Food Dehydrator and Jerky Maker

This 500 watt Nesco Food Dehydrator will dry fruits and vegetables in a matter of hours instead of days.   It comes with 4 drying trays and can be expanded up to 12 trays.  

Other features include an adjustable thermostat, and the Converga-Flow Action for faster drying, with no need to rotate trays.  The opaque exterior keeps out harmful light which reduces the nutritional content of the food.

A recipes and instruction book is included to give you good guidelines for the best way to prepare  your vegetables and fruits for drying, and recipes for using your dehydrated food.

You can also make meat jerky, dry your fresh herbs, and dry flowers for potpourri. 

Extra Trays for the Nesco Food Dehydrator

If you'll be dehydrating a lot of fruit or vegetables, you may want to buy extra Add-A-Trays.   You can stack up to 12 trays of fruits and vegetables with this dehydrator.    The drying time will be longer with more trays, but still more efficient than dehydrating in multiple batches.

You can also buy Fruit Roll Sheets to make your own fruit leather or fruit roll ups.   These also make good bottom protectors for your dehydrator if you're using messy, drippy foods. 

My Thoughts on Our Use of the Nesco Food Dehydrator

The Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator has worked very well for us!   It's easy to use, simple to clean, and we've had great results producing good quality dried vegetables and fruits.   The booklet that comes with it explains thoroughly and clearly how to get the best results from using this appliance.

Two minor drawbacks:

  • There's no on-off switch.  The unit is on when plugged in, and off when unplugged.
  • I can smell drying food throughout the house if I don't keep the dehydrator closed off in its own room (we use it out in our sunroom).   Drying fruit smells better than drying vegetables, but still, 10 hours of smelling canteloupe or bananas as they dry is a little too intense!

But they are indeed minor drawbacks.  The Nesco Food Dehydrator is an excellent appliance for drying fruits and vegetables.

Updated: 07/24/2013, kajohu
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kajohu on 07/05/2013

Kimbesa,I hope you get good results too, if you use one of these. That's a great idea to add a plug extension with a switch!

kimbesa on 07/04/2013

I could sure use one of these. It will go on the list. You got great results. I'll get one of those plugs that incorporates a switch for it, too.

kajohu on 07/04/2013

We've really enjoyed this food dehydrator, Dustytoes! It's easy to use, and we can set it up, turn it on, and leave it for the suggested drying time. I think it would work great with your herbs too!

dustytoes on 07/03/2013

I need a food dehydrator to dry my herbs mostly. This sounds like a good investment. AND... I also love the idea of drying all that zucchini!

kajohu on 02/11/2012

Thanks for the comment, Art Aspirations. The zucchini chips were quite good :-)

Art Aspirations on 02/11/2012

Karen, this is a great way to preserve the harvest. The finished product takes less space canning, and no additional energy like frozen foods. I love the idea of zuchinni chips. Good article!

mulberry on 08/20/2011

I've never tried this at home, sounds interesting and easy. I had a salad with some dried apples on it just tonight.

mivvy on 08/03/2011

I didn't know dehydrating could be done at home. I always buy packets to be used when I go on (long) cycling trips.

ohcaroline on 08/03/2011

This is one area I have never gotten in to. I do like dried fruits though. If I had a garden...I would probably want one for sure. Good useful information and pictures in the article.

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