In my last post I talked about gleaning–wringing out the last bits from your garden. This time I’d like to focus specifically on drying. One of the best gifts ever given to me was an American Harvest food dehydrator. In a week we’ll be married eight years so by now, my husband knows that I’d rather receive “practical” things like a food drying machine, solid wood cutting boards, professional knife sharpening, or a bat house (Birthday Gift 2008) instead of shiny jewelry or spa treatments on special occasions.
Seriously, of all the small appliances that one could own, the dehydrator has proved to be worth its salt. Over the last several years I’ve dried everything from herbs to edible flowers, fruit leather (transformed from homemade apple butter), and almond meal (from the by-product of almond milk making) as well as fruits and vegetables.
Currently, I’m excited about drying dark leafy greens. If you buy beets from the farmers’ market or grow them at home you know that there are always more greens than one can reasonably manage.
When I was the chef-intern at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute for an 8-month stint back in 2003 I practically survived on beet greens. The garden interns always left a basket of “FREE” greens by the building exit each evening. Since I was living on a stipend I took advantage of this offering and got creative using them in everything from eggs to burritos. But my favorite way to prepare them was the simplest: coarsely chopped, lightly sauteed in oil, then splashed with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil after removing from the heat. Each evening by the dim kitchen light at my host’s house, listening to NPR’s World Cafe, just me and my beet greens–’twas a little slice of heaven.
I don’t think I could get away with serving sauteed beet greens most nights these days. My 5-year-old is an adventurous eater, but I know that she–not to mention my loving husband–would protest after a while. So I’ve turned to my dehydrator in order to preserve these greens for winter nourishment. One could use kale, swiss chard, bolted spinach, or even broccoli or kohlrabi greens.
1. Chop the greens coarsely either by hand or in a food processor (if you have A LOT to manage).
2. Spread them out on the solid insert of a food dehydrator tray.
3. Turn the dehydrator to the setting best suited for drying greens (according to the instruction manual).
4. Check after a few hours and rotate trays as needed.
5. Once fully dried, pack into an airtight glass jar or grind (with spice grinder or food processor) into ground greens.
6. (Optional) add a dessicant packet saved from a bottle of supplements to assure the container stays dry.
7. Use flakes in soups, casseroles, dressings. Use ground greens in smoothies or toss 3 parts greens to 1 part salt to make your own seasoning. Sprinkle these greens anywhere you’d like an extra punch of nutrition.