Food drying is a method of food preservation by dehydrating the food, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and has traditionally been practiced worldwide.
Bacalhau, dried tomatoes, shark fins, dried shrimp, dried scallops, dried mushrooms, smoked salmon…
Japan is no exception, dried food has long been popular as a preserved food made from seasonal ingredients.
Sun-dring foods, which have been carried out since there was no long-term preservation technology such as freezing technology, are the wisdom that was used to preserve seasonal vegetables for a long time and use them without waste.
Sun-drying seasonal vegetables or seafood is typical scenery in the countryside of Japan, and recently this old-fashion method has been trending among young wives!
There are several types of food drying methods, today I am going to talk about “sun-dry” that you can begin at home today!
NOTE: This site says, [The best way to start experimenting with the method of sun drying is, to begin with, fruits. Dr. Naseer Ahmed agrees, “The high sugar and acid content of fruits make them safe to dry in the sun.” Vegetables and meats are generally best avoided since they are lower in sugar and acid content.] I sun-dry vegetables and mushrooms in the UK and the US, and I haven’t had any issues so far. However, I can’t take all responsibility and this is my private blog to share my lifestyle. Also, I am not an expert on sun-drying vegetables and fruits so please take the responsibility yourself when trying these tips.
- What Advantages Of Sun-Drying Vegetables AND Fruits
- What’ll You Need To Sun-Dry Vegetables And Fruits
- What The Weather Like Need For Sun-Dry Vegetables And Fruits
- Drying Tips
- Can You Make Dried Veggies Inside Building?
- The Best Vegetables For Sun-drying
- How To Make Sun-Dried Vegetables
- How To Use Dried Vegetables
- The Fully Dried Or Semi-Dried
- Semi-dried Vegetables
- How To Make Semi-Dried Cucumber
- Japanese TSUKEMONO Pickles: Easy Summer Semi-dried Cucumber Sweet Pickles
- Savory Asian-style Stir-fried Semi-dried Broccoli
- Last Thoughts
What Advantages Of Sun-Drying Vegetables AND Fruits
First of all, what you can get benefits from sun-dried vegetables and fruits?
Indeed, they bring amazing benefits.
- Since the foods are dehydrated under the sun naturally, sweetness, umami flavor, texture, and natural aroma get fully condensed.
- Some nutrition values changes. For example, calcium and iron value in sun-dried Daikon radish and vitamin-D values in dried Shiitake mushrooms have increased more than those in fresh.
- Since the dehydrated food absorbs (rehydrates) soup, juice, or a sauce packed with rich flavor from other ingredients, it can bring the dish more flavorful and delicious.
- Since dried vegetables are already cut, it can save cooking time.
- Economical and eco-friendly. (Reduces food loss) Delicious vegetables that tend to be leftovers or thrown away can be saved by drying and storing them rather than throwing them.
- Low-cost to make homemade dried food.
- Lightweight, Easy-to store, and easy to prepare.
- Your sun-dried food doesn’t contain preservatives or chemicals.
- You can add vegetables anytime although you don’t have time to run to a grocery store.
What’ll You Need To Sun-Dry Vegetables And Fruits
You don’t need to prepare special machines and/or tools to sun-dry food is contrary to dehydrating food with an oven/ dehydrator.
Easy to start, easy to make, and low-cost.
The only things you should watch are the weather and humidity. (also, bugs and animals.)
Cut vegetables and fruits, just put them outside in a well-ventilated shade during the day on a basket or a hanging net.
If you enjoy sun-drying life frequently, these items below will be ideal. Let’s see what you can use for sun-drying.
The Food drying rack
I wish we lived in Japan since a hanging net for sun-drying can be easily found even in 100 yen stores.
I found a similar item on Amazon, it is a must-buy if you want to begin natural homemade sun-dry food life without hassles.
When using this dryer, there is no risk to be stolen from creatures such as bugs, birds, or even deer.
Also, it is easy to dry food compared with the basket and a typical cooking rack, so you don’t have to flip over during the process.
Also, you need to flip over sliced food constantly when using the basket, on the other hand, you can skip the process since the hanging dryer rack is made of breathable mesh.
The one I bought at a 100 yen shop in Japan, was a kind of 100 yen quality, so big flies could perch my sun-drying veggies (it’s disgusting!). Also sometimes the zipper got the net and didn’t open smooth. (It’s frustrating!)
So I highly recommend buying a fine quality drying net.
A colander or a strainer is also the OK tool when you’ll dry a small batch of food.
However, those made of stainless steel and plastic are not as good breathable as the hanging dryer rack or those made of natural materials so you’ll be required to check and flip over the food to release moisture.
Therefore, it’s better to choose baskets made of natural materials such as bamboo or rattan.
If you consider bugs and animals, the basket with a cover net can work better.
Or, cover the tray or basket with a colander.
Next, I will introduce the tips for drying vegetables in the sun. If you don’t know, there is a risk tht mold will grow, so I’ll show you how to dry it in the sun.
What The Weather Like Need For Sun-Dry Vegetables And Fruits
The best season for drying vegetables outside is when you can get constantly the dry, sunny, and breezy weather.
Humidity is the natural enemy of sun-drying food.
Check out the weather forecast before starting to dry in the sun.
To succeed to make sun-dried food, you need…
- Dry air
- Sunny days
so if you live in a hot and humid climate area throughout the year, there are more risks to grow mold and mildew.
Better use a kitchen oven or a food dehydrator.
- Drying time depends on drying types, kinds of food, and cutting style, roughly speaking, drying food requires from a few days to 1 week. (The semi-drying needs for only a half or full day.)
- The drying process period depends on drying types (fully/ semi-dry), types of food, the water contents, and also cutting style.
- For drying fruits, you need to prepare for more weeks because of the water content. (HOW TO DRY PERSIMONS AT HOME)
- Dry vegetables and fruits in the sun during the day, and put them inside of the building after sunset. Keep them in a cool and dry (well-vented) place in the building.
Can You Make Dried Veggies Inside Building?
It can be dried vegetables indoors if it is sunny and dry.
It’s hard to fail if the place gets full sun in the dry room, especially in the winter season.
Again, the sun-drying process needs to eliminate humidity.
Avoid the place near humidifiers and the kitchen and bathrooms as you can imagine.
The Best Vegetables For Sun-drying
Basically, choose vegetables with less water content to begin. Such as radishes, carrots, and mushrooms.
I recommend drying carrots and mushrooms for the first step, and anyway, these are very much popular ingredients in lots of recipes.
You can cut them as you like, however, the wide cross-section will be quickly dried and help to cut the drying process period. So, cut diagonally if you don’t mind.
I normally slice mushrooms into 1/8 inches and slice carrots into 1/10 inches.
How To Make Sun-Dried Vegetables
- Choose fresh, clean, non-damage vegetables (less water content for beginners such as radishes, carrots, mushrooms…)
- Wash them thoughtfully, and wipe off excess water.
- Slice vegetables in 1/2 or less thick. *You can try whole Shiitake mushrooms after you become a master.
- Spread carrots in a single layer on a basket/ a mesh hanging dryer rack. Allows air to flow around the piece.
- Begin to expose the vegetables from the day starts! When using a basket, flip them over every few hours.
- Bring them inside at night.
- After about 2-3 days, your vegetables will turn into dried food. It depends on how you cut, the weather conditions, the location, and any-other situations, those vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and mushrooms will be done within a week.
How To Use Dried Vegetables
Dried vegetables are best used for soups, casseroles, sauces, pizza toppings, egg omelets, and stews.
Make your own soup mix so that you can just throw in your soup!
The good thing about making the soup with dried vegetables, you can skip rehydrating them before cooking.
Besides, they add natural rich flavor to the dish.
The Fully Dried Or Semi-Dried
There are two dried food types- “dried (fully)” and “Semi-dried” that you can attempt at home.
Semi-dried food has been dried halfway and remains water content. Thus, it can’t be stored at room temperature. Consume in a few days or store them in a freezer.
Homemade semi-dried foods should be considered fresh foods. Consume them on the day and/or within 3 days when you dry them in the sun.
Store semi-dried food in a refrigerator/ a freezer.
Fully, Sun-dried food has been dried completely, so it can be stored at room temperature for a long. To use, rehydrate it in water.
It is easy to store sun-dried food since it’ll be dry completely compared with semi-dried food, yet, humidity is still an enemy for them.
Also, be sure to dry the food fully in the sun. If it’s not, it causes mold.
Place food-grade Silica Gel Desiccant Packets together.
Semi-dried vegetables sound not have advantages since they can’t be stored longer, but, is it true?
Fresh Vegetables are still alive even after harvesting, so nutritional and umami ingredients will be used for living.
So, dry lightly and stop its progress, we can get the same value of nutrition besides more delicious.
Semi-dried vegetables are more advantages than sun-dried.
While vegetables are completely dried, they’ll lose some nutrition; Vitamin C, which is dissolved in the water of vegetables, will be decomposed and reduced, and provitamin A such as β-carotene will be reduced by oxidation.
Thus, semi-dried vegetables (and fruits) are attractive as well as dried vegetables.
So what kind of vegetables are best for semi-dry?
You can dry any vegetables.
Fresh celery and cucumbers that slightly have a bitter taste become sweeter when dried.
However, cauliflower, broccoli, and eggplant are blackened by the action of an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, so if you are concerned about the color, you should avoid it.
Semi-drying is not so difficult and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle since it doesn’t need a longer drying process.
Even you can dry your vegetables in the house.
Just dry sliced vegetables on a basket/ a dryer rack before work, and then, store them in a fridge after work.
You can get sweeter vegetables rather than storing them in a fridge, and eventually help to food loss.
Make Japanese TSUKEMONO Pickles With Semi-Dried Cucumber
Cucumber will be slightly sweet and unique texture once semi-dried.
The cucumber contains mostly water, but the potassium contained in the cucumber has a swelling prevention effect due to the discharge of extra salt out of the body.
Semi-dried cucumber adds a more crunchy texture so it’s good for making the Japanese pickles, “Tsukemono”.
How To Make Semi-Dried Cucumber
- 1 hanging mesh dryer rack *1)
- 1-3 baboo baskets *2)
- Herb Drying Rack Net 4 Layer Herb Dryer White Mesh Hanging Dryer Rack with Zipper 31.5”×24″
- Mesh Fruit Basket with Cover
Japanese TSUKEMONO Pickles: Easy Summer Semi-dried Cucumber Sweet Pickles
- 4 Mini-Cucumber, washed *or 2 English cucumber
- 3 tbsp Japanese dark Soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Japanese Sake/ White wine
- 2 tbsp Sugar
- 1/2 Dried red hot chili pepper *Optional
- Julienned fresh ginger *Optional
- Make semi-dried cucumber. (3-8 hours.)*Read the post.
- Combine all ingredients of pickles juice, and microwave for 30 seconds until the sugar is dissolved. *If you are concerned about alcohol content, boil them for 2 minutes in a small saucepan.
- Pickle semi-dried cucumbers with the juice overnight.
- If you like spicy, add chopped chili peppers with it.
- Add sesame oil and seeds if desired.
- In a jar or a zipper bag, add semi-dried cucumber and pickles juice. Combine them well.
- Refrigerate it overnight. *You can serve it after 3 hours.
- Consume the semi-dried cucumber pickles within 5 days.
You can try ASAZUKE pickles with semi-dried cucumber instead of Napa cabbage that I introduce the recipe here.
When you dry broccoli, avoid them drying completely since they’ll be too bitter to eat.
In other words, broccoli is suitable for semi-drying.
Semi-dried broccoli gives a unique crunchy texture and also increases the rich flavor.
Sun-dry bite-size florets of broccoli for 2-3 hours.
Savory Asian-style Stir-fried Semi-dried Broccoli
- 1/2 lb Semi-dried broccoli
- 1/2 lb Sliced Bell pepper
- 1/2 lb Sliced Mushrooms
- 1/4 cut Minced sweet onion
- 1 clove Minced Garlic
- 1 tbsp Toasted Sesame oil
- 1 tbsp Japanese sake/ white wine/ sherry
- ¾ tbsp Chicken soup powder
- Black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste *optional
- Heat toasted sesame oil and minced garlic over medium-low heat until the garlic starts sizzling with the aroma.
- Turn the heat to medium-high. Add minced onions and mushrooms, and stir them until the onion is cooked.
- Add sliced bell pepper and semi-dried broccoli. Immediately, drizzle sake/ white wine/ sherry along the wall of a frying pan/ a wok, and shake the pan.
- Sprinkle chicken powder, and keep stirring ingredients for 2-3 minutes.
- Sprinkle black pepper to taste, and adjust the taste. *Add salt/ soy sauce/ oyster sauce if desired.
- Transfer the stir-fried vegetables to a serving plate, and enjoy.
I like being busy during the spring/ summer with sun-dried food on my patio.
Use always fresh vegetables,
otherwise, it will not be successful even sun-drying.
In case you want to know my hacks and tips on how to keep fresh vegetables longer in a fridge, please read these posts!