Every year I hear my fellow gardeners discussing what to do with their excess garden vegetables. Sure we can share them with neighbors, friends, and family. We have all tried our hand at canning. Many people choose to simply put them in the freezer. But I have found a better way to put up extra garden vegetables!
Freeze drying your extra garden vegetables is the BEST way to ensure that you retain as much of the flavor, visual appeal, and nutrients of your freshly grown produce. In addition to hearing about all of the ways that my fellow gardeners store their harvests each year, I also hear all of their objections to freeze drying. So I thought I would address those barriers to freeze drying for you in case you have objections too.
1. Freeze Drying is Expensive
I agree that buying a freeze dryer is a big investment. I remember debating about whether or not it was worth the thousands of dollars to get started. After crunching the numbers, my husband and I realized that we had already spent more than the cost of a freeze dryer when we were buying food for doomsday prepping. But maybe you aren’t interested in buying freeze dried food. Maybe you are just now exploring the possibility of freeze drying your own food and you want someone to tell you that it’s a good investment. So here you go…
Buying a freeze dryer is a GREAT investment and it will pay for itself in weeks or months depending on how much you use it and if you are smart about how you use it.
2. Freeze Drying is Hard
Learning Curve, yes.
The actual freeze drying is as simple as pushing a button and walking away. The machine does all of the work for you. I’ll admit that I haven’t taken the time, nor do I care about the whole scientific process but here it is in a nutshell:
Freeze drying works by freezing the food, then reducing the pressure and adding heat to allow the frozen water in the food to change directly to a vapor (sublimate). The entire freeze drying process is automated and will go through the complete cycle without requiring human interaction, thanks to highly intelligent built-in sensors that know exactly when the food is perfectly freeze dried. All you have to worry about is properly preparing the food and pushing the start button.
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3. Freeze Drying Takes Too Much Time
Freeze drying doesn’t take any more time than any other method of food preservation. Some food needs to be blanched. Some food needs to be pre-frozen. But vegetables are some of the easiest foods to freeze dry. The best part about freeze drying is that you may even be able to get the pickiest eater to enjoy vegetables because they are crunchy. I would say that freeze drying potatoes is the most time-consuming vegetable because they require blanching. However, you are going to blanch them or cook them for any preservation method so freeze drying them isn’t going to ADD time.
So what is the process for freeze drying vegetables from your garden?
- Blanch (only certain vegetables)
- Freeze Dry
So I guess technically the process from start to finish does take longer but you aren’t standing outside of the machine while it’s doing it’s thing. The actual time that your are spending with the food isn’t any longer than with any other method.
4. Freeze Drying Takes Too Much Room
Yes, a freeze dryer does take up more room than a canner or dehydrator. However, the freeze dried food itself takes up less room for storage and it is really, really, really lightweight. You have two options when storing your freeze dried food.
For short term use, food can be stored in mason jars with an oxygen absorber. I like to cook with freeze dried ingredients because it speeds up meal prep. I display my jars in our glass front cabinets and they are a conversation piece whenever we have guests visit. This is not the ideal method of food storage because light breaks down the color of foods, however, I haven’t had any lose their color except for carrots.
For long term storage you can keep the food in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. The bags come in various sizes so you can divided the food into single servings or larger amounts depending on your preference. The best part is that they are lightweight and many types of foods can be processed down into powder so they take up very little space.
6 dozen raw eggs will fit into a 1 gallon mylar bag that weighs 2 pounds. You can read more about freeze drying eggs here. Water glassing is the new fad in egg preservation but it still takes up the same space as fresh eggs and it takes up a lot of room to preserve 6 dozen at a time.
5. Freeze Drying Seems Strange
Many people think that freeze dried food is only for astronauts. But over the past several years freeze dried food has become very popular among preppers, homesteaders, hikers and campers, and many other groups of people. People who are looking for ways to be prepared. People who are looking for ways to save money. People who have special dietary needs. People who want to provide more nutritious food for their pets. People who want to start a business selling freeze dried food.
The list of ways to use a freeze dryer is growing every day as more and more people from all walks of life begin to experiment with all of the capabilities of their home freeze dryer. When you talk to someone who has a freeze dryer they will probably tell you about how addicting it is and how much fun it is.
So while it may seem strange at first, it will begin to feel like something you HAVE to do when you start to explore all of the possibilities that come from freeze drying.
Freeze dry your favorite recipes, foods, snacks, and desserts at home. I have included some great information including what foods you can freeze dry, how to choose the best sized freeze dryer, and all the items you need to be successful in my FREE guide How to Get Started Freeze Drying. In addition to access to this amazing guide, you will be added to my mailing list where I will continue to give you some great information about freeze drying.
Purchase Your Own Freeze-Dryer
I do need to disclose that I am an affiliate partner with Harvest Right. That means that if you purchase a home freezer by clicking on a link from my website I will be compensated. It won’t cost you more and you will be helping me. However, I would recommend the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer even if I wasn’t being compensated. My husband and I have been sharing our love of this freeze dryer, as well as freeze-dried goodies, with our friends and family for years. We bought our freeze-dryer before they offered different colors or sizes!
Click on the banner below and check it out for yourself.
Which Vegetables Can You Freeze Dry?
All of them! There are a few things that can’t be freeze dried because of their fat content but veggies aren’t fat.
Freeze dried food retains 97% of it’s nutritional value which means that if you can freeze dry everything that you can’t quickly use out of the garden, your body can benefit from your garden year round.
Do you have little ones, or in my case big ones, who don’t like vegetables? Freeze dry them and see if they like them better when they are crunchy. Green beans are a great snack and get a little sweet when they are freeze dried. I have never had luck cooking zucchini or squash without it getting mushy but I love slicing them and making freeze dried chips. Still can’t get your picky eater to buy into the vegetables? Put them into the blender and make a powder. Then put the vegetable powder into soups, smoothies, or fruit juice and see if they notice.
There is an entire industry that is providing this exact product at a crazy high price! If you have a family of 4 and used this every day for a year you could buy a medium freeze dryer.
This is just 1 example of how a freeze dryer can save you money.
How Do You Freeze Dry Vegetables?
It’s so easy! Cut the vegetables according to how you plan to use them. Place them in a single layer on the trays that come with the freeze dryer. Put them in the freeze dryer. Push the button and walk away. The freeze dryer will beep when it’s finished and you can take the trays out and marvel that the vegetables look almost exactly like they did when you put them in.
Some of my recent vegetables were broccoli and carrots. I cut the broccoli into small florets and diced some of the carrots and crinkle cut some. I sprinkled Cajun seasoning on the crinkle cut carrots and made a spicy chip.
The great thing about freeze drying is that you can experiment to find what you like best. You can try zucchini 5 ways on the same tray by adding different flavors to a few at a time. Try them to decide which ones you like best and then do an entire tray of your favorite the next time.
Have you noticed that salsa made from garden vegetables is 10 times better than store bought salsa? Make a big batch of salsa and freeze dry it. You can rehydrate the exact amount that you want, when you want it, and it will taste like you just picked the tomatoes and jalapeños today.
How Do You Use Freeze Dried Vegetables?
Use them just like you would fresh vegetables. Cover them with water to rehydrate or put them into soup to rehydrate. Some vegetables may have a different texture when rehydrated. In those cases you may choose to eat them in their dry state. That is the case with other types of food as well. I would never attempt to rehydrate freeze dried ice cream because it would take too much time and trial and error to get it back to it’s original consistency. However, if you freeze dry ice cream and let it dissolve in your mouth you will taste and feel the creaminess of a delicious treat!
Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables to freeze dry because they are so versatile. I cube the majority of them to use in soup, potato salad, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, etc. I also like to shred them to make hashbrowns quickly. Another way that I use potatoes is to make a big batch of garlic and butter mashed potatoes and then freeze dry them. They come out of the freeze dryer flakey and I have instant mashed potatoes ready for a quick side.
I already mentioned making veggie chips that are 100% vegetables. Great for school lunches, road trips, hiking, or as a healthy snack to crunch on while binge watching Netflix.
You can also grind them into powder and sneak them into recipes or put them into a capsule to get all of the nutrients with none of the fuss.