Unless preserved in some form, food rapidly begins breaking down. There exist several forms of extending food’s shelf life but the three most-used ways of preserving foods are canning, freezing, and drying. Of these three, when it comes to final nutrient count, ease of procedure, and quality of food taste, dehydrating is the best option for extending food life.
Canning - Canning has existed for about 200 years and has had many benefits for times when extending the shelf life of foods was a necessity. Yet due to its pitfalls, canning use should be relegated to desperate times. The most important issue with canning is the 60-80% nutrient loss due to the high temperatures as well as lengthy amount of time spent in water during the canning process. Also, due to this submersion in liquids, there is also an overall quality loss (especially berries and several greens), not to mention the flavor loss. Canned foods have added sodium, which is bad for one’s health. In canned foods, preservatives are almost a given as well. Lastly, canning is time and energy intensive and depending on the amount of equipment purchased can get pricey.
Freezing - Freezing of foods in root cellars has been a common practice for farmers for decades. But sadly freezing leads to a 40-60% loss of nutrients. In addition to this nutrient loss, freezing foods leaves open the chance that the foods could develop freezer burn as well a soft, mushy product upon thawing (especially fruits and berries). Freezing also has a potential safety issue in that any microbes on a frozen item will begin to grow again once the item is defrosted. Also, some food compounds can become bitter after freezing. The list of foods that are not recommended for freezing, due to various texture issues, is a long one: avocados, bananas, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, potatoes, lettuce and other salad greens, mushrooms, onions, peppers (hot), summer squash, tomatoes, turnips and rutabagas.
Dehydrating - Dehydrating (or drying) is the oldest known food preservation method. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be dried in a few different ways: electric dehydrators, conventional ovens, and sun- or air-drying. The nutrient count in dehydrated foods is much better than nutrient counts in canned and frozen foods. It results in only a 3-5% nutrient loss. Dried foods also retain their flavor better than canned and frozen foods. The main reason for the effectiveness of dehydrating fruits and vegetables is the reduction in moisture. Because moisture is essential for their growth, this moisture reduction neutralizes fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes. Dehydrating also has the benefit of being simple, especially when compared to the lengthy canning process. It is also an economical and efficient way of storing food. Also, dried produce is much lighter than pre-dehydrated form and make for a mobile snack.
In the majority of cases, drying retains nutritional content, concentrates flavors, and extends shelf life, all benefits not provided by freezing or canning. At Rhibafarms we have recently dried moringa, kale, chard and mustard greens. Check back with us frequently to see what else we're dehydrating for you to enjoy.
Blog written by
Brandon "The Stumptown Kid"