The summer garden favorite has to be zucchini, with its bounty given to even the most inexperienced gardener. Yep, zucchini is the garden wonder plant that keeps on giving and giving and giving some more. So much so, in fact, that often neighbors hide when they see you coming to share your zucchini with them. You can only freeze, can, bake it into zucchini bread, and stew it so much before you get zucchini to burn out. But wait! Have you tried drying it?
Zucchini is a perfect candidate for drying, since dehydrating compresses the vegetable: Twenty pounds of zucchini (a few days haul out of a normal size summer garden) will dry down to approximately two pounds of dry zucchini chips according to the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving (Amazon). Sounds like a storage win-win situation with lots of vegetables packed in a small space.
I dried a batch last summer, but I was disappointed with the too-brown slices. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong until I saw Real Food Mama’s post which says that although most recommendations are to slice zucchini one-eighth inch thick to dry, slices that are a one-quarter inch thick dry without burning as the thinner one eighth inch slices do. Bingo! Problem solved, I hope, but I’ll have to wait until my zucchini comes in to verify.
Preparing to Dehydrate Zucchini
- Gather only the best quality zucchini.
- Wash and with a gentle brush scrub any dirt off the skin.
- Slice as close to 1/4″ thick slices as possible, certainly no thinner.
How to Dry Zucchini in a Dehydrator
- Be sure and read all the dehydrator’s (Amazon) instructions before you start.
- You can spray the drying trays (Amazon) with a non-stick spray, but I don’t think it’s necessary – especially if the zucchini is for long term storage since oils don’t remain stable and easily spoil. If you’re going to eat the chips soon, then go ahead and spray away.
- Lay the 1/4″ thick slices of zucchini in a single layer.
- Drying time should be somewhere between five and ten hours, or until the zucchini chips are brittle.
How to Dehydrate Zucchini in an Oven
- Set the oven so that the temperature is an even 125 to 140 degrees. I suggest that you keep an oven thermometer (Amazon) always in the center of the cookie sheet, so you can glance at it to assure that you’re maintaining an even temperature all during the drying time.
- Lay the 1/4″ thick slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered with either parchment paper (best with no oil for long term storage) or sprayed with non-stick spray for zucchini chips that will be eaten soon.
- Place in a pre-heated oven, and leave the door open an inch or two for air circulation.
- Always watch the progress, as all ovens vary, but it should be about four to six hours until you get the brittle zucchini slices.
- Cool completely.
Dehydrator or Oven: Check for moisture
After the slices have cooled, place them in a glass bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and place it on the counter, out of the way and out of the sun for about 2 weeks. Check every day for moisture beading up on the inside of the bowl. If you find any, put the food back into the dehydrator or oven for further dehydration. If no condensation appears, then proceed to store your zucchini slices in a glass jar for immediate consumption, or vacuum seal them for long term storage.
Don’t worry if a batch doesn’t dry perfectly – learning to preserve your garden-fresh produce is a learning experience! My sad brown zucchini from last year is a case in point! Hopefully, with thicker slices and careful drying, we can all get this year’s crop properly dried, stored and enjoyed!
Have you ever dehydrated zucchini?