How to Save & Dehydrate
Summer comes to a quick close in September. Here are some helpful tips I learned from dear farmer friends and personal experience to preserve or dehydrate herbs, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. Most dehydrators come with a manual or you can find their manual online.
If you grow indeterminate tomatoes, you may be seeing new blooms on the branches and conclude it is too late in the season for them to grow. We grow ours in pots so we can bring them inside before the first frost. Perhaps you are like I was when I thought only the bees can pollinate the blossoms. Tomato blossoms hang down and self pollinate, but now instead of 1/4 of them growing a tomato, I help them and virtually get 100% of my blooms making tomatoes. Since they hang down and are self pollinating (they don't need another plant to be pollinated), a gentle finger bump helps them to pollinate. I do what I call "walky walky" with my fingers gently against each of the blooms. When you do this and a short time later they close, they are pollinated.
You can see some tomatoes are still growing, but they are not ripe yet. If they are green or not ripe in the ground, you can pull them up by the roots, turn them upside down, and hang them some place like in garage rafters and they will sweeten and ripen. For potted ones, just bring them in and set them in the sunshine of a window. I have a narrow bench in my hallway by a big window for them. I put a rubber mat with a lip on it to catch any water if I over water the plant inside. You can use an old plastic lid or old plate too.
All of these today from only 3 plants! When the Roma or cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers are ripe I dehydrate them. You know your home grown produce is organic and that is a plus. Some times I buy produce at an organic local indoor market when my produce did not grow so well. If you grow or buy organic, you are putting up safe food for winter use. I wash them and towel pat dry them. Then slice the tomatoes in half.
As you fill each layer of the dehydrator, drizzle the cut tomatoes with olive oil and salt. The cut side needs to be turned up. DO NOT cut open the jalapenos. Dry them whole and no additives on them.
I use iodized sea salt and olive oil.
I dehydrate them over night and the bucket full of tomatoes and peppers have shrunk for storage.
Seal out all the air. I put the tomatoes in a sealed bag inside a glass jar for long time storage. I put the peppers in a small half pint jar.
We grow what we call mother onions, they reproduce all year. I harvest part of them and leave part of them. I left these for next year.
We start our herbs in the winter in an Aerogarden. I put plastic cups on top until they get bigger. You can also grow them in a sunny window in small cups and soil. We grow basil, parsley, chives, oregano, and sometimes dill.
We transplant the herbs in a tower out of doors and watch them grow like weeds. They make our deck smell so wonderful!
We dehydrate all the herbs, onions, and chives at the same time. We even save the greens on the onions to dehydrate them. Just place them in the dehydrator and forget them for the day or all 8 hour night. Then place them in air tight containers.
I usually label them with the name and year they were harvested. It is important the room be dry and the containers closed tightly. I do transfer some from the pantry to smaller containers for my kitchen. I have old containers from when I used to buy my herbs. They are all wonderful for soups and salads. On years I do not put up pickles, I use the dill for my grandma's dill bread recipe she gave me.
These are a few of the onions and chives we put up in 2014, and they are still excellent for use! Of course in summer I use the fresh ones we grow.
One last thought, when planting tomatoes you need to know there are two types: determinate and indeterminate. The determinate will ripen early and grow for a short season, but only produce for a short season. The indeterminates will grow until and produce until a hard frost. We mostly use indeterminates and have fresh tomatoes up through Thanksgiving by bringing the pots indoors. The blossoms I showed at the first are September blooms! They will give us tomatoes very late in the fall sitting in the warm, sunny hall window. About store started plants, be sure it is a store that does not spray insecticides on the starters that kill bees! We need to save our honey bees and all bees! Growing, harvesting, and preserving is not hard when you plan to dehydrate your summer and fall harvest. About economics, I had all this on hand including seeds so my wonderful herbs and food for soups all winter costs me nothing year after year!
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