Most people think that when you go plant based you limit the foods you are allowed to eat and therefore eat a smaller variety. I have to say that I eat a greater variety of food today than I ever have in my life. However, not all of these foods are what I would call convenience foods. Aside from grabbing a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, there are fewer convenience food choices when eating a plant based diet. I think this is true especially for kids. Part of my feelings about this are surely due to the fact that I’m really new to a plant based diet—but I’m learning.
When I first looked into dehydration I found a ton of things on the internet - some ideas worked and some did not. Nothing beats the school of hard knocks! Dehydration is one of the oldest ways of preserving food, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. It’s one of the easiest, least expensive and least time consuming ways to preserve food.
I have had a little dehydrator for a few years. I like to make my own sun-dried tomatoes because the ones you buy in the store are so expensive! I’ve also dehydrated some fruit in the past. So I knew how to do a few of the basics like pre-treat certain fruit and cut pieces the same size so that they will be finished at the same time. I recently replaced my little Wal-Mart special with an Excalibur Dehydrator which has great reviews and a very large capacity.
I have discovered something convenient, easy, healthy, and plant based. Best of all my children think dehydrated fruit (especially watermelon) tastes like candy! Watermelon is easy because all you have to do is cut it. No pre-treating necessary. It's also kinda neat because this is not something you're likely to find in a grocery store or even a specialty store.
How To Dehydrate Watermelon
I can fit two watermelons into the Excalibur.
Start by slicing watermelon into rounds.
When the watermelon gets too small to cut safely lay it down and remove the rind, then slice. It's much safer and the meat will slice easily.
Then slice into wedges.
Try and make the slices even. They don't have to be perfect.
Fill up your trays.
This is what it looks like when the machine is filled. Set your dehydrator to 135 degrees, and dry for 8 to 12 hours (depending on the thickness).
Almost done. Depending on the thickness, you may need several more hours - this batch took a total of 24 hours because they were sliced relatively thick.
Store in a cool dry place.
You want at least 90% of the moisture gone for proper dehydration. Store your dehydrated food in a cool dry place. It's best to store below 60 degrees. The cooler the storage the longer the dehydrated food will last. I store mine in the freezer. If you really are looking for long term storage (more than a year), put your dehydrated fruit in the freezer for two weeks (this is a pasteurization process) then take it out and vacuum pack it, placing oxygen absorbers into each bag. Place the vacuum packed bags in a storage container where light can not reach them. According to some people food stored this way will last up to 30 years. With three hungry boys I doubt I will be testing this theory any time soon. My food does not usually make it past the two week pasteurization process.
2013 Update: since I have started my one year food storage I am dehydrating enough to last a year.