I often think of what a Raw Food lifestyle might be without dehydrating, and I think- incomplete.
An average dehydrator is a boxy thing, about the size of a microwave, just much lighter. It’s a basic but very clever piece of machinery, that works slowly over many hours to evaporate away the liquid within the food, making it more flavourful, chewy, dense and if left for long enough, crunchy too.
It’s this dense texture that helps so many of us transition into a rawer, plant-based way of thriving, without feeling deprived in the slightest.
To be able to make yummy crackers and still call them raw, the temperature would need to be maintained below 47 degrees C throughout the ‘baking’ process. Most ovens only work at 80degrees+ which defeats the point of energising living foods.
Any plant, herb, nut, seed, legume, fruit, veg or sea veg, when prepared at over 47 degrees, begins to lose its shape, colour, texture and flavour, but most of all- it’s nutritional count. The higher the oven switch turns, the more antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and proteins start to go.
High heat can kill all of the enzymes within our food, which are as essential to life as breathing. It’s the enzymes that help us to break down any fuel we intake so there is plenty of energy left to do the awesome things we were born to do. Dehydrating a healthy recipe can preserve that life force within our food.
I personally use the Tribest Sedona Express that allows you to kick-start the dehydration process by starting at a higher temperature for the first few hours, then automatically switching to a lower temperature to finish off the job. This ensures that the temperature of the food does not go above the desired level, and results in nutrition-packed dehydrated recipes every time. Also, the compact design fits perfect in my kitchen.
There are so many nutritional benefits to using a dehydrator this season, but here are my top four which are usually overlooked...
It’s the real deal aromatherapy:
One of the things I adore is the dehydrator’s ability to create a space of sanctuary via the scent from it. I often slice up a whole pineapple or a punnet of strawberries to dehydrate, not only because this gives me and my little girl a whole week’s worth of delicious chewy treats, but because of how the sensational fruity aroma fills every room of our house. It could go the opposite way when making one of the most popular recipes from my book, the onion bread, but I’ve learned to throw in a tray of fresh rosemary and the scent is unbelievable!
The endless options:
The amount of foods you can produce in a dehydrator is quite incredible. Half of The Uncook Book requires a dehydrator, but not because that’s all you can do with raw food, rather dehydrating is such a fun and creative process! Think- raw crunchy crackers, cookies, kale chips, candied nuts, quiches, mushroom balls, coconut jerky, fruit leathers, nachos, pizzas, apple pies, muesli bars, chewy, crunchy, crispy, dense and delicious treats. On top of that, I also use a dehydrator to warm up a Living Lasagna from my Chelsea store, melt my coconut oil for cheesecake making or simply warm up my plates during winter.
The preservation of goodness:
When it comes to raw foods, the recipes aren't exactly famous for their lengthy shelf life. Fresh juices are most nutritious the moment they’ve been squeezed, salads must be consumed within a couple of days, seed milks begin to ferment within 24 hours, the simple act of slicing fruit and veg oxidises them almost instantaneously. But, even if we weren’t talking about the vitamins and minerals that diminish over time, give it a week before consumption and you may be spending the next few days hugging your toilet bowl. Dehydration is a way of preserving your food, thus extending the shelf life up to six whole months.
That winter warmth:
Although a dehydrator uses up very little energy, which is another reason to keep it running full of goodies more often, it still releases heat. Whenever I leave it running overnight, there’s nothing quite like walking into a warm cosy kitchen to begin my day.
Tanya Maher, founder of Tanya's and author of The Uncook Book (www.TanyasLiving.com)