This has been a fantastic year for fruit growers, every apple or pear tree I have seen, has been heavily laden with fruit. If you’re looking for a new method to store your fruit, herbs, mushrooms or vegetables, or if you’re interested in creating a different taste sensation, or to want to make your own healthy snacks, you might be interested to try a specially designed food dehydrator.
I have been testing the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator from Lakeland, but firstly let me tell you that I haven’t used a food dehydrator previously, and I although I absolutely love eating fresh fruit, I don’t usually eat dried fruit and vegetables – they aren’t foods I would choose to eat or purchase. Despite this, I was impressed when I tried out Lakeland’s food dehydrator and I enjoyed eating most of the foods I dried, which did surprise me!
The My Kitchen Food Dehydrator has a white base with an inbuilt heating element and built-in fan, there are 5 shelves where the food to be dehydrated can be arranged, and then a clear lid that sits on top – so you can see inside and get a clear view of the food drying on the top shelf – this is a great idea, it takes a while to be able to guess how long your food will take to be dehydrated, just being able to look inside the dehydrator at a glance is very helpful. The shelves are plastic and have been constructed in a grid pattern designed to help the warm air circulate around the food.
It’s a very simple process to use the dehydrator, simply lay the food you wish to dehydrate on one of the shelves, you then place the first shelf (the shelves can be fitted in any order) on the base of the machine and then repeat with the other shelves, stacking the next shelf on top, and continue until all your food is in place in the dehydrator. Each shelf overlaps the one below to create a closed compartment, the shelves are cleverly designed with adjustable fittings so that they can fit in two positions, one of which is slightly raised to fit larger pieces of food between each shelf, the other setting is more closely spaced. Once the dehydrator is full with all the food you plan to dry, you then switch the unit on, the heater and fan will activate and dehydrate your food. Whilst it’s working you can get on with something else, there’s no need to sit watching it, unless of course you want to! I happily left this dehydrator running over night, dehydrating foods that took longer to dry, I have left the dehydrator running over night many times, with no problems whatsoever.
The dehydrator maintains a steady 85C throughout the drying process, during which the fan circulates warm air around the food; this draws away the moisture but doesn’t cook the food. Depending on what food you are drying and the moisture levels within the food, the dehydration process can take anywhere from 3-4 hours, right through to 24 hours; the instruction booklet includes a list of drying time guidelines, and I found that they were a good rough guide to start with.
While it’s operating and in use, the dehydrator heats up, because of this it needs to be positioned on a solid, heat resistant surface. There are some reviews on the Lakeland site claiming that the dehydrator’s fan is very noisy during operation, I was really surprised at this – for me the noise wasn’t a problem at all, I thought it to be very quiet. The dehydrator was barely audible from the other side of the kitchen, and it wasn’t loud enough to cause any disturbance whilst running overnight. When I showed the working dehydrator to friends, not one of them found the machine to be noisy, in fact they were all surprised at quiet it is in operation.
Happily all of the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator’s shelves and lid can be removed and are dishwasher safe – which makes it very convenient to clean. The base of the unit (containing the heating element) can be wiped clean easily.
I have tried dehydrating a variety of different foods using the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator from Lakeland, with differing results:
Apples are very easy to dehydrate. I first used my Apple Master to core, peel and slice the apples, and then I cut the apple once down the middle, so that the slices were in semi-circular pieces, I then dehydrated them for around 6 hours. The My Kitchen Food Dehydrator’s instructions suggested soaking the apple pieces in apple juice before drying, but I skipped this step, and dried the freshly sliced apples as-is in the machine very successfully. The slices of apple came out crisp and dry, with a slight snap and a tangy, concentrated, delicious apple flavour. Everyone that tried these liked them, including me.
Most folk I spoke to were very interested to try making their own dried bananas. The banana took around 10-12 hours to completely dry out in the dehydrator, once dried, there was a pleasant, crunchy banana taste, but it was somewhat disappointing as it was a such a subtle flavour. I am not certain, but I think that the dried banana slices available in health food shops must have additional flavourings and sugar added to increase the banana taste. You could try adding honey to your banana slices before dehydrating them, to see if this would improve their flavour when dried but I didn’t try this.
I sliced up lots of fresh oranges and used the dehydrator to dry them out so that I could create my own citrus Christmas decorations. The drying process took around 12-15 hours, but I was left with pretty bright orange discs, and the centre of the fruit became semi transparent, almost like stained glass. These home-made decorations will make a great addition to my Christmas tree this year! I also dried lemon and lime slices to a similarly good effect, although the distinction between the different colours of the dried citrus fruit was more subtle than I had expected.
I dried some of the mushrooms I grew using my Espresso Mushroom Company mushroom growing kits, as well as a few other varieties of mushroom that I purchased locally. The drying process took around 4-5 hours, it worked exceptionally well and allowed me to store the mushrooms for a long time before use. This would be very useful if you grew your own mushrooms, and wanted to save some of them for a special occasion, as you could do so by drying them. Cooking with the dried mushrooms gave a slightly more concentrated intense flavour, dehydrated mushrooms were a real success.
I had mixed results drying kiwi slices in the dehydrator. After around 6-8 hours the kiwi became a bit leathery, almost like the texture of dates. The flavour, though, was wonderful – intense and sharp, a bit like the sour sweets that children often love – these dried, natural kiwi slices might make a healthy treat, as an alternative to sour sweets!
I was thrilled with the results after I dried cherry tomatoes in the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator! The dried cherry tomatoes I tasted were absolutely fabulous! They actually tasted far better than the few tomatoes from the same batch that we tasted before drying, the tomato flavour was more concentrated and vibrant after drying, they were really delicious. Now I always use my dehydrator to dry any bland tomatoes we have as the flavour intensifies once the tomato is dry. The texture of the cherry tomatoes and the other tomatoes I dried was also very good – some shop-bought sun-dried tomatoes can be quite tough and leathery – thankfully these dried tomatoes retained a softer texture, even after drying.
I was very surprised at how efficient, quiet, and effective the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator from Lakeland is. I have enjoyed the dehydrated foods far more than I anticipated. I would recommend this dehydrator, it would make an unusual, interesting and useful present.
Other links and articles that may interest you……………………….
To visit Lakeland’s website and find out more about the My Kitchen Food Dehydrator, please click here.
To see my recommended, trialled, tested, and reviewed list of gifts for gardeners for 2017, including talks and events for 2018, please click here.
To read my review of Lakeland’s Apple Master, an amazing device that peels, slices and cores apples in super quick time, please click here.
To read my 2016 recommended, trialled and tested gifts for gardeners, please click here.
To read my review of the Trug Makers hand-made trug No. 7, which is hand-crafted, using traditional methods in Sussex, please click here.
To read my review of Kathryn Aalto’s new book, ‘The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood, please click here.
To read my review of Garden Girl’s Rain Poncho, a lovely versatile, adjustable, waterproof poncho, please click here.
To read my review of the Espresso Mushroom Company’s Pearl Oyster Mushroom and Hot Pink Mushroom growing kits, (yes, you really can grow your own delicious pink mushrooms indoors!) please click here.
To read about live, growing Christmas trees, available from Wheeler Street Nursery in Witley, in Surrey, please click here.
To read my review of the BiOrbAir, a specialised, automated terrarium from Reef One that features an ultra sonic misting unit and automatic watering system, please click here.
To read my review of the Espresso Mushroom Company’s Wild Flower Tea Seedbombs, please click here.
To read my review of Stephen Woodham’s latest book, ‘Garden Design Solutions: Ideas for Outdoor Spaces’, please click here.
To read about Dalefoot Composts’ peat-free compost, made from sheep’s wool and bracken and find out more about container gardening, please click here.
To read a review of Louise Curley’s latest book, ‘The Crafted Garden’, please click here.
To read my review of the EarthBox, a specially developed container growing system, please click here.
To read my review of Burgon & Ball’s Weed Slice and Burgon & Ball’s Short Handled Weed Slice, please click here.
To read my review of Richard Mabey’s latest book, ‘The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination’, please click here.
To read my interview with David Neale, an award winning Garden Designer, based in Guildford in Surrey, please click here.
To read the results of my 2015 Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.
If you’re looking for reputable suppliers of snowdrops, sold ‘in the green’, please click here.
For gardening advice of what you could do at your allotment or in your garden from mid-November until mid-December, please click here.
For gardening advice of what you could do in your garden or at your allotment from mid-December until mid-January, please click here.