Most of us have never seen empty grocery shelves. This scene, however, has played out thousands of times in other countries, during war time, and in the distant past.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation has an interesting article on “Historical Origins of Food Preservations” that discuss various ways humans have used food preservation to meet “food security” goals.
Food security is not a new concept. The term was defined in 1974 by the World Food Conference with an emphasis on supply and redefined in 1996 to include physical and economic access (Wikipedia). The idea of “putting up the harvest” started well before then…
The Middle East and oriental cultures actively dried foods as early as 12,000 B.C. according to the article starting with vegetables and nuts. The goal of course was to preserve food for later use. (Nummer)
Many of us have gotten away from this practice, and may not have the skills, knowledge, and tools to make it happen. The learning process can start small by dragging out that old food dryer from the attic and processing simple veggies for soup (like celery, carrots, onions, greens, etc.). These can be added to many recipes.
One does not need a food dryer to get things going. One year, with a huge abundance of kale, I washed up drying racks scrounged from a broken dryer. I loaded them up with kale and placed them in an unused vehicle that was sitting in the sun and cracked a window.
It took days longer to dry that batch of kale, but the idea kept dirt and bugs off of the veggies which eventually were finished in the dryer. The downside? The car smelled like kale for a week. Seemed like such a clever idea at the time.
More recently, I like drying veggies such as spinach, celery, carrots, cucumbers, etc. in a food dryer. Many of these will be used in a future soup pot. Others, like cucumbers will be made into chips that are a wonderful alternative to other veggies, and are fantastic for guilt-free snacking. The round lemon cucumbers work great.
My best ‘GO TO’ book for drying foods is “The Dehydrator Bible” by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. I like it because it not only shows you how to dry all kinds of things (including meat and cheeses!) but it also includes over 400 tasty recipes that use predominantly dried materials. Excellent reference book!
NOTE: Many stores, including Natural Grocers, carry great selections of dried veggies, fruits, and seasonings. If you haven’t checked that out, you are really missing out!
Historical Origins of Food Preservations, By Brian A. Nummer, Ph.D., https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/food_pres_hist.html