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The fabulous world of drying

How was drying born and what is it for: a small guide to the basic steps for home drying.

We hear more and more about drying food, useful in the kitchen and to fill the pantry. Today drying is spreading as a DIY procedure: thanks to ad hoc tools such as small dryers, we are capable of completing a millenary process in reasonable times. Drying was already in vogue among our grandparents, as a source of winter livelihood.

But what is drying and how does a dryer work? What can be dried and what are the nutritional advantages of a dried food? Put simply, why should we dry? Let’s start from the basics. 

Drying: what it is Drying (or drying) is a food preservation practice that in recent years has been refined in the kitchen all over the world. Its name comes from a latin verb, exsiccare, composed of ex and siccare, whereas siccus indicates something dry and arid. Its history is lost in the mists of time and the first drying method is the sun. The ancient Egyptians were masters of this technique as early as 2800 BC. and they dried fresh fruit and nuts such as apricots, figs and almonds. From a physical point of view it is a really complex process. To be dried, the water in the food must evaporate, but not completely. To do this, a latent heat allows the evaporation of water (a dryer).

Thermodynamics comes to our rescue by explaining that heat passes from one body to another only if there is a temperature difference between the two bodies. It means that the body that transfers heat (the food) must have a temperature higher than body that receives heat (air). Therefore, it is essential that the drying air has a higher temperature  than that of the product surface, allowing the evaporation of the water.

All clear so far? Let’s add another step. An essential condition for successful drying is that the air – which therefore receives and absorbs the water contained in the product – is not very humid. Its relative humidity must therefore be less than the relative humidity of the product. The less humid the air, the greater its drying potential.

Drying: the percentage of water

When we talk about drying it is good to remember that the amount of water removed from the product must not be the total quantity. On the basis of the percentage of water removed, we will obtain apparently dry foods and with structural characteristics that will vary according to the raw material and to the type of dehydration used.  For example  pasta, apricots, etc. will be rigid and plastic respectively, while instead we will call dried foods mushrooms and  instant coffee and tea.

Dryer: that’s what it’s for

The first industrial dryer, used to dry fruit and vegetables, dates back to the late eighteenth century and was developed in France, while we have to wait for the twentieth century for a scale development of drying that was replacing that of the sun. Today there are many low cost dryers on the market. What is the advantage of drying at home and not en-plein-air as our grandparents did? The warm air drying allows you to keep the organoleptic and nutritional components intact, without having to add any additives to facilitate their conservation. In short, vitamins, minerals and full taste.

What can be dried and how

Almost all foods can be dried. The important thing is the preparation of the food before drying. Therefore, free the imagination will allow you to have healthy snacks, powders to enrich your dishes and dry foods that you can choose as you like in the kitchen.

Choose fresh products, trying to avoid those that have already been in the refrigerator for a few days. A fundamental step is – after washing the food in question, for example apples – to remove the peel, as it is the part that is less permeable to water and which therefore hinders its removal.

Don’t forget to always work on a clean surface. Then proceed to cut the fruit into slices a few millimeters thick (as the thickness increases, the difficulty of drying increases). 

With foods with high enzymatic activity, i.e. with rapid browning, try to reduce working times. Once dried, the food is perfectly preserved in hermetically sealed containers such as glass jars. Finally, it is fundamental to prevent air from entering the container and thus altering the state of the product.  Close the jar quickly and keep it away from sources of light and heat.

Wilden. herbals and drying

All the plants Wilden.herbals uses in the development of the infusions are dried in herbal tea cut by reliable and careful suppliers. Drying is essential in order to preserve the organoleptic and sensorial qualities of each medicinal herb that makes up our herbal teas. After drying, they are fragmented into small pieces to allow a better infusion. Drying is therefore fundamental for us, because it allows us to produce our herbal teas, sublimating its herbs. Drying is an ancient technique, perfected and adapted to the frenetic contemporaneity we live in. It makes it possible to rediscover a slowness that goes hand in hand with what we eat. For us at Wilden.herbals, drying is not just an exercise in style. It is to promote and encourage a healthy lifestyle, capable of supporting the seasonality of the products, without sacrificing taste and nourishment. At any time of the year.