Saturday, August 23, 2008

Redneck/Ghetto Food Dehydrator

So tonight after church I decided to embark on a crazy experiment.

This experiment was sparked by yet another experiment which is still underway, which was sparked on a flight.

If you've ever been on a plane, you've seen a copy of the Sky Mall magazine. I'm not sure if it is the proliferation of the internet or my age that has taken away some of its novelty, but it takes a little more to surprise or intrigue me in there these days (though the prices sure do send my eyebrows skyward).

Being an apartment dweller, the most recent thing to pique my interest was the hanging garden. It's basically a plastic stand you put potting soil (not included) in the top of and sand (also not included) in the bottom of that allows you to grow hanging tomatoes with herbs nestled on top.

I really liked the idea of that, but I did not like the $70 price tag. I did a little research, and found that the same effect could be had (in a much more attractive way) by creating a hanging garden out of a regular plastic planting pot. My dad helped me drill a hole in the bottom, which we covered with weed-stop fabric, and make holes for hanging. We filled it with dirt, and planted a roma tomato peeking out the fabric on the bottom, and herbs (oregano and basil) on the top. It is growing like crazy! I don't have any tomatoes yet, but perhaps I wasn't too late to catch the fall tomato season.

Well, I got to thinking - what am I going to do with all these herbs? I have a mint that is going crazy in a pot on my patio as well. A coworker suggested making my own food dehydrator (as I'm a rather frugal person and thought buying a dehydrator was not only expensive, but would take up room).

At first I thought this sounded like it wouldn't work - but as a mentioned it around different people - it turns out a lot have had it work, or have heard of it working. In fact, someone at church tonight said that the method was featured on "Good Eats" by Alton Brown, and I absolutely love that show (come on, it's cooking meets science class! what more could I want?).

So tonight I got the box fan, air filters, and bungie cords. I found a big box fan for 12.97 at Home Depot. The filters were 56 cents each, I used 20x20x1 size. I later found that Alton suggested cellulose if possible, rather than fiberglass. Makes sense - but I don't think the ones I got will stick to the food (plus, the other styles were rather expensive).

I used four plastic cups that were the same size that I happened to have around and laid the fan on its back on top of them. To test this method, I sliced up strawberries and bananas. I laid on filter on top of the fan, and spread out the fruit (leaving the middle, where that center, solid part of the fan is empty in case air flow isn't as good there). I topped it off with a fruitless filter, and strapped them down with the bungie cord.

The fan is currently humming away behind me on the highest setting, and the air is filled with the scent of strawberries and bananas (not bad!).

I figure if it doesn't work - I'll have a back-up fan (I sleep with a fan on) and a couple of sticky filters. I'm not sure how long it will take, but I'll be sure to make a post after I check them in the morning.

7 comments:

  1. I really liked the idea of that, but I did not like the $70 price tag. I did a little research, and found that the same effect could be had (in a much more attractive way) by creating a hanging garden out of a regular plastic planting pot.

    Reading through your article, Amanda, I have to admit I do not know much about gardening. But, I do not blame you for saving money.

    A coworker suggested making my own food dehydrator (as I'm a rather frugal person and thought buying a dehydrator was not only expensive, but would take up room).

    The fan is currently humming away behind me on the highest setting, and the air is filled with the scent of strawberries and bananas (not bad!).

    I figure if it doesn't work - I'll have a back-up fan (I sleep with a fan on) and a couple of sticky filters. I'm not sure how long it will take, but I'll be sure to make a post after I check them in the morning.


    If it works you can tell us how good the fruit tastes. One of my favourite things about summer is fresh fruit, and dehydrated fruit can be pretty good as well.

    Russ:)

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  2. Sounds like you have quite the inquisitive mind, Amanda.
    How are your experiments going, now?
    Jim

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  3. I too am a big fan of Alton Brown...so how did it turn out? I am interested to hear.

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  4. Hi Amanda,
    You really are inovative! I hope both your tomatoes grow and your dehydrator work.
    I am especially in the idea of indoor tomatoes. Is it important to have a hanging basket? Is there a particular tpye of tomato seed that I should try?
    Looking forward to hearing back from you. Vicki

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  5. So - the food dehydrator worked! You can't expect dehydrated bananas to taste like those banana chips, but my bird and I have both enjoyed them.

    I think everything was pretty well done at about 24 hours, but it ended up running longer because I was out of town for a couple of days.

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  6. Vicki,

    I have the tomatoes hanging because that way I don't have to find a way to support the plants (I live in an apartment, so space is limited).

    I chose roma tomatoes, because they aren't large. I was afraid large tomatoes would get too heavy.

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  7. Thanks Amanda,
    I think I am willing to try my hanging tomato vines.

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