Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Broccoli from here to eternity

As some readers know, broccoli is my all-time, hands-down favorite vegetable. I adore it in every permutation possible.

But it's notoriously difficult to preserve.

I can hear you scoffing. Just freeze it, you're saying! Every grocery store has packages of frozen broccoli.

But decades ago, as a young mother first dipping my toes into food preservation, I tried both freezing and dehydrating broccoli with dispiriting results. I followed the directions meticulously carefully blanching for the precise amount of time, etc. – and the end product was inedible. Freezing turned the broccoli into a soggy revolting mush. Dehydrating turned it black. Canning isn't recommended at all. Whatever I was doing wrong, it completely turned me off preserving my favorite veggie. I literally went 25 years without attempting to preserve broccoli in any way.

I thought about purchasing freeze-dried broccoli, but it's prohibitively expensive especially in the quantities I wanted.

Then last summer, a friend with a large garden emailed about how she was so overwhelmed with the amount of broccoli she had grown that she was dehydrating it like crazy. I immediately pounced on her experience.

The issue, apparently, came down to blanching. Blanching is a sacred practice within food preservation circles. It is defined as heating vegetables in boiling water or steam to slow or stop the action of enzymes. It also helps preserve the vegetable's natural color (pretty ironic considering my early blackened results). Blanching also kills mold spores, bacteria, and fungus. I short, there are many reasons to blanch ... except one.

I. Couldn't. Make. It. Work. (At least with broccoli.)

So I turned to my gardening friend, who had enough surplus on hand to experiment with dehydrating both blanched and unblanched broccoli. In her experience, the unblanched dehydrated broccoli was superior in both taste and quality.

Okay, this was heartening news. After a 25+ year hiatus – and freed from the shackles of blanching – I decided to try dehydrating broccoli once more.

So last summer this was before we moved to our new home – I purchased a three-pound bag of broccoli...

...cut it into small pieces...

...and put them in the dehydrator.

As it turns out, one three-pound bag of cut-up broccoli exactly filled the six trays of my dehydrator.

I set the temperature at 125F for eight hours (per the recommendation of this brand of dehydrator). The results – were terrific!

I mean, look at this! Nice color, good and crisp – just what I'd always hoped dehydrated broccoli would look like. What took me so long to try this?

Plus, that three-pound bag, once dried, compressed nicely into a one-quart jar.

However that's all I got done with regards to dehydrating broccoli. Instead, we got caught up in the pressure of selling our home and moving, frantically preserving the garden produce, etc. Broccoli got put on the back burner.

Fast forward to last week, when I went a little crazy. On a rare trip to the city, I came away with ten, count 'em, bags of broccoli. I reserved two for fresh eating, but had plans to dehydrate the rest.

Once again I went through the chore of cutting everything small.

I cut up two bags' worth at a time since I pressed both our dehydrators into service.

We didn't especially want the house smelling of broccoli, so I set the units up outside.

I dried it at the same temp as before (125F) and for the same amount of time (eight hours), but because the humidity was a bit higher than my last experiment, I had to add two extra hours of drying time (rotating the trays) for a couple of batches to make sure everything was dry.

This time I used some half-gallon jars for storage.

But what does this dried broccoli taste like once it's re-hydrated?

I made a cauliflower stir-fry the other day using re-hydrated broccoli. I used some of the stuff I dried last summer.

I boiled a pot of water, then turned off the heat and added the dried broccoli to it, stirring occasionally.

After 15 minutes or so, it was re-hydrated...

...and I drained it.

After that, I simply added it to the stir-fry like any other cooked broccoli. It tasted great.

I can't tell you how absurdly pleased I am to be able to preserve my favorite vegetable. Broccoli from here to eternity, baby! I can dry as much as I like.

This means that until such time as we get a garden established (next year), I'll always have broccoli on hand.


  1. For many years, Broccoli was the only vegetable our children would eat. I have almost developed an aversion to it now, excepting roasted with tons of garlic.

    I wonder why blanching does not work in this case?

  2. I found fresh broccoli in the grocery at an amazing low price about 35 years ago, took it home, blanched and froze it. It turned out perfectly. Now, you have made me afraid to try it again. I do have a dehydrator if I ever have an abundance again. It came out of the freezer still bright green. I went to the nearby store and bought a huge bag each day and came home to blanch and freeze.

  3. This is good news as I have a few more broccoli plants than planned. Thank you for this info.

  4. I have been dehydrating like crazy. I can't wait to try broccoli!

  5. Post Alley CrackpotJune 5, 2021 at 9:53 PM

    Does your current dehydrator have a heating element that raises the temperature significantly?

    That may do a lot to explain the better results.

    My old dehydrator would produce results like what you described for blanching, but it didn't raise the temperature beyond about 45 C and relied on constant fans to drive off the moisture.

    I was worried about mould spores, contaminants, and residues remaining on vegetables, so I tried a solution of citric acid (0.25% to 0.5%) and that seemed to work.

    Ornamental and specialist chile peppers were the few things I could dry in the old dehydrator without doing a citric acid pre-treatment.

    It looks like you have the Presto version rather than the Nesco that I'd been looking to buy.

    Which works better, especially in terms of having a decent heating element to speed the dehydration along?

    I'd like a new dehydrator that would be able to handle eight trays at a time, even if most of what I'll be doing with it is drying chile peppers as I have in the past.

    Also, if you want to gauge your sticker shock, check out the prices for dehydrated mushrooms.

    I may give some experiments with this a try, especially with the stronger citric acid pre-treatment.

  6. Try slicing that store bought broccoli then dehydrating. I too love broccoli, but sliced it not only dries faster, it becomes and excellent fast food snack. It just doesn't last long no matter how much you dry. Next I want to treat it like kale chips with a little olive oil and salt but think it best to save that for the end. It's such a wet veggie oil might seal moisture in some and slow the process.

  7. We also vacuum seal all of our dehydrated foods once the jar is full. Since our FoodSaver did not seem to want to seal peanut butter (plastic does allow air in and it will start to go rancid after 9 years, who would a thunk it) we got a hand vacuum pump for bleeding brakes and use that. We can tell exactly what pressure it is at and we know it is sealed tight. We seal all our dehydrated foods since we are originally from south Jersey and are use to fighting humidity and that habit has stayed with us though we live in the inland NW.

  8. We also vacuum seal our dehydrated foods to help them keep longer.