Some of the most important ways of mitigating food waste include buying only enough fresh food that you can reasonably consume, having a plan for that food, and storing it properly. An abundance from the garden can present a challenge on all fronts, especially when 30 hot peppers or an armful of herbs are ready all at once. Hot peppers often come in packages too big to get through before they go bad. Dehydrating can be an easy way to store food for another season, and you don’t always need a fancy machine or have to run your oven all day to do it. Air drying is quick, easy, and best of all FREE.
I have been drying chilies for many years now for both personal use and for holiday gifts – whole speciality peppers or infused olive oil are my favourites. My go to peppers to both grow and preserve are piri piri, habanero, green chillies, Thai red chillies, and jalapeño (although I prefer pickled jalapeños). Here are instructions to set up a drying system that works for either adding them as they ripen or a whole bunch at once.
What You Need
- Needle and thread.
- Hot peppers of your choice (homegrown, farmer’s market, end of a package…whatever!)
- Spot to hang to dry with good air flow but preferably not in direct light.
- Reusable gloves.
What You Do
- Thread the needle, doubling up the thread to the desired length, considering where you will hang it and how many peppers you are likely to add. I typically go with 18-24″ per plant or pint from the market. You can always shorten it when you are done adding peppers if needed.
- Tie several knots on top of each other at the cut ends.
- Allow peppers to ripen on the plant.
- Pick, wash, and dry.
- Thread the needle through the pepper just about where the stem meets the skin of the pepper. Wear gloves for this step, trust me.
- Continue adding peppers as them become ready and leave them hanging until they are all dry. Because you have doubled over the thread, the needle will be ready each time you go back to add more.
- Hang in an area with good air flow but not prolonged direct sunlight. I use the ends of the curtain rod above my kitchen sink window.
- Once dry, remove the thread and store in an airtight jar. Store them whole, chopped, or ground into powder.
Click here for a quick video of the process on my Instagram.
That’s it! A quick and easy way to preserve your harvest or make good use of a package of peppers from the market or grocery store. Let air drying be your gateway into other kinds of food preservation like dehydrating and canning. Grabbing a jar of food you grew and preserved is immensely satisfying and good for the Earth.
Do you preserve food? What kinds of things have you tried dehydrating?