How to Dry Summer Squash: An Illustrated Guide - Delishably - Food and Drink
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How to Dry Summer Squash: An Illustrated Guide

Butterfly has been gardening and preserving food of all kinds for many years, and she thrives on the creativity involved in these processes.

A Snake-y Italian Summer Squash Tangle

Snake-y, tender "Tromboncino" summer squashes, straight from the garden.

Snake-y, tender "Tromboncino" summer squashes, straight from the garden.

Why Dehydrate Extra Zucchini?

In average growing conditions, those of us who grow zucchini and summer squash usually have an over-abundance. One family (no matter their size) can only handle so much squash, no matter how delicious, tender, or nutty the variety may be.

Squash chips, or dried shredded summer squash, is my answer. With dehydrated squash, I don't have to figure out what to do with 12 zucchini in one afternoon—especially when I've already made a few loaves of zucchini bread, filled several rows of jars with summer squash pickles, prepared a lamb-and-summer squash casserole for dinner, and treated my chickens to fresh summer squash snacks.

Into which neighbor's mailbox might I not yet have stuffed a couple squash? I also don't have to figure out what to give my ravenous children for a quick, out-of-hand snack. The answer is in a jar on my pantry shelf.

Equipment Needed to Make Summer Squash Chips

  • Summer squashes, any variety
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Food dehydrator, wire screens, or a very low oven (if drying squash chips outside, cover screens with tea towels or enclose them in pillowcases)
  • Salt, fine grind

Step 1: Slice Summer Squashes Thinly and Arrange on Drying Screens or Trays

Slice squashes thinly.

Slice squashes thinly.

Arrange closely together on drying trays or screens. I am using a commercial food dehydrator, but it is possible to sun-dry squash chips in intense sunlight with low humidity, or in a very low oven.

Arrange closely together on drying trays or screens. I am using a commercial food dehydrator, but it is possible to sun-dry squash chips in intense sunlight with low humidity, or in a very low oven.

Salt with fine salt. Unsalted squash chips are unappealingly bland, so don't skip this step.

Salt with fine salt. Unsalted squash chips are unappealingly bland, so don't skip this step.

Step 2: Dry and Store Your Summer Squash Chips

Dry squash chips until brittle, like potato chips, at 130*-140* F. Squash is famous for reclaiming water from the air, so store as soon as cool in an airtight jar (glass is best), then in a dry, cool place.

Dry squash chips until brittle, like potato chips, at 130*-140* F. Squash is famous for reclaiming water from the air, so store as soon as cool in an airtight jar (glass is best), then in a dry, cool place.

How Long Does Squash Take to Dry?

The answer to how long your batch of squash will take to dry depends on several factors. But on average, expect to need to devote a day or a day-and-a-half to each batch . . . especially if you have really loaded your dehydrator or oven.

Factors which influence drying times include:

  • amount of heat and air movement
  • humidity in your yard or home
  • how you slice or shred your squash
  • how much moisture can escape your dehydrator or oven
  • how much moisture naturally occurs in your squash variety or varieties
  • how closely together you place your squash chips, or how thickly you layer shredded squash
  • anything else at all that has to do with temperature and air movement

How to Rehydrate and Cook With Your Squash Chips

Squash chips or shreds are incredibly easy to use. They require very little moisture to rehydrate (hot or cold, your choice), and while they never quite come back to their pre-dried garden-crisp state, they work fine in all cooked dishes.

Once I forgot to add the squash to a skillet mixture until the last few minutes. The zucchini still cooked up delicious and tender. As long as there is a bit of broth, water, or oil/grease for the chips to bathe in, they'll do fine.

Squash Snacks

Squash chips or crisps also make a healthy, crunchy snack straight from the jar. If the chips lose their crispness, spread them on a cookie sheet in an extremely low oven (about 100 degrees F.), and don't forget about them. Squash chips burn easily! They should become crisp in a few minutes.

Cooking With Zucchini--Your Style

Other Ways You May Cut Your Squash for Drying

  • "Can I shred or cut my zucchini and summer squashes in different shapes before drying them?" Yes, you may. Discs or chips are just one option out of many.
  • You may shred your zucchini—not too finely, or it will be hard to remove from the trays—and use it later in pies, cobblers, desserts, breads, sauces, soups, or casseroles.
  • You may slice long, lasagna-like shapes or noodle shapes for use as a pasta substitute.
  • You may even slice stars, moons, bears, or other fun, kid-friendly shapes, if you don't mind having to use the "rinds" for something else!

Shredded Squashes

This zucchini got out of hand and grew to club-size! While it has a fairly small seed cavity, shredding is the obvious way to go.

This zucchini got out of hand and grew to club-size! While it has a fairly small seed cavity, shredding is the obvious way to go.

The size to which you cut your squash prior to shredding will depend on your shredder or food processor. This shredder can handle big strips. Halving or quartering big squashes is usually enough.

The size to which you cut your squash prior to shredding will depend on your shredder or food processor. This shredder can handle big strips. Halving or quartering big squashes is usually enough.

This is how much shredded squash you get from 9 big trays. The bits in the dishes are not dry enough to go into storage. They will be dried some more, or eaten promptly.

This is how much shredded squash you get from 9 big trays. The bits in the dishes are not dry enough to go into storage. They will be dried some more, or eaten promptly.

In some dehydrators, you will need to turn your trays around halfway through the process. As you can see, the shreds on one side is shrinking nicely, but on the other are hardly started.

In some dehydrators, you will need to turn your trays around halfway through the process. As you can see, the shreds on one side is shrinking nicely, but on the other are hardly started.

Zucchini loses up to 90% of its bulk when thoroughly dried.

Zucchini loses up to 90% of its bulk when thoroughly dried.

Summer Squash "Stars"

This are slices of "Gadzukes!"--a ridged, hybrid zucchini variety with a strong, nutty flavor. They make beautiful chips.

This are slices of "Gadzukes!"--a ridged, hybrid zucchini variety with a strong, nutty flavor. They make beautiful chips.

Using a Low Oven

The technique you use when drying squash in an oven will vary with the type of oven you have.

Electric Ovens

An electric oven usually doesn't go low enough to safely dry vegetables without burning or cooking them. This can be solved by using the lowest oven setting, and inserting a butter knife into the door to keep it open a crack. This will also help moisture escape, hastening the process.

Gas Ovens

A gas oven often provides enough heat by using just the pilot light. You will probably be able to put in a couple trays, and walk away. If you start a batch before bed, check them once in the middle of the night, just to be sure they aren't getting too done.

Wood Stoves

A cookstove or almost any type of wood or pellet burner, etc., can be used to dry squash. If your stove includes an oven, you can use that, as well as the top surface. Baking racks are good for drying squash chips. Trays must be used for shreds, and will need to watched carefully and stirred every while.

Drying Squash in a Cookstove or Low Oven

An old-fashioned cookstove is superb for drying vegetables. I have one load on top on the just-warm side, starting the process, and a tray inside, almost finished.

An old-fashioned cookstove is superb for drying vegetables. I have one load on top on the just-warm side, starting the process, and a tray inside, almost finished.

We leave the door open to heat the room and to let moisture escape. That's bits of goose meat jerky in the dish below, just finishing.

We leave the door open to heat the room and to let moisture escape. That's bits of goose meat jerky in the dish below, just finishing.

If you have a hot fire going, move your tray to the oven door so it doesn't burn. Turn the trays periodically, so the side next to the firebox doesn't get too hot.

If you have a hot fire going, move your tray to the oven door so it doesn't burn. Turn the trays periodically, so the side next to the firebox doesn't get too hot.

How to Grow Summer Squashes in Containers

Summer Squash at Home

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen

Comments

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on October 17, 2013:

Sharkye11, I am so pleased to hear that your family loves zucchini, and I certainly hope you get to try drying it sometime! The ways you give of fixing them sound delicious. Thanks!

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on September 03, 2013:

This sounds delicious. I have two zucchini plants that I planted just for the flowers and foliage, but so far they have produced about 40 pounds of zucchini. I don't have a dehydrator though, and it is much too humid for anything to dry outside here. (the bugs would get it first anyway!) But I will keep this in mind for the future. It sounds like a great way to preserve them a bit longer. Right now I don't have to worry too much, my husband and daughter eat them as fast as the come off the vine.

Our favorite two ways to eat them are sliced and boiled in spaghetti sauce, or sliced and boiled in beans. Yummy both ways! Thanks for the interesting tip, and I will be sure to keep my eye out for a secondhand dehydrator!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 29, 2012:

Wonderful idea, Melissa!

Melissa on August 25, 2012:

I like to add some variety of meat seasoning to my squash chips. It gives them more flavor. Just salt is not tasty enough for me. I like Greek seasoning, BBQ seasoning etc. I've got a batch of zucchini drying right now!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on August 09, 2012:

Hyphenbird, it's nice to communicate with people of like mind. :)

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 02, 2012:

I recently discovered how yummy dehydrated foods can be. You are right about squash, it is delicious as chips or re-hydrated. Thanks for the tips.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on September 30, 2011:

Rainbow_Angel,

I hear ya! I had to have a squash angel this year, too. Fortunately, I was given some huge zucchini from another gardener, which were too big for them to sell. I didn't make squash chips, but I did shred and dry them for use in breads and things. They work great!

Rainbow_Angel on September 06, 2011:

Would love it if someone felt the need to be the "squash angel" and leave some in my car.. My garden didn't prosper this year due to the heatwave..

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on April 11, 2010:

Maria, enjoy your squash!

Maria Nockin on April 03, 2010:

I live in the AZ desert and think dehydrating in the sun will take care of the over abundance of squash I currently have on my porch.

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on October 08, 2009:

Ralwus, you're hilarious! If I lived close to a large shopping center, this might be an option. As it is, I'm an hour from the nearest Wal-Mart, and 2 1/2 from the nearest mall. I daren't try this option at the local grocery, as everyone from church is already there, trying to figure out whose car to stuff their own zucchini into!

Joilene Rasmussen (author) from Ovid on October 08, 2009:

LiftedUp, I never tire of looking at squashes, tangled or not. Thanks for the visit.

I am finding that it is possible to use more squash rehydrated than it is fresh, because the pieces don't plump up so big, and no one feels as if they're eating as much.

ralwus on October 08, 2009:

One method of 'sharing' squash; drive to Walmart or a Mall. Find any car on the lot that is unlocked or a pickup and deposit the extra squash then speed away.

LiftedUp from Plains of Colorado on October 07, 2009:

What a lovely tangle of squashes in your first photo! Things are so different in their dried forms than they are fresh, and it is great to know we have this option.