How to Dry Summer Squash: An Illustrated Guide
A Snake-y Italian Summer Squash Tangle
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
Dehydrating Summer Squash at a Glance
What varieties can I use? You may use any varieties you wish, at practically any stage of growth.
How long will it take? Up to a day and a half per batch--with little attention needed throughout most of the process. Loading trays is the only labor-intensive stage.
What can I use dried squash for? You may eat dehydrated squash as a snack, bake with it, or cook with it in skillet dishes and casseroles. It works in almost any recipe calling for summer squash . . . except zoodles/fresh uses!
Step 1: Slice Summer Squashes Thinly and Arrange on Drying Screens or Trays
Zucchini and some summer squashes will coat your hands with a sticky residue, which may dry and act like invisible glove, later having to be fiercely scrubbed off. If this bothers you, wear gloves when processing summer squashes!
Step 2: Dry and Store Your Summer Squash Chips
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
Length of Storage for Dried Squash
Dehydrated squash is best if used within 2–3 months, though it will usually keep longer if no moths enter your storage containers.
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 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
What is your favorite way to fix summer squash or zucchini?
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!
Summer Squash "Stars"
Using a Low Oven
The technique you use when drying squash in an oven will vary with the type of oven you have.
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.
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.
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
How to Grow Summer Squashes in Containers
Summer Squash at Home
Do you grow your own zucchini or summer squashes?
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