About Healthy Nutrition
Preparing Balanced Meals
We preserve food in order to keep it for a long time after it has been harvested.
Effective preserving methods will:
- Help food to last a long time so that families can use it when fresh produce is not available.
- Preserve the nutrients of food.
- Help make product easier to package and transport for selling.
The cheapest, most effective and simplest methods for preserving food are drying, blanching and curing.
Drying helps to preserve food by removing the water that allows bacteria and fungi to grow. Most fruit, vegetables and root crops
can be dried. Produce that is commonly dried includes bananas, mango, pawpaw, guava, okra, tomato, onion, pepper, pumpkin and
squash, sweet potato, cassava and all green vegetables. Meat, including fish and insects, can also be dried. Mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, beans and grains can be dried.
When they are required for cooking add the dried vegetables directly to cooked dishes. Dried fruit can be a useful, long-lasting snack.
Bear in mind:
- Crops must be processed within 48 hours of harvesting.
- Avoid direct sun-drying. Drying in the shade reduces loss of nutrients.
- Wash, sort, peel and cut up the produce. Sort it into groups of similar ripeness and cut it into pieces of similar size so that they take the same amount of time to dry.
- Store the produce in well-ventilated places to avoid mouldy conditions.
- Keep dried or cured foods in clean, dry, dark, airtight containers.
- Bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava and pumpkins can be made into flour for storage.
- Green vegetables should be blanched before you dry them.
The simplest drying method is to construct an open-sided drying shed.
Method for drying
Clean the produce and slice it into pieces no larger than 1 cm thick. Some products like green vegetables should be blanched on
beforehand. Place the slices on mats or trays in the shade or in a solar drier. Turn the slices over each day. Most vegetables take
a few days to dry. Pumpkin, okra and other moist produce can take over a week.
Herbs and spices may be dried by hanging them in a shady place or placing clean leaves between sheets of newspaper.
A simple solar drier can be made using wood, black plastic and clear plastic. In a solar drier the prepared food is placed on drying
trays. The black plastic part of the drier is placed in the sun. As it heats up it pulls warm air through the drying trays. The drying trays are in the shade.
Blanching is used to prepare some produce for drying. It helps vegetables keep their colour and flavour and to last for a longer time. This method can not be used for okra, onions, garlic or chilies.
Method for blanching
Tear the green leaves into a suitable size or wash the vegetables, then cut them into 1 cm square pieces.
Steaming is the best way to blanch as it preserves more nutrients. Steam the vegetables for 1-3 minutes, depending on how large the pieces are.
You can also bring the water in the pot to boiling point and dip some of the vegetables into the boiling water for one minute.
This method is mainly used for preserving root crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes and yam. Once cured, these crops can be pounded
into flour which can be used to make porridge, biscuits and drinks. Curing is best done in the dry season.
Method for curing
Spread whole roots on a clean, dry surface in the shade. Leave them to cure. When the outer surface of the roots is hard they can be stored and used when required.
6 March, 2016