India ensures the availability of all varieties of fruits and vegetables because of diverse climatic conditions. We are the second-largest producer of fruits and vegetable in the world, after China. As per the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation report published at CEIC Data, during 2019–20, India produced 192 million metric tons of vegetables and 104 million metric tons of fruits.
According to United Nations estimates, 40% of the food produced in India is either lost or wasted. This food wastage isn’t limited to one level alone but goes through every stage, from harvesting, processing, packaging and transporting until it reaches the end customer for consumption.
The biggest challenge for several developing countries like India is within the process that the food undergoes before it reaches the end consumer like inadequate storage facilities, inconsistent power supply, lack of awareness towards post-harvest methods, fluctuating prices due to demand-supply mismatch, etc.
Currently, the commercial processing of fruits and vegetables is extremely low in India, around 2.2% of the total production, compared to the Philippines at 78%, the United States at 65% and China at 23%.
Many food preservation techniques like canning, drying, vacuum packaging, sugaring, salting, etc. Here, we will focus on dehydration or drying as it is one of the oldest methods of food preservation and was used by prehistoric peoples in sun-drying seeds.
Raw fruits and vegetable have a moisture content which tends to grow moulds, yeast and bacteria. Due to this, the food gets spoiled and results in smaller storage life as compared to their dried counterparts.
Dehydration is the extraction of moisture from fruits and vegetable, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms. As a result of this, storage life increases. The dried fruits and vegetables can be used in recipes or used as a snack. The dehydrated fruits and vegetable are available in various forms like dry fruits, powders, granules, chopped and diced.
With 2% of fruits and vegetables being processed, India has a huge opportunity to reduce waste and increase farmer’s income by exporting dehydrated products. European and the Middle East countries have a high demand for these products.
There are different techniques of dehydration like sun drying, solar drying, hot air drying, over-drying, spray drying and freeze-drying. These techniques can be used depending on different fruits and vegetable and the desired output.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit us hard and made us all work from home. The demand for such products has increased 3x in the B2C segments. These products are mostly available on eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, etc. Apart from these, there are some specialised companies which sell them online like Zilli’s.
Dehydrated foods are very convenient as they are lightweight, take up little storage space and can be stored for long periods as emergency foods.
Dehydrated vegetables are best used as ingredients for soups, casseroles, sauces and stews. However, they’ll be served alone with the addition of butter, white sauce or herbs to reinforce flavour. Dehydrated vegetables that are refreshed take less time to cook than fresh vegetables. Vegetables should be simmered to the desired degree of firmness.
Dehydrated fruits are often eaten as is or refreshed and cooked until tender. Spices or flavourings like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg are often wont to enhance flavour. Dried fruits can be used in cobblers, bread, pies or puddings.