To insure lasting flavor and quality, it is important to store dried foods propertly. The essential elements of good storage are COOL temperatures and a DARK, DRY environment.
COOL -- For best results, store foods at 60° F. or below. Do not use a refrigerator for long term storage. It is cold but too moist. On the other hand, a freezer is ideal, though not necessary. Dried foods may be stored at warmer temperatures but remember, as temperature increases the shelf life will decrease.
DARK -- Light causes dried foods to deteriorate and lose color. Store foods in a dark area. If you use glass jars or plastic bags, place them in a larger container that eliminates light such as a large metal can, a box, or paper bag. A dark closet makes a great storage area.
DRY -- Moisture-proof, airtight containers are essential for storing dried foods. Light-weight plastic bags are slightly porous so it is wise to use heavier bags for storage, or double bag each package. Squeeze out any excess air before sealing. Glass jars make the best airtight containers. For long term storage we often use masking tape to seal the lid. This not only insures a moisture barrier but it also helps prevent insect infestation.
COOL, DARK, DRY AND AIRTIGHT are the most important requirements for preserving the quality of your dried foods. Here are some additional tips:
PACKAGE FOOD AS SOON AS IT HAS COOLED. Food will draw moisture rapidly when it is exposed to normal room conditions. This is especially important in humid climates.
LABEL ALL PACKAGES CAREFULLY. Include the type of food, the date, and any special preparation instructions. It is amazing how quickly you can forget what is in a jar or package. Fruit leathers and herbs are especially easy to confuse. Dating the packages helps organize your dried food supply and makes it easier to rotate foods. Many people find it helpful to include information such as the number of portions and the fresh, pre-drying weight or quantity of the item.
STORE FOODS IN SMALL QUANTITES OR PORTION SIZE PACKAGES. Small portions are not only convenient but also help to protect your food supply. If something does spoil, the entire supply won't be contaminated. Foods will keep better. Remember that every time you open a jar to remove some food, moisture enters.
ROTATE YOUR STORED FOODS. Always try to use the oldest first. For maximum nutrition, food should be kept no longer than a year - from harvest to harvest. However, with good storage, you can enjoy your dried foods for longer periods of time.