Well I will help with what I can. First off I read different articles listed on line (google searched) and in Mother Earth Magazine. Mother Earth has archives that can be searched which is really helpful. Then I purchased the book Preserving the Harvest. This book has sections for canning, storing, dehydrating and freezing. There are a lot of useful tips and ideas in the book so I definitely recommend checking it out.
In the past I have dried the left over fruits from my canning endeavors. I have tried apricots, strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, apples and bananas. All have turned out really great except the bananas. I have also made fruit leathers and yogurt leather (oh so good!!). The kids have devoured everything I have dried within a few days.
The above picture is the dehydrator that I use. I picked this up at Wal-Mart for $50 dollars and a second one at a thrift store for $3. While this is a decent dehydrator if you are going to just give dehydrating a try, it really is inefficient for any sort of bulk quantities. The main issue with this type of dehydrator are:
1. The location of the fan. Because the fan is located on top the racks do not dry evenly thus making it necessary to rotate the racks.
2. The amount of heat this baby puts out is horrible. I can not use it in my house because it will quickly raise the hit 10 degrees. Therefore I leave it outside on the step, which means I forget about rotating the racks. :)
3. It is small. I give dry foods as snacks to the kids and we can quickly go through the amounts this dehydrator can dry.
The major positive about this dehydrator is its portability. It can easily be moved around and easily stored on a shelf out of the way.
Okay so the dehydrator I want? Oh this is a real beauty!
A good friend of mine purchased this from Cabala's a couple of years ago. She has raved about this more than once and has nothing bad to say about it. The positives to this machine:
1. The fan is located at the back of the unit. This allows the air to circulate evenly throughout for even drying.
2. Its size allows for A LOT of food to go in at one time.
3. It has an automatic shut off if the internal temperature gets to high. This is a great feature as it keeps from drying the food to a crisp!
4. It has a timer.
The two drawbacks are its size and the cost. It is about the size of a small wine cooler so you must have a place to store it. The price tag on this is definitely an investment but if you plan on using it often it would be worth the price.
Now if you really want to get into dehydrating you can build your own. This has been on my to do list for a couple of years now and I keep putting it off. There are some great designs located on the Internet. Do a google search for "Solar dehydrator plans" and you will have pages to wade through.
Well there is some starter information for you if you are interested. If you have any questions just ask me and I will see what I can do! If you have any helpful information please share it!