Interesting Bits of Freeze Drying History
The basic principles of freeze-drying were understood & used by the Incas in the 15th century, over 600 years ago. They stored their crops high in the Andes, where the low temperatures froze the food & the water inside slowly vaporized under the low air pressure of the high altitudes.
The first commercial use of the freeze drying was for blood plasma during WWII, to enable blood to be transported easily to front line medical centres. In essence, the blood plasma was reduced to powder, to which water would be added when the blood was required for use. Weight & bulk were thereby entirely dispensed with.
It appears that Maxwell House first introduced freeze dried instant coffee to the market in 1963, followed shortly by most other instant coffee manufacturers, who up to then had generally used a spray drying technique. Freeze drying retained more flavour & grew quickly in popularity as a result. This innovative use of the technology lead to a whole plethora of freeze dried foodstuffs, because they lose little of their flavour or their appearance when water is added prior to eating, but have the major advantage of being incredibly lightweight.
Floral freeze drying first developed in the late 1980’s, as a spin off from herb & vegetable preservation. Today, in the U.S & Europe, there are many hundreds of floral preservation companies, using specialized floral freeze drying machines.In South Africa, at the time of writing, there is only ONE!