Dehydrate Vegetables Now for Winter

People who preserve fresh produce for winter use are most likely to use freezing or canning methods. However, there is another tried and true technique that might not immediately come to mind. Dehydrating tomatoes works very well with its own list of positives and negatives.
Dehydration is an ancient form of preservation.  Thanks to the availability of ovens and dehydrators, we don’t have to live in a dry, sunny environment to dry our produce safely.
If the whole idea seems a little scary, begin learning with one type of fruit or veggie. Tomatoes are a good option because they often grow in abundance, allowing you a little more practice for experimentation. Furthermore, many people are already familiar with dried tomatoes. They may be encountered in the grocery store or served in a restaurant meal. Consequently, the final product is a known quantity.
Certain tomato varieties are bred to be dried.  They are often small, and relatively free of seeds and the “jelly” that runs down your arm when you eat a tomato out of hand. They are also indeterminate, meaning they produce a steady stream of fruit throughout the summer, rather than a heavy flush of fruit at one time. Varieties like Principe Borghese, Napoli or San Marzano Redorta are examples. Tomatoes of all sizes can be dehydrated, but the bigger the tomato the longer the drying time.
Ovens, preferably convection; microwave ovens and dehydrators can all be used.  However, the most reliable is the dehydrator. No matter which drying tool you use, there are some standard requirements.

  • Clean, fresh, unblemished fruit.  Tomatoes can be dried skin-on or skin-off.
  • Uniform sized fruit. 
  • Temperatures from 130-140 degrees over a time span sufficient to leave a leathery result.
  • Consistent air flow throughout drying.
  • Fruit placed on plastic, mesh fabric, or non-reactive metal mesh surfaces during drying.
  • Storage in freezer bags, or airtight jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.  Freezing the dried fruit works very well, also.
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