Sun dried tomatoes have a unique, sweet taste and can last far longer than fresh tomatoes. Knowing how to sun dry tomatoes will help you preserve your summer harvest and enjoy the fruit well into winter. Drying tomatoes doesn't change any of the nutritional benefits of the fruit with the exception of the loss of some Vitamin C. The added flavor and ease of storing dried tomatoes are benefits of the preservative process.
How to Dry Tomatoes
Drying tomatoes doesn't require any special equipment, but is faster when done in a dehydrator or oven. The fruits should be blanched to remove the skin, which holds in moisture and will extend the drying time. Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunge them into an ice bath. The skin will peel up and you can pare it off. When choosing how to dry tomatoes, consider your weather. If you live in a hot, sunny climate you can sun dry them but most gardeners will have to put them into a heat source for complete drying.
Drying Tomatoes in the Oven
In most areas, drying the fruits in the sun isn't an option. In these areas you can use your oven. Cut up the fruit into segments or slices and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a roasting or baking rake to hold the fruit off the sheet. Set the oven at 150 to 200 degrees F. (65-93 C.). Rotate the sheets every few hours. The process will take 9 to 24 hours depending on the size of pieces.
How to Dry Tomatoes in a Dehydrator
A dehydrator is one of the fastest and safest method of drying fruits and vegetables. The racks have gaps for air to flow through and are set in layers. This increases the amount of air and heat that can contact the tomatoes and that decreases the chances of discoloration or even mold. Cut the tomatoes into slices that are ¼ to 1/3 inch (6-9 mm.) thick and place them in a single layer on the racks. Dry them until the slices are leathery.
How to Sun Dry Tomatoes
Sun drying of tomatoes gives an added nuance to their flavor, but it isn't a recommended preservation technique unless you are in a high heat, low humidity area. If the tomatoes take too long to dry, they will mold and the exposure outside will increase the chance of bacteria. To sun dry tomatoes, blanch them and remove the skin. Cut them in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds, then place the tomatoes in a single layer on a rack in full sun. Make sure there are a couple of inches (5 cm.) of air flow under the rack. Turn the tomatoes every day and bring the rack indoors at night. The process can take up to 12 days.
Storing Dried Tomatoes
Use containers or bags that seal completely and do not allow moisture to enter. An opaque or coated container is best, as it will prevent light from entering and reducing the flavor and color of the tomatoes. Storing dried tomatoes properly will allow you to use them for months.
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Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.
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