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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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In The Oven Or In The Sun: How To Dry Tomatoes, Peppers, and Other Fruits and Vegetables

Dried Cayenne

Cherry Tomatoes

San Marzano Tomatoes

 

Now is the time of year in the northern hemisphere where most gardeners have more tomatoes than they know what to do with.  And likely more of a few other things, too…


One of my favorite ways to preserve fresh foods is to dry them – they will last in a sealed container for months to years, depending on how well you dehydrate them.

 

Ground Cherry Dried in Husk


Sun Drying.


1. Pick your ripe fruits/veggies. 

2. If they’re small, you don’t have to cut them.  If they’re roma tomatoes, I cut them in half.  If they’re round tomatoes, I cut them into slices about 3/4” to 1” thick in the fleshy part, and 1/2” on the top and bottom parts of the tomato (the ends take longer to dry). 

3. Set them side by side on a pastry drying rack, or a screen of some kind – but it must be elevated above the surface so that air can get to both top and bottom.  For sliced tomatoes, it seems to work better to start with the butt end down. Note: several sources say that it’s better to use a non-metal screen, as metal reacts with the acids in the fruit and changes the flavor.  I haven’t noticed this, though.

4. For sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a little salt on each tomato – it makes them dry faster.

5. Bring the rack inside when the sun goes down, or when it begins to get moist in the evening (whichever comes first).

6. Put them outside again the next day when the weather gets warm, and repeat #4 & 5 for as long as it takes – up to 10 days.

7. Store in an air-tight container or bag.

 

Tomatoes and Peppers

 

Oven Drying.


1. Pick your ripe fruits/veggies. 

2. If they’re small, you don’t have to cut them.  If they’re roma tomatoes, I cut them in half.  If they’re round tomatoes, I cut them into slices about 3/4” to 1” thick in the fleshy part, and 1/2” on the top and bottom parts of the tomato (the ends take longer to dry). 

3. Set them on a pastry drying rack, or if you don’t have one I’ve found that you can use a cookie sheet with parchment paper (though this takes a bit longer).  We put our cookie sheet on top of our baking stone, and that seems to speed the drying process a bit.

4. For sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a little salt on each tomato – it makes them dry faster.

5. Put them in the oven, to around 200F (less is ok, but no higher than this!!).  Prop the oven open about 2” with a rolled up cloth, to let steam out – very important.

6. Set the timer – don’t forget this step!  Set it for 1 hour initially, then every 30 to 45 minutes.

7. Each time the timer goes off, take out any fruits that are dry.  They should not be crisp, but you should not see any juice. Anything raisin sized should be the consistency of a raisin. Tomatoes should be leathery.  Chilis should be pretty stiff.

8. Let them cool for an hour or two.

9. Store in an air-tight container or bag.

 


Dried Tomatoes, Peppers, Chiles, and Ground Cherries

Bagged for Storage

 

Experiment, have fun, try new things – your taste buds won’t regret your planning for the winter!

 

What Are Your Favorite Things To Dry?

 

If you already dry your foods, please share your experiences – what do you dry, how do you dry, and what do you like drying most??

 

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14 comments to In The Oven Or In The Sun: How To Dry Tomatoes, Peppers, and Other Fruits and Vegetables

  • My favourite thing to dry has to be tomatoes.

    Unfortunately last year I decided I just can’t justify the energy used doing it in the oven. It will either be solar or not happening.. Needless to say I am plotting and planning a way to do this myself now that I have a bit more leeway health wise, waiting any longer for A just isn’t happening.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  • I got an electric dehydrator last year. I’m trying to get away from storing in the freezer. The dehydrator was well worth it. I’ve been drying tomatoes, peppers, apples, zucchini, broccoli, grapes, blueberries, apricots, cherries, pears, prunes, and corn. I’ve experimented with drying tomato sauce and applesauce as a “fruit leather.” I’ve also dried some carrots and onions for a quick vegetable broth flavoring. The dried fruit is great added to baked goods. The tomato leather dissolves very nicely into broth as well. I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve done. Along with what’s been canned it’s going to be very easy to eat local through the winter.

  • I picked up two dehydrators at yard sales for 5 bucks each. Since I already had one, in the same style, I sold one of the extras to a friend for the same price. The main reason I bought them was to get the extra trays for a cheap price since the dehydrator can handle a stack of 12 trays. I got two so that I can dry fruit and aromatic vegetables (such as onions) at the same time.

    This is far more energy-efficient than the oven and doesn’t heat up the house in the summer. I also recently ordered a solar dehydrator but haven’t tried it yet. I wanted something that would keep the bugs off the food while drying it outside.

    Favorite things dried so far? Oh geez, I’ve liked everything! Kale is really good and can even be eaten as dried kale chip snacks. Tomatoes are, of course, delicious. I dry celery leaves for winter soup on the rare occasions I buy celery (not local, unfortunately). My experiments with leathers came out very well: pumpkin leather and prickly pear-melon leather.

    Chiles dried pretty well just hanging whole in the garage but I did dry some in the dehydrators when I had to cut soft spots off the fresh peppers. It’s nice to have dried green chile on hand as well as red.

    I think my favorite drying was doing the corn. I did both fresh corn and roasted corn. After cleaning off all the leaves and silk, I dropped the whole ear into the leg of a pair of nylons. Then I tied a knot and dropped in the next one. I could fit about 6 ears of corn, with knots separating them for air flow, in each leg. (Check thrift stores for used cheap nylons, launder, and cut in half through the top for separate legs.) They were easy to hang from a nail in the garage beams and the nylons kept insects off them. (This also works well for storing onions in a cool place.)

  • Kim

    Thank you for posting this, Melinda! I’ve wanted to try making some ketchup from sun-dried tomatoes (Ani Phyo’s recipe), and it didn’t even cross my mind that I could dry the tomatoes I have sitting on my kitchen table for this. You gave detailed instructions, and now I feel confident that I’ll be able to pull this off!

    You rock!

    I need to do raisins, too….I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this….

  • [...] In The Oven Or In The Sun: How To Dry Tomatoes, Peppers, and Other Fruits and Vegetables from One Green Generation [...]

  • We can’t dry outside, unfortunately; too much moisture in the air and too inconsistent weather. I use a dehydrator.

    Favourite to dehydrate: apples with a sprinkling of sugar (only if sour apples) and cinnamon. Dried until crispy and eaten as snack. Mmmmm…

  • [...] Above:  Pizza with Fresh sauce, Fresh mozarella, and Sun-dried Cherry Tomatoes [...]

  • Thanks for this post! Perfect timing as i was thinking only today about making a solar dehydrator – but I think i’ll just try both these methods first.

  • This is a great guide! I have done the dehydrator and oven method, but have yet to venture to do it outside.

    We make venison jerky, dried tomatoes, grapes, peppers, onion flakes, and watermelon. The watermelon shrinks so much that it ends up tasting like candy when it is done!

  • Lorna

    Hi there. I just stumbled upon your site and am excited to start reading through your archives!
    I’m living in the Middle East, which one would think would be a haven for solar/outdoor drying! Unfortunately, the humidity is high (we’re near the gulf) and there are way too many insects! Not to mention the surprise sand-storms. I’ll keep researching a way to do it solar without the risk of insect or sand invasion–but it needs to be homemade as we do not have access to a lot of things here. I liked your oven method, but with temps still in the 90′s F I will have to wait until “winter” in January/February to give it a try :)

    Wonderful work you are doing–thank you.

  • My aunt used to make apricot leather that was so amazingly delicious–however she lived in Utah, and I live in southern Costa Rica where the humidity is insanely high, especially in the rainy season. My questions are:
    1. I don’t have an oven or a dehydrator, and can’t justify the expense. Will fruits and veggies dry here in such a moist climate?
    and
    2. How on earth do you keep the bugs (ants, bees, etc) from getting to them?

  • Olá! gostaria de obter informações sobre desidratadores solares para produção industrial, onde comprar ou como construir um – com capacidade mínima de 100 kg de material a ser desidratado (ex: tomates, bananas verdes, casca de maracujoa, hortaliças etc) – agradeço antecipadamente – elcio

  • Marsha Dean

    Here in WV and Ky we dry white half runner beans for the winter. They are called shuck beans or leather britches. We soak them in water and baking soda overnight and then wash and cook as if they were dryed pinto beans. I cook salt bacon in mine. They are delicious with cornbread and potatoes of some kind. We live simple and cheap here to survive.

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