Question for Grainlady--best tomatoes for drying?

chambleemamaJanuary 29, 2011

Grainlady, we dried tomatoes last year (just using a window screen and hot sun on our deck) and LOVED them. We are buying an Excalibur this year (for a lot of things besides tomatoes) and are planning our garden. What do you think is the best-tasting tomato for drying?

We are in the Atlanta area, which is Zone 7.

Anybody else have experience with drying tomatoes in the Atlanta area?

Thanks for any help!

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Chambleemama, can I jump in also? How exactly did you dry your tomatoes? Peel and slice them?

I'm going to start researching drying. I want to do some more food storage. I canned and froze a lot last year, but I want something with a more stable shelf life.

I got my 4 gallon bucket of charlies soap and just ordered my kefir grains. Picking up more white wheat hopefully this week.

Also, gotta get those seeds ordered!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 4:42PM
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Slice them in half, and scoop the seeds and goo out with your thumb, then lay them on a window screen and place in the hot sun. We turned them over after a couple of days, and we brought them inside if it was going to rain. This worked well with the cherry tomatoes and the Romas.

We want to expand our drying to more varieties this year, with the dehydrator.

On another note, about Charlie's Soap: If you want to do some hand washing, you just use a pinch of the powder. It works great. Next time I'm travelling, I'll take CS in an empty contact lens case.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 7:20PM
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I'll dry any kind of tomato I happen to be growing, but I generally only grow small varieties of tomatoes. The more "meaty" varieties of tomatoes are preferred for drying. You can dry both ripe or green tomatoes. Rehydrate those green tomato slices in boiling water, dredge them and fry in melted butter in skillet. Fried Green Tomatoes for New Year's Day along with those Black-eyed Peas. ;-)

It's amazing how many dried tomatoes you can stuff into a quart jar. You can also remove the skin and seeds and blend the tomatoes in a blender, add a little Fruit Fresh, and dry it on the Fruit Leather Sheets. Cut the sheets into squares and you'll find they add a lot of flavor to soups and stews as they incorporate into the liquid. You can also make tomato paste or tomato sauce by adding the tomato leather to hot water. Make a quick pasta sauce.

How to: Peel tomatoes by dipping in boiling water for 1-minute, then in cold water for 1 minute. Slip off skins and cut out cores, or just the stem end - your choice. Cut into 1/8-inch slices, the seeds will generally fall out during drying. I also cut them into 1/4-inch cubes to dry. Drain them well before drying. It will help cut drying time down. I'll give the tomato cubes a gentle spin in my salad spinner to extract both moisture and seeds.

I dry tomatoes in a dehydrator. It gets too humid here for good drying outdoors. Make sure your "old window screen" ISN'T galvanized, which is coated with cadmium or zinc. These metals can oxidize and leave harmful residue on the food. Also avoid copper and aluminum screening. Copper destroys vitamin C and increases oxidation. Aluminum tends to discolor and corrode. Use stainless steel, teflon-coated fiberglass and plastic screening.

Sun drying isn't recommended for vegetables (other than vine-dried beans). Vegetables are low in sugar and acid, which increases the risks for food spoilage. Favorable conditions for drying outdoors - minimum temperature of 85-degrees F (with higher temperatures being better) and humidity below 60%. Be sure to bring them in overnight. The cooler night temperatures can cause condensation and add moisture back into the food and slow the drying process. This can contribute to bacteria growth (Salmonella and E. Coli). Raise the screens off the ground (saw horses) and place them over concrete when possible (or over a sheet of aluminum - the reflection of the sun on the metal increases the drying temperature). Screens placed close to the ground can actually cause the food to absorb moisture from the grass and ground. Add a fan if possible. This will help keep insects off the food, and air circulation is as important as the temperature.

Food dried outdoors also has an increased chance for insects. All food dried outdoors needs to be pasteurized and cooled to room temperature before placing it into storage. To pasteurize the food, place it in a preheated 160-degree F oven for 30-minutes. An alternative is to freeze the food for 48-hours to kill any eggs from possible insect contamination.

TWO screens are suggested for drying food outdoors. One screen holds the food and the other one to protect the food from "critters".

Home dehydrated foods are not considered "long-storage" foods. You can extend the storage time by placing it in canning jars and vacuum-sealing the jars with a FoodSaver, or adding an oxygen absorber. You can also freeze the dehydrated food for longer storage. Recommended storage times for home dehydrated foods range from 4-months to 1-year. The food quality is affected by heat, light and storage temperature. Most dried fruits can be stored for one year at 60-degrees F, six months at 80-degrees F. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits. Vacuum-seal fruits or vegetables and keep it in the dark in a cool storage temperature and you can double the shelf-life. Remember to package your dehydrated food in small containers. Each time you open a container of food, it will draw moisture in from the air and that can cause the food to rehydrate and even mold. I package slices of dried apples in small snack-size storage bags, then place them in a 1/2-gallon jar and vacuum-seal it for storage. When it's moved from storage to the pantry, I replace the canning lid with a Universal Lid (which is easy to open and re-close). Now when I want sliced apples for a snack or for adding to muffins, I can quickly get one or two packets without the moisture getting to the entire contents of the jar.

Not all foods dry properly at one temperature, that's why an electric dehydrator with a thermostat and a fan is a better choice for home dehydrating. You'll have a safer product than using the sun.

The link below has a LOT of great information.


Here is a link that might be useful: New Home Drying Recommendations

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 10:24AM
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Not associated in any way,but one of these will make things go much quicker:

We dried Celebrity tomatoes for years. In our climate, (New England) and in our dry house it took about 24 hours to dry a batch. Re-hydrating a quart of tomatoes to make a pizza was like having a taste of summer again.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 7:42PM
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Thanks, everyone! We're off to a much safer start for next summer.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 9:46PM
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The traditional variety for sun drying is Principe Borghese.

I've never cleaned out the seeds or skinned toms before drying.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 8:36PM
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Grainlady, we bought a dehydrator yesterday, and I'm reviewing your excellent advice--thank you! Also heading out to my County Extension office--a great resource, as you know, but people who have no 4-H experience may not know how much expertise is right there, already paid for with our tax dollars!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 11:34AM
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Congratulations on your new dehydrator. I've been doing zucchini chips this week and looking forward to apple season.

I teach a lot of classes through our Extension Office, and yes, it is a great resource. ;-)


    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 3:54PM
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Another use for dehydrated tomatoes is to run them through the blender when they are completely dry until you have tomato powder. You can just add a few spoonfuls to what ever you are cooking for a nice tomato flavor. It is like having tomato paste without the can.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 10:39PM
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