For extra summer produce, Elizabeth Andress, a UGA Cooperative Extension food safety specialist, recommends using a dehydrator to make a healthy snack or nutritional addition to winter soups and sauces. Andress’ favorite foods to dry are apples, figs and pineapple. Some fruits, such as kiwi, don’t work.
“The slices end up shrinking so much that it’s just a mouthful of seeds,” she said.
To dry a tomato or other fruits, follow these steps:
1. Choose good quality produce. If it’s moldy, mushy or browning, throw it out.
2. Wash the fruit and slice it evenly. Some light-colored fruits like apples and pears will brown less if dipped in an ascorbic-acid solution after slicing.
3. Place it on a tray in an electric dehydrator. If your oven can be programmed for low temperatures, you can use it. Set the dehydrator’s temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food dried at lower temperatures might never fully dry. At higher temperatures, food dries faster on the outside, which becomes hard, but leaves the inside moist and likely to rot.
4. Wait a few hours and keep a close eye on the produce as it gets nearer to the end of drying. Food close to being done will dry faster at the end than at the beginning.
5. Seal the finished pieces in freezer-weight plastic bags or in plastic storage boxes.
Follow the same steps with vegetables, except blanch them first. The only vegetables that don’t have to be blanched are onions, okra and all types of peppers.