Which tomatoes are better suited for sun drying?

Which types of tomatoes are better suited for sun drying / dehydrating? 11 of my 16 varieties this year are beefsteaks (we prefer them for fresh eating but have more than can consume), are they good for sun drying?

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In general, the Roma, or paste, type tomatoes are better for drying. If drying beefsteaks, just dry the outer portions near the peel. If you are in a hot sunny area, it may not matter. I’m not sure how far inland Tracy CA is.

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Any tomatoes can be dried, it is just some tomatoes dry faster than the others. I have a problem that the dried tomatoes changes their color from red to brown when they are kept for several months in Ziploc bags at room temperature. I know that some people freeze their dried tomatoes to prevent it. I wonder if there are other ways to keep a color?

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I think we have enough sun and heat here to dry a mammoth. Normal summer temps are around 95 F but this year it has been around 100 F and up, 25-30% humidity. Full sun all day long, not a cloud in the sky.

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I had dried mine in dehydrator set at 120 degrees. F for 30 minutes and followed by 105 degrees F for 24-36 hrs. I didn’t pay attention to the humidity though. The tomatoes were sliced into about 1/4 inch think.

It will probably take you a few days to sun dry them.

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I’m a member of Tomatoville, and a woman there sold sun dried to restaurants all over the place. She grows thousands of plants. I have to leave town tomorrow, but promise to look to see what she likes. She is hardly there, and was not young, but she made many posts about tomatoes.

OK, I found some info, and on Tomatoville are a thousands others with comments on drying and how to’s etc. A fantastic resource! Brokenbar is her handle, a great lady!!

From Brokenbar

I grow 15 mainstay varieties that I have kept as I culled others that did not meet my criteria.
I also try at least 5 new varieties of paste types each year and am lucky if one makes it into my “herd”. I am looking for specific things:
 Meaty with a low moisture content
 Few seeds
 A rich and tangy flavor
 Size-Small tomatoes are just more work for me.
 Not fussy-Take heat and cold and wind. No primadonnas!
 Bloom well and set lots and lots of fruit
 Indeterminate
 Dry to a nice pliable consistency
These are my Top Five

Chinese Giant
Carol Chyko
Cuoro D Toro
Opalka
San Marzano Redorta

Recipe for drying:

Wash, stem and slice each tomato into 1/2" thick slices. Try to keep your slices as similar in size as possible. This will allow slices to dry at the same speed. Place in a very large bowl or clean bucket and cover with cheap red wine. I use Merlot but if you prefer something else, knock yourself out. I have a friend that swears by cheap Chianti! Soak tomato slices 24 hours in the wine. Drain well. Lay tomatoes just touching on dehydrator shelves or on screen in your sun-drying apparatus. Sprinkle each slice with a mixture containing equal parts of dried basil-oregano-parsley and then sprinkle each slice with Sea Salt. You may choose to forego the salt if you wish but tomatoes will take longer to dry. Dry tomatoes until they are firm and leatherlike with no moisture pockets, but NOT brittle. (If you get them too dry, soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes.) To store, place in vacuum bags or ziplock bags and freeze.
IMPORTANT!!! If you will be storing sun-dried tomatoes in Olive oil you !!!MUST!!! dip each slice in vinegar before adding to oil.

To pack in oil:
Dip each tomato into a small dish of white wine vinegar. Shake off theexcess vinegar and pack them in olive oil adding 1/4 cup red wine. For tomatoes in oil I am selling, I put the tomatoes into the oil two weeks ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely immersed in the oil. When the jar is full, cap it tightly. I use my vacuum sealer to seal the canning lids on. Store at cool room temperature for at least a month before using. They may be stored in the refrigerator, but the oil will solidify at
refrigerator temperatures (it quickly reliquifies at room temperature however). As tomatoes are removed from the jar, add more olive oil as necessary to keep the remaining tomatoes covered. I have stored oil-packed tomatoes in m root cellar for over a year. I have tried a number of methods to pack the tomatoes in oil, but the vinegar treatment is the difference between a good dried tomato and a great one. It is also important from a food safety standpoint, as it acidifies the oil and discourages growth of bacteria and mold. Soaking in the wine also acidifies them.
****** WARNING ******** Do NOT add fresh garlic cloves or fresh herbs of any kind to oil-packed dried tomatoes, UNLESS you store them in the refrigerator and plan on using them withing 7 days. Garlic is a low-acid food which, when placed in oil, creates a low-acid anaerobic environment just perfect growth medium for botulinum bacteria if the mixture is not refrigerated. Be safe and add your garlic to the dried tomatoes as part of the recipe for them after they come out of the oil.

You can use any tomato for dehydrating but the paste types leave you with more final product and I believe, a hartier taste.

Further comments
I have a sun-dried tomato business however, we were gone to Mexico this summer so my son dried nearly 250 lbs (and he sold every last one of them to the chefs in Billings, Montana and Cody, Wyoming.) He also made 12, 1 liter bottles of hot pepper oil using smoked and dried hot peppers. Then he made “soup mix” using dried carrots, peas and beans and finally, he dried nearly 75 pounds of apricots. We only get a good crop about every third or forth year as it always seems we inevitably get a late frost and it knocks all the blossoms off the trees. Besides all the drying, he and his Lady Friend canned peas, beans, asparagus, carrots (both hot and dinner) and processed nearly 300 pounds of tomato suace which I made into my special marinara when we returned.( I shared a lot of the pre-cooked sauce with neighbors and friends.) He will be all on his own next year as we are leaving for good. I have no doubts that he will do a splendid job.

Further comments from the founder of tomatoville
What kind of tomatoes to use?

Traditionally plum or paste type tomatoes are used for drying. You may, however try any type that you like. You want them to be firm and ripe but not over ripe, which will lead to decay. For larger round or slicer type tomatoes slice them crosswise into no more than 1/4 inch thick pieces. For cherry tomatoes cut them in half.

Are they still nutritious when dried?

They are but some of the nutrients do get lost when we dry fruits and vegetables. The water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C are gone. Nutrients like the minerals, fiber content, vitamin A and the phytochemicals become concentrated when we take the water out with the drying process.

To Sun Dry

Carefully wash and dry your tomatoes first. Cut them in half lengthwise, you can remove seeds if you like but it is not necessary. If you do remove the seeds try to be careful not to remove the pulp. Use a spoon or your fingers to scoop out the seeds. Cutting a slit in the skin side of the tomato will help accelerate the drying process.

Place the halves skin side down and/or the slices on a framed plastic screen (we use our seed drying trays for this), being careful not to lose any liquid from them and spread them out so that none are touching. You can salt them at this time for a little more flavor and the salt will help to draw the liquid from them. The drying process will concentrate all the flavor in the juice. Use a cheesecloth cover over the screen to protect the tomatoes from bugs and crud. Raise the cheesecloth off the tomatoes slightly with wood skewers or something like that. Then place the screen outside in the sun with some boards or something to raise it a few inches and allow air to circulate underneath it. It will take at least a few days of sunshine, sometimes up to 12 days, to properly dry the tomatoes and you need to bring the whole set up indoors overnight, once the sun goes down.

The Results: When your tomatoes have dried properly they will have a dark red color or if using yellow, pink, white etc. type tomatoes they will have a darker, more intense color than they originally had. They should feel dry and pliable or leathery to the touch. They should not be hard and brittle or moist. You should be able to stick your finger in the center of them, pull it away and have no pulp on your finger.

Storage: Now that you have made it this far here is how you store them. Your dehydrated tomatoes take little space to store. They can be stored in plastic bags or airtight glass jars. For plastic bags: pack the tomatoes as tightly as you can, squeezing out the excess air. If you have a vacuum sealer it would be perfect for this. For glass jars pack them as compactly as you can and use a tight fitting lid to seal. We use our canning jars for this. Either way they can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place in the kitchen cabinets or wherever you have room. They will keep well for about 1 year, after that the flavor, nutrition and flavor will begin to decline. You may keep them for about 18 months if you wrap them securely in plastic and store in the freezer.

To Oven Dry

The weather must cooperate for sun drying. If this is not the case in your area oven drying is your solution! It does require a bit more of a set up. Most ovens have the lowest temperature setting of 200 degrees. Using uniform tomatoes sizes will simplify your results. Preheat oven to 200F or the lowest setting on a gas oven. Prepare your tomatoes as previously stated. Omit the cheesecloth and place them on cake racks or a perforated pizza pan as above. Put your pans directly on the oven racks. Alternately you could cover the oven racks with aluminum foil into which you will need to punch small holes for air circulation. Bake in a closed, preheated oven at 200º F for 6 to 12 hours until shriveled and dry. Do keep checking on them and remove ones that are done.

  • For Cherry tomatoes cut in half, prepare as above always putting the cut side down on your racks. Cut the drying time to 3-4 hours.

Dehydrator Drying

Obviously you have to spend some money to get a dehydrator but many think it gives dried food a superior quality. There are many units available that won’t set you back a lot. It all depends on what you want. They can have timers and thermostats or you can use a thermometer which you place on the lowest tray to monitor temperature. You want it to ideally stay around 135° to 140°F. You do all the prep as already stated and the trays should have a space of 1-2 inches between them. You still may need to rotate the racks and, in this case, turn the tomatoes.

Rehydrating Dried Tomatoes

You can rehydrate your dried tomatoes in different ways. For basic use you soak them in water for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature as needed- this should be long enough to fully rehydrate them. Boiling water will speed up the process. For longer soaking times be sure to stick them in the refrigerator.

  • They can be added directly to soups and stews. Adding them during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking is usually sufficient.
  • Try soaking them in bullion or vegetable stock.
  • Be inventive and try rehydrating them with wine!
  • Use the liquid from soaking in your recipes like a vegetable stock.
  • Pour a mixture of one half vinegar and one half boiling water over them and let them soak for five to ten minutes. Drain thoroughly then mix with a good olive oil seasoned with a few pieces of garlic sliced clove and marjoram leaves. Let them marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator before using. Very good in salads and pasta dishes!

Tomato Flakes and Powders

If your tomatoes come out too dry try or you want to make them into flakes and powders dry them beyond the leathery or pliable stage.

  • To give them a crumbly texture put them into your freezer for about 5 minutes and then crush them with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet or give them a quick whirl in the blender.
  • To get flakes dry them until quite brittle and crush with a rolling pin.
  • For powders process them until very fine in a food processor or blender.

Dried Tomato Paste for the adventurous soul…

For this you need to wash, core and seed the tomatoes, peeling them if you want… Crush them with a mallet or your hands and cook the tomatoes for 60 minute. Let it cool a bit then put it in the blender or food processor to puree them. Now return the tomato mixture to the pot to simmering it over low heat, stirring occasionally until it’s reduced by half. This may take as long as 3 or more hours. When it is reduced let it cool a bit and spread your puree ½ inch thick onto cookie sheets. Place in slow oven to dry (approx. 140F) or the sun or dehydrator until it is no longer sticky but pliable like a fruit leather. Roll your dried tomato paste into 1 inch balls and let them dry at room temperature for another one or two days. Store in airtight jars. You can add the tomato paste balls directly to soups, sauces, casseroles etc.

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Wow, so much of great info, thanks a lot for this compilation Drew!

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I didn’t read the whole post above, but I’m sure he’s got it covered pretty good there.
I did it two years ago out of desperation with a Huge crop and it was a huge success. I had three different varieties, really big juicy fresh eating tomatoes. They shrunk up quite a bit, but they were incredibly sweet and delicious, and everybody liked them, even the little kids.
I took 4 unused door screens, wased them well with soap and water, and sandwiched them together to make 2 fully covered drying racks. I sliced the tomatoes up and marinated them briefly in lemon juice and sea salt. I also did a few in red wine. I laid the trays out on our roof in the (sunny) morning, and they were dry by the evening. I got big Ziploc bags and put them in there with a desiccant poach. Some of the bags I put in the refrigerator and the ones I couldn’t fit I just left them on the shelf. My wife liked them so much, she was rationing them out for about six months so they wouldn’t run out.
I did several batches like this, and they shrunk down so much that you could process an incredible amount of tomatoes that would’ve gone to waste otherwise. They kept their color and they stored on the shelf just fine as well.

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