Is your garden DEMANDING to be harvested? Mine certainly is! Seems like the cucumbers, peaches, cherry tomatoes, green beans and zucchini all need to be picked NOW. Guess it’s the official start of Canning and Preserving Month here at Seed to Pantry. First up – drying cherry tomatoes. What are you canning and preserving this month? Share a picture of your great creations in our comment section. We can’t wait to see them!
If you have ever grown cherry tomatoes, you know that they can overtake your whole garden. Sometimes that is a good thing, especially if you like dried tomatoes. And no dried tomato is as sweet as a dried cherry tomato.
Cherry Tomato Varieties
There are many, many different types of cherry tomatoes. There are grape tomatoes, tiny little tomatoes, coin-sized tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, red tomatoes, purple tomatoes…… well, you get the idea. I personally grow chocolate cherry and sungold cherry tomatoes every year; with at least one red variety. If you are having trouble choosing which is the best variety for you, check out this article over on the Gardener’s Path site; 17 of the Best Cherry Tomatoes to Grow in Your Garden.
Prepare for Drying
This particular batch started with about 12 cups of tomatoes. As you can see here I have a variety of red and yellow cherry tomatoes. I have also had good experience drying the very prolific chocolate cherry tomatoes, as well as green cherry tomatoes. It’s simple to prepare cherry tomatoes for drying, just wash and cut in half.
Place cut side down on the rack of an electric dehydrator. Twelve cups of tomatoes filled 3 racks. You don’t need an expensive dehydrator, but one that has a thermostat is best. Set the temperature to 140 degrees, cover, and let it do the work.
Dry the tomatoes until they are hard and brittle. It took about 14 hours for this batch. Dried foods should be conditioned before storing. To condition, place all the dried tomatoes in a tightly closed container. Shake the container every day for 5 – 7 days. Conditioning helps to even out the tomatoes’ moisture content and prevents mold. After conditioning, place the container in the freezer for one week. This step helps ensure that all potential insect eggs hiding in the tomatoes have been killed.
Dried Tomato Uses
The final product resulted in about 3 1/2 cups of dried tomatoes. I will use them all winter in soups, pasta sauce, rice dishes, pasta dishes, rehydrated and used in salads, etc. They add a sweet, summer tomato flavor that you just can’t get from a hot house tomato in the middle of January. Plus, dried tomatoes are easy to store and don’t take up much space. Dried tomatoes are a concentrated source of Vitamins A and C and other anti-oxidants.
- Dried tomatoes made at home will not be soft and pliable like the kind you buy at the grocery store. Purchased dried tomatoes are treated with a preservative to prevent mold – yours are completely natural. However, if you like a softer dried tomato, under-dry them a bit and store in the freezer.
- The most onerous part of the whole process is cutting the tomatoes in half. Some books recommend steam blanching tomatoes before drying. My question is “why”? Tomatoes are such little powerhouses of nutrients that they really don’t need to be blanched, but do make sure that you wash them first.
- Spray your dehydrator trays with a light coating of vegetable oil before adding the tomatoes for easier removal and clean-up.
- Drying your own tomatoes saves money. If you love dried tomatoes like I do, you know how expensive they are to purchase. I figure that I save about $100 each year just by growing and drying my own tomatoes.
- It is not possible to safely can dried tomatoes in oil at home. If you want to under-dry sliced tomatoes and store them in oil, keep them in the freezer to prevent bacterial or mold contamination.