How to Dry Tomatoes with Herbs

The tomato is my favorite vegetable -- uh, fruit. This usually translates to a garden full of tomato goodness -- usually in September -- that far exceeds my ability to eat, can, freeze, dry or otherwise preserve the bounty.  This doesn't make me sad, though.  The challenge is in finding lots of delicious and entertaining ways to put my tomato crop to good use.  Whatever is left over, I give away or donate.

I can tomato jam and tomato salsa, make batches of green tomato relish and dry tomatoes to eat as snacks or use in cooking.  Dried tomatoes are actually pretty handy. With a little minced rosemary, they can be delicious in rustic homemade bread. Dried tomatoes also make a satisfying snack.  This last is my recommendation for the day.

How to Dry Tomato Snacks

I have some end-of-season grape tomatoes that aren't nearly as sweet as they would have been had they ripened a month ago.  Rather than let them rot on the vine, I like to slice them (or small cherry tomatoes) in half lengthwise and dry them using a dehydrator.  This takes 24 hours or so, and the equipment does most of the work.  The result is tart, savory and salty. There is even a little more sweetness in evidence than in the ripe, fresh fruit. These small dried tomatoes can be noshed right out of a baggie, minced into sauce or ground up and added to soup (see photo). To make them tastier, I usually add an herb or two.  The sample in the picture above is topped with chives, salt and pepper.  I use basil, parsley or rosemary on occasion as well. It just depends on what's at hand.

I've also performed this process with standard sized, never-to-be ripe slicing tomatoes, the kind that tend to stay orange forever:  Just slice them thin (a 1/4 inch thick should do it) and dry them widely

spaced on trays.

The dehydrator in the photo is the smallest I own. This style has no fan and is one of the most economical on the market.  It works well if you remember to give the trays a quarter turn every few hours and rotate them bottom to top a couple of times a day.

I don't have a recipe for dried tomatoes because the procedure is so darned simple.  Add what you like, or leave the tomatoes plain.  For variety, I've dipped them in soy sauce, added a little brown sugar and sprinkled them with sweetened rice vinegar (or lime juice). Just watch for scorching and flip the tomatoes once through the process to help keep sticking to a minimum. (The herbs stay on top pretty well, fastening to the tomato meat as it dries.) Once dried, tomatoes will feel firm and have a somewhat leathery texture when flexed. 

Dried and powdered tomatoes
Store dried tomatoes in a plastic bag out of direct light. If you live in a humid environment, add a handful of dried rice to the bag to reduce the risk of mold growth over time.

Special note:  If tomatoes appear dry on the surface but still look plump from moisture inside, prick them with the tip of a knife and place them cut side down on the lowest rack of the dehydrator for a few hours. That'll do the trick.

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