Nothing says summertime to me any more than eating a fresh, ripe tomato. In fact, it’s pretty hard to imagine a summer without them. But for those of us in temperate climates, fresh tomatoes are a seasonal treat. And the season for tomatoes is always way too short for me! Dehydrating is one of my favorite ways to preserve tomatoes so I can enjoy their goodness year round. Drying tomatoes actually concentrates their flavor, while removing the moisture and greatly reducing the amount of space required for storage.
In Mediterranean climates, tomatoes are often dried outside in the sun. But most of us don’t live in areas with an appropriate climate for that method of drying. And while it’s possible to dry tomatoes in the oven, with a solar dehydrator, or even in your automobile, my wife and I have found that the best and most predictable results are obtained by using a dehydrator with a variable thermostat control.
We generally use small fruited tomatoes for drying. Varieties like Juliet, Golden Sweet, Black Cherry and Golden Rave are some of our favorites. We’ve found those varieties to be tasty and prolific, and the dried tomatoes we get from them work well for our uses. But any type or size of tomato can be dried successfully. It’s all about whatever tomatoes you have, and however you intend to use them.
To prepare the tomatoes for drying, we give them a good, thorough rinse, then cut the smaller ones in halves or quarters lengthwise, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Larger tomatoes – like slicers or paste tomatoes, can be cut crosswise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Some instructions for drying tomatoes include removing some of the seeds, but we never bother with this step.
Once the tomatoes are cut into the appropriate sizes, it’s onto the trays and into the dehydrator. Some like to add salt, herbs or oil to the tomatoes before drying, but we find they are more versatile if we just keep them plain.
Our Excalibur dehydrator recommends drying tomatoes at 135°F, but you should follow your own dehydrator’s instructions. Remember that tomatoes are really a fruit, and use that as a guide. Too high a temperature can result in darkened tomatoes, with a burnt flavor.
It can take anywhere from 8 to 18 hours to completely dry the tomatoes, depending on their thickness and moisture content. The tomatoes should have a consistency somewhere between leathery and crisp – flexible, but not sticky or gummy. Some tomatoes may get done sooner, if so they should be removed while the rest continue drying.
You can store the dried tomatoes in a glass jar or ziploc bag in a cool, dry place. Or you can do like we do, and vacuum seal them before we store them in the freezer. They will keep this way for up to a year with no noticeable loss of flavor or color.
And how do we use those dried tomatoes? The possibilities are really endless. For most uses we reconstitute them before using by soaking in warm water for 15-20 minutes. We love them on pizza, and in egg dishes. They add great flavor when tossed into pasta dishes. You can make some lovely pesto creations with them, like Pumpkin Seed Pesto or Sundried Tomato Pesto. Or make a Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade. And they are wonderful on and in salads, and added to vegetables like green beans and squash. Of course, you can always just eat them by themselves for a yummy snack!
Dehydrating tomatoes is a great way to preserve one of summer’s most popular homegrown items. And whether you grow the tomatoes yourself, or buy them, you can have your own dried tomatoes for a fraction of the cost of the pricey store-bought kind. And they will taste oh-so good when the fresh ones are just a fond memory!
Depending on my crop this year, I may just try drying some. Have bought them and never liked them but sure worth a try. Yours looks so good.
What kind of vacuum sealer do you use? I can’t tell from the pic. Are you happy with it? Those toms sure look like they’re sealed up well!
We have a FoodSaver, and yes we are happy with it. We use it for a lot of fruits, veggies and meats.
I am on my second food saver. I love them. I got the first one when they first came out. It still works just needs new gaskets but it is so large and heavy compared to the new one I got a new one about 5 years ago.
The FoodSaver probably deserves it’s own post sometime. It’s nice to know we’re not the only fans of this great gadget!
I dry a lot of my tomato crop also. But I also like to slow roast them at 200º until they get leathery, they become a bit caramelized that way and are really tasty to snack on.
I slow roast a lot of ours too. They are good in a lot of the same dishes.
Oh Dave, thank you SO much for the dehyrating info and planting the thought in my head on what I’m going to do with my first couple tomatoes sitting on the table. There’s not quite enough to can, but there’s a perfect amount to dry. Thank you, thank you, thank you! That’s my task tomorrow. Perfect!
Great post on dehydrating tomatoes! We really love them. They are like candy to a gardener and great in lots of dishes!
I’m thinking we’re going to need to dry some this year. Our freezer’s full, and pressure canning is not something we’re very familiar with. Thanks for the post!
Fab, helpful post. My mouth is watering, thanks!
Yes, tomato season is upon us!!! Gorgeous photos of your cherries, Dave.
I’m also a fan of dehydrating tomatoes and even turned some into tomato powder which makes a great additive in foods like sauces or soups. This year I thought I’d experiment with some tomato powder to see if I can create that ubiquitous 1 Tablespoon of Ketchup that seems to crop up in so many recipes.
We got a Food Saver last year and use it all the time too. We processed up our butchered chickens and pig last year and the vacuum seal is still perfect.
You might want to try the attachment for canning jars so that you can vacuum seal one with a basic metal canning lid. I’ve been vacuum-sealing dehydrated veggies in jars lately since the jars are recyclable and the baggies are not.
I’m doing some for powder too. We might also make some tomato leather before the season is over.
Dehydrated enough tomatoes to fill a quart jar yesterday and hubby even liked them. He’s not much of a tomato fan, but he enjoyed the dried fruit. Yeh.
Hi, thanks for the info! I am growing a variety of cherry tomatoes right now called Matt’s Wild Cherry. They are very tiny, about the size of marbles. Do you think I would need to cut them in half for drying, or could I just dehydrate them whole? They are the sweetest cherry tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, and I’d love to have some for the winter.
Hi Melody. I would still cut the cherry tomatoes in half, even though they are small. They will dry quicker and more evenly that way. I’ll bet they will taste great when dryed!
Thanks for the reply! I was thinking, too, that maybe I could just bust the skins open a little as opposed to cutting them – they are already tiny, and after dehydrating will probably be smaller than raisins. If I cut them in half, they’re going to be even smaller than that. Any thoughts, or do you think I should still cut them in half? Again, I appreciate the info! 🙂
You could always try a few each way, and see how they do!