How to Dry Vegetable and Fruit:
Before I get into the business of showing you how to dry vegetable and fruit…
You’ll agree with me that…
It would be in order to know, “why drying of vegetables and fruits matters.”
If you agree with me let us get started.
Why Drying of Vegetables Makes Sense
Let’s face it.
Every year, there are seasons when fruit and vegetables are in plenty, and seasons when they are scarce.
To ensure that we have a year round supply, we have no choice other than drying fruit and vegetables.
Doing so helps us:
- Stabilize supplies
- Reduce wastage during the times of plenty
- Assure farmers of year round income even when food production is not possible.
- Create employment for people in the processing industry.
Now that the importance of drying fruits and vegetables is settled, let us look at the two approaches to drying vegetable and fruit.
You can dry vegetables and fruits using
- Energy from the sun also known as solar drying.
- Or you can use special vegetable and fruit drying machines
Since this is a rather extensive topic and I won’t be able to discuss all these two approaches.
Instead, let us stick to sun drying fruits and vegetables.
I hope to discuss drying vegetables and fruits using drying machinery in another post.
Is Sun Drying Fruits and Vegetables Safe?
According to an article by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service
“The high sugar and acid content of fruits make them safe to dry out-of-doors when conditions are favorable for drying. Vegetables (with the exception of vine dried beans) and meats are not recommended for out-of-doors drying.”
Following this advice from such reputed institution, we can safely dry fruits in the open sun, but for vegetables we can use special structures that use solar energy.
How Long Do Sun dried Vegetables and Fruits Last?
“If correctly prepared and stored, dried fruit can last up to five years and dried vegetables 10 years or more.
This makes solar dehydration the ideal way to achieve long-term storage.”
Advantages of solar drying Fruits and Vegetables
- Food in the cupboard for later use increases household food security.
- Creates employment opportunities and a sustainable income.
- Dried products improve family nutrition because fruit and vegetables contain high quantities of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- For diabetics dried fruit prepared without adding sugar is a healthy choice instead of desserts.
- You can use dried fruit in stews, soups and casseroles or enjoy them as snacks. They can also be added to cereals for breakfast or used in making ice cream and baked products.
- Drying fruits and vegetables improves farmers bargaining power. During the harvest season, sometimes farmers sell at very low prices because they cannot store or preserve their surplus products.
Drying of Fruit and Vegetables Using Solar Dryers
To dry fruit and vegetables by solar requires little capital and…
The technology required is basic.
For that reason, you can complete the entire operation in most kitchens.
The structure can be very basic, e.g. a box frame covered with plastic sheeting.
Advantages of solar dryers over open outdoor drying
- Drying is fast because the temperature inside the dryer is warmer than outside.
- There’s less risk of spoilage because the speed of drying is increased. (If the drying process is slow the fruit can start to ferment and the product is spoilt).
- The product is protected against flies, pests, rain and dust.
- You’ll save labor. “How?” You may ask. Instead of moving the product in and out, it can be left in the dryer overnight or during rain.
- The quality of the product is better in terms of nutrients, hygiene and color.
The Process of Drying Fruit and Vegetables
Before you start, there are some precautions you must consider
- Cleanliness and hygiene are very important in the processing of dried fruit and vegetables.
- To minimize the possibility of contamination, any person who is unwell or has infected wounds or sores, is ill with a gastric disorder or suffering from diarrhea MUST BE EXCLUDED from the processing operations.
- All cuts have to be covered with waterproof dressing.
- Moldy raw materials contaminated must not be used in processing.
Step 1: Pre Drying treatments
- Use only ripe, good-quality fruit and vegetables.
- Select fruit and vegetables individually.
- Discard rotted, damaged or diseased fruit and vegetables.
- Remember, processing cannot improve poor-quality fruit or vegetables.
- Clean all working surfaces before handling fruit or vegetables.
- Water for cleaning must be treated with a household bleach solution.
Step 2: Prepare the cleaning solution as follows:
- Pour 50 parts of clean water in a clean bucket (e.g. 20 liter).
- Add one part of any household bleach (e.g. 400 ml) containing chlorine
- For safety reasons wear plastic gloves when mixing the solution.
- One bucketful of the treated water (20 liter) is enough for cleaning 20 kg of fruit.
- Use a fresh cleaning solution every day.
- Scrub and wash selected fruit and vegetables individually in the treated water, while wearing the plastic gloves.
- Be careful not to break the skin of the fruit during cleaning and thereby contaminating the flesh.
- Put the washed fruit or vegetables into a clean basket or bucket and take them to the peeling or blanching area.
Step 3: Blanching of Vegetables Before Drying
Blanch all vegetables in steam before drying them halts the action of enzymes.
However, blanching of fruit is optional.
Steam blanching is recommended because it prevents the loss of some nutrients and the products being dried from adhering to each other.
Do not under blanch, because the enzymes will not be inactivated totally and the dried vegetables will deteriorate during storage.
The Blanching Procedure
- Pour several centimeters of water into a large cooking pot that has a close-fitting lid.
- Heat the water to boiling and place over it, high enough to keep clear of the water, a wire rack or basket holding a layer of the vegetables (not more than 5 cm deep). Cover and let the vegetables steam for half the required time, then test to make sure all pieces are reached by the steam.
- A sample from the Centre of the layer should be wilted and feel soft and heated through when it has been properly blanched.
- Remove the vegetables and spread them on paper toweling or clean cloth to remove excess moisture while you steam the next load.
- Cover with toweling while waiting for further treatment or before taking them to the drying trays.
Cutting and slicing of The Peeled Fruit in Readiness of drying
- Thickness of fruit pieces depends upon the kind of fruit being dried.
- Thicker slices will dry at a slower rate than thinner pieces.
- Very thin pieces tend to stick to the drying trays and will be difficult to remove.
- Thicker pieces may not dry fully and may subsequently deteriorate after packing.
- Packages of dried pieces of varying thickness appear relatively unattractive.
- Cutting knives and working surface have to be cleaned with a bleach solution before use.
- Slices should be placed in clean bowls which have been rinsed with clean water ready for loading onto the drying trays.
- Before loading the trays, these have to be brushed clean and washed.