From Green Right Now Reports

Tomatoes, start hereWhen the weather gets hot, we like to look for the easiest way to get things done and also for ways to harness that broiling sun, whether it be by growing watermelons or using hot days to kill weeds with vinegar.

Sun-drying tomatoes accomplishes both of our goals. There couldn’t be a simpler way to preserve a tasty summer fruit, and this method turns summer’s wicked heat into an advantage.

First here’s a list of what you need to know to dry tomatoes in the sun:

1. Dry them thoroughly so they can last for the winter.

OK, let’s get started.

Sundried tomatoes, begin...air holes in pan and collander

We placed our tomatoes on a tray, and then put the tray on a colander, so they’d be well ventilated. You may want to use a big screen (but not galvanized metal; this isn’t a chemistry experiment).

 You’ll need some tomatoes, or a very excellent imagination. Cherry tomatoes or Romas work the best. Both have that tart flavor that you’ll want to revisit in a basil-garlic sauce at a later time. Some say Romas are the best for sun drying because they’ve got a relatively dry, non-seedy flesh. We’re all for non-seediness. But whatever. Any small tomato that can be thoroughly dried (see guideline 1. above) will do.

Now, slice those tomatoes in half and arrange them face up on a screen or ventilated tray (we used a pizza pan with holes). You can sprinkle them with salt, which has a dehydrating effect and may facilitate the process. You also could sprinkle them with basil, oregano, rosemary or some other Italian herbs.

Place them in the sun in the morning, once the sun is in full swing.  For our test to see if you can sun dry in a day, we started at 11 a.m. It was 92 degrees. That seemed like a good warm beginning. By 5 p.m. it was just over 100 degrees (F), and since it’s July, the sun was still blazing at 7 p.m. when we finished up.

Here are the pictures:

Sundried tomatoes 2 hours

Tomatoes at two hours.

Sundried tomatoes 4 hours

Tomatoes at four hours.

Sundried tomatoes, 8 hours

Tomatoes at eight hours. Now we’re getting somewhere.

At the end of 8-hours, our tomatoes weren’t quite where we wanted them. They were about three-quarters of the way there. We could have piled them in a glass jar and filled it with olive oil to preserve them. Oil preservation works for tomatoes that still have a little moisture in them. Then to be safe, we’d store them in a cool pantry or even in the fridge (which would be hard on the oil, but OK for food integrity).

But we wanted our tomatoes to be crispy dry, so we could seal them up on their own in a jar or plastic baggie (not as green as glass).

That meant we had to babysit them for one night and another morning. To make sure they were still drying overnight, we placed them in a heated oven that had just been turned off. (We didn’t want to use any electricity on these tomatoes, but we’d just cooked dinner; this was “free” residual heat.)

Next day, luckily it was even hotter. (See we’re making the dog days of summer seem OK.) Within two hours our tomatoes were snappable.

Here they are in the jar.

Sundried tomatoes, in the jar

Now you can see why sun-dried tomatoes are so pricey in the store. The tomatoes are reduced in size at least by half. We nibbled on a few. Yum.