Soon, my tomatoes will start to come out of the garden in large numbers.  Then in a week to two after that  they will be pouring in and I will have to start canning in earnest. In the mean time I don’t want to lose all those little tomatoes that come first, so I like to dry them.

Dried tomatoes can be used in cooked dishes, salads, soups and stews, casseroles and marinated they take on all kinds of delicious flavors. The drying concentrates the sugars and makes the end product sweet, chewy and delicious.

I use a food dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, you can use a low oven, no hotter than 140*F.  It can take from 4 to 8 hours to dry tomatoes in an oven.  It all depends on your oven, the moisture content of the tomatoes and how thick you have sliced them, so you must always keep an eye on your tomatoes as they are drying.

You can dry tomatoes until they are crisp and then crumble them in soups, dressings and stews, or you can dry them til they are leathery and use them in casseroles and pasta dishes and for marinating. I dry them both ways.

If your tomatoes are NOT plum tomatoes, you may need to cut them open and wash out the seeds and pulp before drying them. Seeds and pulp dry up to an unusable crumble, so just wash it all out and then slice the fleshy part of the tomato to dry.

Lay the slices on mesh screens in your dehydrator, or lay the slices on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in your oven. Dehydrators take different amounts of time but the usual is about 4 hours for leathery tomatoes where the tomatoes have been sliced 1/4″ thick.  The temperature for drying tomatoes in a dehydrator is 135 – 140* F. Longer drying time will result in dryer, crisper tomatoes.

Some people like to lightly oil the mesh screen or parchment paper before adding the tomatoes. Unless you are going to marinate the tomatoes, I don’t think its a good idea. It adds oil to your tomatoes, obviously and that oil will not allow your tomatoes to get crisp if that’s what you’re looking for.

After your tomato slices get to the texture you are looking for, gently remove them from the cookie sheet or mesh screen. Let them cool and pack them inside small glass jars or in zip top plastic bags. They will last longer if you freeze them.

If you want to crumble them, put them in the zip-top bag and press them with a glass or rolling pin until they are broken up and crumbly.

To marinate dried tomatoes:

For marinated tomatoes you want to use tomatoes that have been sliced and dried to a leathery texture.

You can use a simple olive oil marinade. Pour good grade olive oil over the tomatoes in a small jar. Push the oil around in the jar with a small plastic spatula so that it gets all around the tomatoes. You can add a clove or two of garlic if you like and as many fresh herbs as you like. I sometimes use basil, oregano and thyme along with the garlic. I don’t normally measure, I just use a sprig or so of each and a couple of garlic cloves. You could also add some peppercorns.

Remember that these tomatoes need to be refrigerated. The oil will solidify, but when you take it out it will quickly get liquid again as it comes to room temperature. Use the olive oil that the tomatoes have marinated in for cooking too, it is delicious!

These make great gifts too. You can dry your tomatoes, pack in zip lock bags and freeze them. At gift-giving time, pull them out, and re-pack in a small jar, pour the marinating oil and herbs over, put a lid on and let sit in the frig a couple of weeks before giving.