Dehydrating Fresh Tomatoes & Basil

Ever wondered how to capture that intense summer flavor of basil and the rich sweetness of homegrown tomatoes all year round? Well, look no further! Dehydrating tomatoes and basil tusing a dehydrator is not just a way to preserve these flavors, but it’s frugal too. Dehydrating fresh tomatoes and basil is a great way to preserve the harvest for use throughout the year. I like to do both at once, since my dehydrator has enough room, and the house smells amazing!

Slices of homegrown tomatoes drying in a dehydrator

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Dehydrating fresh tomatoes & basil

In myorganic vegetable garden, tomatoes were companion planted with green basil, and now they done producing for the season. In their place is fall plantings of kale, chard, carrots and lettuce.

The few remaining Roma tomatoes are sliced and placed in the dehydrator to make a quicker version of sun-dried tomatoes. They are delicious when used in pasta salad, and so much better than store bought!

Yesterday, I priced a small bag of sun-dried tomatoes in the grocery store – $3.99! Yipes!!!

Slices of fresh tomatoes on a tray in the dehydrator

To dehyrate and make sun-dried tomatoes, the fresh tomatoes are sliced about 3/8″ thick, and I remove some of the seeds to dry out and save to plant next year. The tomatoes I use are an heirloom variety that are from a local grower, so the seeds will produce the same plants next year.

Slices are placed on the dehydrator racks so they are not touching. You want the warm air to flow freely around the slices.

The eight tomatoes that I was dehydrating today took up two of the racks in the dehydrator.

Dehydrating fresh tomatoes will take at least 10 hours at 145 degrees – maybe longer. About four hours after I started the process, I turned over each slice on the rack.

Since the dehydrator will be running all day, I want to make the most use out of it, so I added two racks of fresh basil leaves.

For peak flavor, I pick the basil leaves before the heat of the noon sun starts beating down on the plants.

Fresh green basil leaves on a rack in the dehydrator

At 145 degrees, the basil will take only about 3 hours to dry out completely, so I keep those racks on the top of the dehydrator, and the tomatoes at the bottom.

American Harvest food dehydrator set at 145 degrees

This old dehydrator is 30 years old this year, and it keeps on going! I used to dry herbs by hanging them on a wooden rack out in the garage – with brown paper bags over the leaves to keep them dry and bug-free – but the dehydrator is SO much better!

The dehydrator does the job in a matter of hours, and the results are so much better too.

Completely dried basil on a rack in the dehydrator
Basil – completely dry in 3 hours at 145 degrees

After 3 hours, the basil is completely dry.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes are still drying

Partially dried fresh tomato slices on a rack in the dehydrator

The tomatoes still need a LOT more drying time, and I will flip them over at this point.

Also, now that the two racks of basil are done, I added another two racks of basil leaves. This will give me enough dried basil to last until next season. I keep the leaves whole, and when I use them, I just crush them in my palms over the dish I am seasoning.

Dried basil leaves in a decorative glass jar for storage

I keep dried basil leaves in this decorative glass jar, which has an airtight lid.

When the tomatoes reach a leathery, but not wet stage, they are ready for storing. I keep them in a mason jar with a screw-on lid and keep them in the refrigerator.

So, there you have it – the art of preserving your garden treasures by dehydrating your homegrown basil leaves and tomatoes. Enjoy the convenience and flavor they bring to your cooking, while capturing the essence of summer, even in the middle of winter. With a dehydrator, a bit of patience, and your homegrown produce, you’ll have ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes and basil to elevate any dish.

Throughout the winter, I use the dried tomatoes for pasta salad and for to use in a sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce recipe that I serve with shrimp over penne. YUM!

Click the photo to read:

bottles of finished opal basil vinegar and jar of steeping opal basil vinegar
chive blossom vinegar
Slices of tomatoes - fresh from the garden. Just one of the 12 reasons to start a garden!

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