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!
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Dehydrating fresh tomatoes and basil
Tomatoes were companion planted with green basil, and they done producing for the season. In their place is now room for 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!!!
Fresh tomatoes are sliced about 3/8″ thick, and I remove some of the seeds to dry out and save to plant 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.
There’s room for more
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.
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.
It’s old, but it works great!
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!
In a few hours, the dehydrator does the job in a matter of hours, and the results are so much better too.
After 3 hours, the basil is completely dry.
Meanwhile, the tomatoes are still drying
The tomatoes still need a LOT more drying time, but I usually 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.
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.
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!