Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes

Award-winning author D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children.
It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside,
and get digging.

Ever wondered how to sun-dry a tomato? I mean, the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes is exquisitely intense, wonderfully versatile and makes an awesome base for “uncooked” tomato sauce—perfect for anyone living on the raw diet.

Until my family and I tried to go “raw” for a week, eating only food that’s uncooked, I never wondered about sun-dried tomatoes and how they were created. I figured the name said it all, right? Gardeners pluck them from the vine, set them out in the sun to dry, maybe across some terra-cotta baking stones in Italy or California, sunning until they reached crispy, crunchy chewy perfection and voilà—sun-dried tomatoes!

It wasn’t until I witnessed Mother Nature’s first sun-dried tomatoes in my garden that it dawned on me. Actually, it was the scorch of summer and my lack of attention that did it, but who’s checking? These gorgeous Romas were planted in spring and dried by summertime, all by themselves. Don’t you love an independent vegetable?

Nothing I like better than a vegetable that will grow by itself, or a child that will do his or her own laundry. It’s heaven! But seriously, these are feats to be coveted—at least respected, admired. In my house they are and when my tomatoes began to sun-dry themselves, well, I celebrated. Hip-hip-hooray! We have sun-dried tomatoes!

For all of you cringing right now thinking, please no, tell me you didn’t actually eat those rotten things. Rest assured, I didn’t. Who knows what may have tainted those shriveled beauties? Besides, I don’t eat anything from my garden without full certainty of its “wholesome goodness” prior to ingestion. I have kids watching my every move. You never know which “moves” they may wish to emulate and trust me—rushing them to the ER is not on my list of things to do.

So how does one sun-dry tomatoes?

Easy. Same way you dry those herbs in your garden—set the oven to low (150-200°F) and bake them for about 4-5 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes and the heat strength of your oven. First, cut them into quarters and push the seeds out (or not). These are a mix of Roma style and others. Next, spread them across a baking sheet. I used this vented one for more even “drying.”

At this point, your best course of action is to monitor them throughout the process, turning when necessary. If this seems like too much work, you can always lay them out in the sunshine for a hot couple of days. Mother Nature does know what she’s doing. After about 4 hours, my small batch was ready; crispy-crunchy-ready.

If I immerse these in olive oil they’ll return to a more palatable texture (I like mine chewy), but crunchy ones work well as a salad sprinkle. The raw diet recipes we used during our challenge called for soaking the sun-dried tomatoes in water prior to use. Good idea. No matter how you slice it, you’ll want to try this one for yourself! For more clever garden ideas and remedies, head to my garden blog, BloominThyme!

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