For most people, nothing tastes better than ripe produce. And if you really want good tasting, ripe produce, think locally. If you don't have the luxury (or yard space) of growing your own produce, consider purchasing your produce at your local farmers market. Even if you have to take a road trip, locally grown produce will not only cost less, it always tastes better. Produce that is shipped is often picked before it is ripe, thus sacrificing flavor and nutrients. Locally grown produce, however, is picked ripe - and is generally grown without the heavy use of pesticides used by the agriculture industry. Organic produce tastes better and is better.
If you want to enjoy your locally grown produce throughout the year, you should consider buying large amounts and properly storing them for later use. Whether by cool storage, freezing, drying or pickling or canning, you can be eating your favorite fruits and vegetables no matter the time of year. Dried fruits and vegetables make for great snacks, not to mention the fact that they taste great and retain all of their healthy properties. While you can use a dehydrator to prepare dried fruits and vegetables, you can also use natural sunlight or your oven.
Natural sun drying is done by placing slices of produce on trays and covering with cheesecloth or fine netting. While sitting in the sun on a day with at least 90 degree temperatures and less than 60% humidity, keep a fan blowing on the tray to promote air circulation and turn the produce slices over at least once during the drying process. Depending on the type of fruit or vegetable, drying times will vary. Apples generally take one-and-a-half to two days in the sun, apricots take from one to two days, figs take from two to four days, seedless grapes and peaches take from one-and-a-half to three days, and pears take at least three days. Fruits are done drying when all moisture is gone and they turn chewy. Vegetables are done when they become brittle. Oven drying times at 140 degrees with the oven door slightly cracked a fan blowing air across the door, are generally two to four times shorter than sun drying.
Apricots are an exception, which have to be blanched first in hot water (for both sun and oven drying) and take about the same amount of time to dry for both methods. Remember that drying times are always kept to a minimum when slicing the produce. In addition to the texture of the produce, a good way to tell if it is fully dried is by cutting into the produce. If no moisture is present, the dehydration process is complete.
Author: Ryan the Hawaiian Lion