Summer is here, and that means a bounty of fresh fruit will soon be ripe and ready to eat. Of course, there are endless ways to enjoy it – blended into smoothies, baked into pies, chopped and sprinkled on ice cream or just as is for a healthy snack. But why not try something new this season? Have you ever considered sun drying fruit?
Sure, peaches, plums, blueberries, mangoes and many other summer faves are juicy and sweet when eaten fresh. But dried fruit can be a real treat, too. Besides being delicious, dried fruit offers a variety of benefits. In particular, sun drying:
- Greatly increases fruit’s shelf life
- Enhances flavor
- Maintains nutritional value of the fruit
- Is perfect for prepping fruit for travel, hiking or on-the-go snacking
- Requires no electricity, preservatives or additives
- Saves you money
Whether you went overboard on berries at the farmer’s market, or you just want to experiment with a new way to consume more fruit, sun drying might be a fun technique to learn this summer.
How to dry fruit in the sun
There are only a few rules for sun drying fruit, but be sure to follow them for best results! Before beginning, check the weather. Ideally, you’ll have outdoor temps in the mid-eighties, sunny skies and humidity at no more than 60 percent. This will allow the fruit to dry properly and your harvest to taste most delicious!
Besides good weather and a nice stash of fruit, you’ll need a few supplies including fruit wash, lemon juice, a drying rack and cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is essential as it will help protect your fruit from the elements (and bugs) outdoors. For a drying rack, you can use cooling racks from your baking supplies or drying racks from your dehydrator, if you have one.
Let’s get started!
What you’ll need
What to do
1. Choose your fruit. Virtually all fruit can be sun dried, so what you choose depends on what your taste buds prefer. Just be sure to use fruit that’s ripe but not over-ripe, and avoid fruit with significant bruises or damage (a bruise here or there is more than OK!).
2. Wash the fruit. Thoroughly wash fruit, using a fruit wash if possible to ensure all pesticides and contaminants are removed.
3. Cut the fruit. Cut fruit into small slices. You want to keep the pieces the same size/thickness throughout, so that they all dry at about the same pace. It’s up to you if you want to peel the fruit, but now’s the time to do so, if that’s your preference.
4. Soak the fruit. Create a mixture of 1 part lemon juice to 4 parts water. Soak sliced fruit in this mixture for 2-3 minutes before laying out to dry. (Note: If you’re drying tomatoes, do not soak.)
5. Lay out the fruit. Arrange fruit in a single layer on your drying rack, leaving a small amount of space between each piece. Be sure the drying rack is elevated to allow proper air flow. (Note: Cooling racks for baked goods make great drying racks.) Also, it’s a good idea to place a sheet pan or some aluminum foil underneath the drying rack to collect any drippings. Carefully drape cheesecloth over the drying rack to protect the fruit from bugs, dust, etc.
6. Dry the fruit. Now, place the drying racks outside in direct sunlight. Turn fruit slices every few hours until they are fully dried. You’ll know they’re fully dried when they appear wrinkly and do not produce beads of moisture when torn. Smaller fruit typically takes 2-3 days to dry whereas bigger fruit may take up to 4 days or longer. Bring your racks indoors in the evening to avoid too much humidity (or theft by furry friends!).
7. Savor the fruit. Once your fruit is fully dried, it’s ready to eat! Enjoy your preservative-free, all-natural, sun-dried fruit with some granola for breakfast or on a charcuterie board with your favorite meats and cheeses. The possibilities are endless!