Vangarden Fail: Dehydrating Tomatoes
I really want to be awesome at urban gardening. I want to be the Trotsky of Tomatoes. The Lenin of Lemon Balm. The Rosa Luxemburg of Rosemary. You get the idea. This is why the garden is called “The Vangarden.” It is my revolutionary garden. My vanguard party of gardens. Unfortunately, I fail…a lot. This is a story of one of my failures.
Recently I decided that I was going to dehydrate some tomatoes. Last year, I purchased an inexpensive food dehydrator to help me accomplish this task. It sat in its box in the basement all year. Well, this was going to end. I was determined that it was no longer going to idle on the shelf. Thus, I picked some tomatoes and read the instruction booklet that came with the dehydrator, as well as a guidebook I had purchased. Tomatoes seemed easy enough. I had some yellow, orange, and red cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes seemed fairly easy to dry as they could be placed directly on the tray without any further preparation. Otherwise, the larger tomatoes required a short bath in boiling water to help peel off their skins. After removing their skins and slicing them up, I figured I was set. I plopped all my tomatoes on the trays and was ready to go.
Now, I noticed right away that the dehydrator was not top quality. The Ronco device lacked a fan and had no temperature setting. The top tray hardly received any heat at all. Nevertheless, I figured that if I changed the trays and moved the produce around, eventually everything would dry. In all, there was only three trays of tomatoes, so surely they would dry out. This was wishful thinking.
After three days of drying, some of the tomatoes were dry, but about half of them were still moist and covered with white mold. It was disgusting. I took a few hopeful pictures at the beginning of my dehydration, but did not take any pictures of the failure. The failed tomatoes looked a little like this:
Because the tomatoes were so awful looking…and I feared that the dried tomatoes might also be covered in mold spores, I tossed everything out. It was an epic failure that took three long days of waiting. Like Lenin, this leaves me wondering, “What is to be done?”
I will wash off the device and try less moist plants in the future. For instance, I have some herbs that I could dry. Perhaps because these are thinner and drier than tomatoes, they will not turn into a moldering pile of disgustingness. Thus, one of the lessons that I learned is that the Ronco dehydrator may not be up to the task of tomatoes. If the herbs work out, perhaps I could try my luck with some leafy greens.
Another lesson that I learned is that I should not have bought a dehydrator to begin with. I know that the broiler in the oven could have also been used. I just figured that the smaller device might use less energy and work more efficiently. Perhaps this is true of higher quality of dehydrators. However, the Ronco model seemed like the “Easy Bake Oven” version of a dehydrator. Maybe it is a device that kids can use to pretend that they are dehydrating. Another option is dehydrating things in the sun. However, our yard is very shady so I wasn’t sure if I could reliably use the sun to dry. In any event, I should have explored this free options before buying a device that sat in my basement for a year…and then molded my tomatoes.
I will try again. Maybe I will have success with herbs. If not…I think there will be one more Ronco Dehydrator at the Goodwill.
If first you don’t succeed, dry and dry again.