The First Fruit Harvest of the Year

When we moved into our house, we had a pretty, mature apricot tree in our back yard. Some of the branches broke off though. Then it got stressed during a super hot summer and eventually died. A couple of years ago we bought a new apricot tree and this year got our first “real” harvest. It was only a couple colandars full, but enough to fill up some trays in the dehydrator:

dehydrating apricots

Dried apricots are super expensive, and we LOVE them. Now we can make our own homemade version of this healthy treat!

I cut the apricots in half, discarded the pits, soaked the halves in lemon juice & water (about 2 cups of lemon juice to 1 quart water) with a bit of vitamin C powder thrown in (about a tablespoon or so), and then flipped them “inside-out” onto dehydrator trays with the skin down. The lemon juice keeps the apricots from browning too much as they dry. Last year I didn’t use any lemon juice on some of the apricots a friend gave us to dry. They turned out tasty but were an ugly brown. They looked like something you’d scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Lesson learned. The lemon juice also helps preserve the apricots better. According to Colorado State University:

“Pretreating fruits prior to drying is highly recommended. Pretreating helps keep light-colored fruits from darkening during drying and storage and it speeds the drying of fruits with tough skins, such as grapes and cherries. Research studies have shown that pretreating with an acidic solution or sodium metabisulfite dip also enhances the destruction of potentially harmful bacteria during drying, including Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella species and Listeria monocytogenes.”

You can read more about pretreating fruits by clicking here.

If you look it up, you’ll see that people use different amounts of lemon juice to dip fruits in for dehydrating. I just happen to have a lot on hand as I use it to make what I call “Magic Cleaner”, so I went with the 2 cups measurement. We’ll see how everything turns out! I’ve dried fruits before with no pre-treatment at all and they turned out fine (except color-wise), and lasted an entire year with no ill effects. We’ll see if the lemon juice makes much difference. I do like the idea that it helps destroy potential bacteria. (P.S. I’m not an expert on any of this, so if you want to dry fruits, I recommend you get advice from a trusted resource!)

I have 10 trays for my dehydrator (a Nesco Gardenmaster) so I decided to fill the rest of them up with some other things I had on hand like 4 apples that were losing their crisp in the fridge, a container of strawberries from a buy-one-get-two-free deal at our local store, and some green beans from the garden that I blanched and then rolled in olive oil, salt, and dried parmesan cheese.

Beans to dehydrate

I’m hoping I’ll like the dried beans, as they are supposed to be a good, crunchy, healthy snack. If so, I’ll make a bunch more with the next batch of beans that ripens.

I sliced the apples directly into the lemon juice using my German-made mandolin slicer. That thing is awesome! I was kind of nervous about it when I first used it, but this particular model is designed so that I don’t have to worry (too much) about slicing my fingers off along with the apple. 😉

dehydrating applesI just cored the strawberries and then cut them in half. I’ve dried strawberries before by slicing them, but the resulting dried pieces were so small, I decided to try halves this time, just like the apricots.

dehydrate1

dehydrating strawberries

Here’s my dehydrator all loaded up:

Nesco Gardenmaster dehydrator

It has an automatic timer, so I can set it and forget it, even overnight. I’ll check the fruit later tonight to see how it’s doing and if it needs to dry longer.

This is just the beginning of our garden season! The next fruit that will be ripening are the plums. Last year we had a huge harvest and I’m still enjoying dried plums and low sugar plum jam from all of my work. I’m hoping this year will turn out just as productive (and yummy, lol)!

I’ll take an updated picture of my garden soon, including the trellis my husband just built for the kiwi vines I’m probably going to order next month. I love growing and preserving food from our own yard. I like knowing where it comes from, what went on it (pesticides, etc.) and love pulling colorful spring and summer food out of our cupboards and freezer long into the winter.

Now I’m off to work some more on my high school anatomy course. I’m almost finished with it and will be posting it soon!