Dried Fruit Easy to Prepare, Healthy to Eat
BUFFALO, Mo. – There has been resurgence in dried foods according to Christeena Haynes, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Interest in drying has grown but it is one of the oldest methods of food preservation,” said Haynes. “Part of the popularity may be that dried foods can be eaten alone or used in cooking.”
Drying actually takes the moisture out of food and microorganisms that lead to spoilage can no longer grow. For that reason, foods that have been dried correctly have a long shelf life.
Solar drying is a variation of sun drying that requires three to five consecutive days of at least 95 degrees and low humidity. Missouri weather is not appropriate for this method says Haynes.
Oven drying is the most user-friendly method. However, it is not recommended for repeated use because it requires a lot of energy, which can be expensive. According to Haynes, this method also produces darker, more brittle, and less flavorful fruit compared to other methods.
Electric dehydrators vary in levels of sophistication and can be purchased or made at home. This method creates the highest quality product according to Haynes.
“Dried fruits are high in fiber and carbohydrates and low in fat. Dried fruits are also more calorie dense than fresh fruits so the serving size for dried fruits is half that of fresh,” said Haynes.
Vitamins A and C are destroyed during dehydration. Sulfites may help to prevent these losses, but that leads to the destruction of thiamin.
Selection, Prep and Storage
When drying fruits yourself, Haynes says to select ripe fruits but do not use citrus fruits (because they contain too much water).
“After the fruits have been washed, remove any bruises, stems, cores, pits, and sometimes skins, depending on the type of fruit,” said Haynes.
Dried fruit at the supermarket is typically found prepackaged in the fresh produce or canned food aisles. Make sure no mold or abnormal smell is present before eating.
Many recipes require fruit to be rehydrated, or refreshed, and cooked until tender. Dried fruits can also be used as a topping or in breads, desserts, and granola.
“Dried fruit should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place,” said Haynes. “Refrigeration is not necessary but the cooler the temperature, the longer the food lasts.”
For more information on nutrition issues, go online to http://extension.missouri.edu or contact one of the nutrition and health education specialists working in the Ozarks: Tammy Roberts, (417) 682-3579; Christeena Haynes, (417) 345-7551; or Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 886-2059.