Sun-dried Tomatoes

Preserve summer with your own sun-dried tomatoes!

Preserving a summer harvest of tomatoes is simple if you have the time. Depending on the method you choose, it may take a couple of hours or a couple of weeks. It’s time to embrace your inner Ina Paarman and give it a go: try making your own sun-dried tomatoes!

Dried tomatoes are the perfect way to preserve the flavour of a tomato and concentrate it by reducing the water content by 80-90%. The intense tomato flavour is then used for adding a touch of summer to pizzas and salads or simply adding as a burst of tangy taste to a cheese sandwich. There are 3 main ways to dry tomatoes before they get bottled and each of these has a time factor. Sun-drying them is weather dependant and can take from a few days to a couple of weeks. Drying them in a dehydrator takes between 10 and 18 hours, while in the oven only a few hours.

Things to remember

  • Use any tomatoes you have, the smaller ones will obviously dry quicker. The thing to remember is to cut the tomatoes in each batch the same size so that they dry evenly.
  • Sprinkle the tomatoes with a little salt and sugar before drying them, but be very careful to not overdo it. When the liquid is reduced, the salt and sugar become concentrated too.
  • Dried tomatoes should be dry, not brittle, and still bendable, but also not spongy or wet.

Sun drying

This method is really for those who live in warm, dry areas with consistent and predicable weather. Don’t even bother in a humid climate. Place half cut tomatoes on a raised screen so that there is airflow all around and sprinkle with a little salt. Place in the sun and bring under shelter each night and during wet weather. If there is the possibility of wildlife and insects descending on your tomatoes, cover them with cheesecloth. Check in a few days and daily after that until you feel they are dry enough.

Dehydrator drying

These machines can free up the oven for other uses and are designed specifically for drying vegetables and fruit. They are convenient but may take up to 18 hours to do their job.

Oven drying

The quickest method is the oven drying. Cut your tomatoes evenly and place cut side up on baking trays lined with baking paper or on a rack. Set the oven to 120°C and slow roast for 2-3 hours, checking constantly so that they don’t get over done.


Once the tomatoes are dry, they can be stored in airtight bags or containers and stored in the fridge or in the freezer, but the tastiest way is to place them in steralised jars and top up with good extra virgin olive oil. You can add extra flavour with garlic, peppercorns, and herbs like rosemary, oregano and thyme.

READ MORE: How to grow tomatoes successfully? Click here

The Gardener