Temp for drying tomatoes?

nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)October 8, 2013

My dehydrator died this year, and with so few tomatoes left, I don't want to rush out and buy one right now.
What would be the correct temperature to dry them and for how long?
I've only used it a couple of times, but would the convection setting make them dry faster and more evenly?
Thanks, Nancy

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Can't help with the convection part although it sounds good in theory that the circulating air would help unless it gets so hot it cooks them.

Otherwise oven temp recommended is 140 if your oven will go that low. Takes about 2x as long as in a dehydrator and uses 2-3x the energy as a dehydrator according to NCHFP.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 9:04PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Thanks. Maybe I'll go on freecycle and see if someone has a dehydrator. Maybe I'll give the convection a try just for the kick of experimenting! Nancy

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 11:41AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I dried some apple dice in my oven and I found the convection worked better than when I tried doing corn in my oven without convection.

One thing I did this year was to park my truck with maximal sun exposure and start them in the hot truck and later in the evening when the sun went down, I have moved them to the oven. The air here is pretty dry so it worked pretty well. My cheap-o Wal-Mart dehydrator gave up the ghost this year. I bought that one to see if I would use a dehydrator (and now I know I do) so hopefully next year I can get an Excalibur.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 3:39PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Well it ends up my oven has a slow cook button (I think about 170*)
I checked it after 3 1/2 hrs and most of the sliced tomatoes were just right. A few of the smaller ones were a bit crispy.
Next time I'll be more careful to make sure they are all about the same size and thickness.
At least I don't have to run out and buy something without researching first!
Thanks for the help! Nancy
P.S. I don't think the convection works on such a low temp, but maybe I'll try that next time!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 8:34PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Why can't you repair your dehydrator?
It is just a box with a heating element and a fan.

Years ago I made one myself, using a small bathroom fan. But even then it was drawing too much air so I have to restrict it. For heat you can install couple of 60 -100 watt light bulbs.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 8:44PM
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thatcompostguy

Old computer fans should provide plenty of air flow if you were so inclined. Mount the power supply and the fan(s?) on a piece of plywood and see how that does. Might even be able to jerry rig something to drop the fan part into a low oven to provide air flow. Leave the door ajar and it won't overheat. If the fan were on a 1x2 or something similar, that would be perfect to hold the oven door open just a little bit.

mentally, I've been toying with the idea of using one to keep air flowing in the sunroom during the winter months to help that warmer air get to the rest of the house. Might need a rack of them. :-)

I have an American Harvest Snackmaster from the early 90's that still works great! It's now known as a NESCO something or other.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 8:27AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

Personally, I am not sold on Excalibur. You can only have as many racks as it comes with. You have no way to expand the dehydrator.
I prefer the Nesco ones or the Garden Harvest by American Harvest. Nesco can go up to 12 trays high, and buy plenty of extra fruit leather sheets and mesh ones for herbs and small items. The fruit leather sheets have lip around them so the fruit puree doesn't run off.
The Garden Harvest will go up to 30 trays, I believe. For the money I would much rather have one of these. I have 2 of the older American Harvest one with 12 trays each. The Nesco go on sale for about $40.
The Excalibur fruit leather sheets are just flat, no lip on them to hold the liquid.
I have not checked the wattage on the Excalibur to compare that part. The Garden Master usually is 1,000 watts,if I remember correctly. .

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:44AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

Excaliburs are 220 Watts to 800 from what I could find online. Depends upon how many trays what the wattage was listed.
The 800 watt machine I saw was $400.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:50AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Nancyjane - I know you didn't ask so feel free to ignore this but I too would strongly encourage you, when the time comes to get a new one, to research alternatives to Excaliber. We have one but only use it last and for overflow foods. The Nesco Harvester models (we have 3 various) work sooo much better, more powerful, faster, easier to load, more uniform results, greater flexibility, expandable, and last but not least are less expensive.

Just something to consider.

Dave

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 2:05PM
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thatcompostguy

The brand name mesh screens that are sold by American Harvest/NESCO are pricey. You can use plastic canvas (plastic grid 1/4 inch squares, I believe) found in most craft sections at the store for much cheaper. They're durable and clean up relatively easily. They come in rectangular shape and you can cut it to any size. I cut out a hole in the middle and do as best I can to make a circular shape to fit inside the tray and they work great!

I don't do leathers, so I haven't tried to find an alternative to the leather trays, but I do remember seeing plastic wrap being used on the regular trays. You could roll up the edges pizza crust style, I suppose.

Also, some of the AH/NESCO trays come with removable centers, so all that's left is the outer ring, for drying larger things like flowers or shrunken apple heads. Kind of neat feature if it is needed.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 3:19PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Well, no way am I going to spend $400 for a dehydrator!
Mother Earth News has a plan for one in this month's issue. It's solar and has a few racks.
I think I'll stick to my oven's LOW setting for now, look for one at a thrift store or check out freecycle.
I'm just not quite as serious as you all! LOL
Happy gardening and eating! Nancy

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 9:25PM
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