I'm finally getting around to posting my sun-dried tomato process. Sun-dried tomatoes are our favorite preserved veggie, they are so delicious, versatile, and compact. A spaghetti sauce is nice, but all the flavors of the pasta and tomato get all mooshed together like a sloppy soup. When you use sun-drieds, you get the highly flavored tomatoes, but they're distinct and separate from the flavors of the pasta, peppers, garlic, onion, etc. Another benefit is that they take up very little room. Canning jars of tomatoes are a lot of work and they take up lots of space.
The dehydrator is made with produce baskets, stacked up. There is a board on top with a fan that blows air out the top. As the air is blown out, fresh hot dry air from the solar panel is pulled in the bottom of the dehydrator. I have the whole thing on wheels so that I can roll it into the garage at night. The fan I use is actually a small space heater; I only use the fan setting. If I get a dehydrator full of produce and the weather turns cloudy, I can roll the dryer into the garage, flip the fan over, turn it to heat, and it blows warm air in the top and exhausts out the bottom. You don't want wet cut fruit sitting around or it could spoil or attract fruit flies. Using the heat setting on the fan changes the whole thing into a giant electric dehydrator.
To process the tomatoes, we:
1. Plant lots of roma or plum tomatoes
2. Wash and quarter them the long way
3. Use your thumb to push out the seeds and watery tomato parts
4. I then cut them into eighths to shorten the drying time
5. Unstack the dehydrator baskets and bring them in the house
6. Tomatoes go in basket in a single layer not touching
7. Lay the tomatoes with the skin side down to prevent sticking
8. Stack the baskets with tomatoes on the cart
9. Cover with fan top, attach solar panel, and start it up
10. Drying time depends on amount of fruit, humidity, heat, sun intensity, etc.
11. I keep them in zip-lock bags in the freezer to further preserve their freshness.
Not only are they good with pasta, I use them in chili, omlettes, salads, soups, stir-fry, hot-dishes, breads, etc. Fresh tomatoes tend to add lots of water and this is often a problem; with sun-drieds, you can add the flavor without all the moisture.
I made the solar collector. If you do a web search for "pop can solar heater" you'll get results that show you how to build one yourself.