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News For Dried Fruits and Nuts

Wednesday, 12/07/05

Dried fruits started the whole convenience-food craze


When you hear the words "convenience food," I'll bet you think of things such as prepackaged entrees or frozen foods. Think dried fruits instead.


They are one of the oldest and most creative methods of food preservation. How's this for convenience: They need no peeling, there's nothing left to throw away and they are easy to carry and store.



Water, water . . . no where! Simply put, drying makes the fruit live longer. Fresh fruits contain moisture, which is good for organisms that spoil fruits because the organisms feed on this moisture.


Dried fruits have most of the moisture content removed, which is mainly water. The result is a fruit with flavor galore. The concentrated sugars in dried fruits serve as a natural preservative, making storage simple.


Drying fruits is a practice that has been used for centuries. Native Americans used both sun and smoke techniques to dry fruits. Eastern cultures wrapped fruits in palm leaves, then buried them in hot sand to dry. All of this was necessary in order to survive as well as to transport food to different places.


Today, we get commercially dried fruits through a much quicker and more consistent method. Since sun-drying depends completely on sunlight, which is different in various climates, other methods of drying fruits have evolved, such as drying in an oven or using the electric dehydrator.


How do I know . . . If dried fruit has "gone bad?" Manufacturers have made it easy by printing a "best if used by" date on the package. That doesn't need to be your only guide.


Due to oxidation, apricots, peaches, apples, tomatoes and other fruits will darken after drying. You will frequently see this in home dried products. The process is delayed by the use of sulfur dioxide. So use your eyes, and if darkening is beginning to take place, use the product quickly. Darkened fruit will not hurt you, but it looks less appetizing.


Also, natural sugaring will sometimes occur in figs, dates and prunes as a result of the variables in the growing season. This condition will be displayed as white granules when the sugar rises to the surface of the fruit. Again, it will not diminish the taste, only the appearance of these fruits.


Rehydrating: More than 80% of the moisture is removed when fruit is dried. To make it more like the fresh fruit it once was, you need to rehydrate or plump the fruit. Rehydrating is the process of adding back the moisture that was originally removed.


It's easy to do. Just put the desired amount of dried fruit in a saucepan and completely cover with liquid. The liquid can be water, wine, juice or cider. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for five minutes. Then drain and use in recipes. n


Tammy T. Algood is food marketing agent with University of Tennessee Extension, 834-5162 or talgood1@utk.edu. Dried fruit at a glance


Nutrition: The same nutritional boost you get from fresh fruit is present in the dried form. However, dried fruits are more calorically dense than their fresh counterparts. It is recommended that you consume half the serving of dried that you would of fresh.

Storage: Before opening, store dried fruit in a cool, dry place. After opening, close the bag tightly and store in the refrigerator. Unopened packages will keep up to eight months.

Types: There are lots of dried fruit options on the market. In addition to the common ones, you'll find great dried tropical fruits, as well as cranberries and cherries.

Dried Kiwi Slices: $ 68.5 / case (22 lbs). Only $ 3.1 per pound
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