Don’t waste your citrus crops – dry them!

By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, self sufficient holistic gardeners and authors living in Spain.

Drying is a worldwide possibility!

When rising early this morning to write this article the bathroom was wonderfully warm and scented with the stimulating aroma of mandarin oil for our tray drier had been drying another batch of sliced mandarins overnight. Something that happens most nights at present to ensure that we use every one of the final crop of midseason mandarins before they are overripe and fall.

Even with two trees it’s impossible to eat all fresh, making lots of mandarin marmelade is time consuming and not the healthiest regular breakfast and the deepfreeze is already loaded with frozen mandarin juice in bags and plastic beakers plus frozen half fruits for use in our favourite mandarin rabbit dish. The latter like mandarin duck and chicken an improved flavour on the traditional orange dishes that tend to be too sharp or sweet if honey is added for our taste buds.

So when we purchased our tray drier to dry seasonal herbs, tomatoes, grapes, figs, raspberries and apricots from the garden plus wild mushrooms grown in a sack in the garage it was not long before we experimented with early, midseason and late mandarins which are now dried on more nights than any other crop even including the tomatoes.

We can recommend anyone with mandarin trees in the garden to have a go, whether living in Spain as we do or in any other citrus growing area of the world. You can also dry oranges, lemons and grapefruits.

What can be done with the dried fruit slices?

The dried slices are packed full of concentrated flavour and energy giving natural sugars. There are therefore plenty of uses as illustrated below.

  • Mandarin slices – Our main uses are As one of the fruits included in our dried fruit and vegetable box taken for our lunch when we go walking or fishing, snacks between sets when playing tennis, energy boosts when visiting towns for tourism and shopping or when giving talks, a tapas with a pre lunch or dinner drink (a favourite with all our friends) as a flavouring for fish and meat dishes including those cooked in tagines, flavouring some of our weekly brews of kombucha, after dinner candies by dipping one side in chocolate, adding flavour and sweetness to a white wine for a day in the fridge to produce a refreshing dessert wine, and added to anise to make an alternative to a purchased orange flavoured liquor.
  • Orange slices – in principal all of the above. It’s a matter of taste. We prefer mandarins as they are less acidic than most varieties of oranges.
  • Lemon slices – adding to drinks instead of fresh slices if none are immediately available even with our perpetually flowering/fruiting Lunar lemon tree, making winter brews to prevent or get rid of sniffles or colds.
  • Grapefruit slices – you can experiment with all the above but it’s the least of our favourites dried . We prefer to eat them cut in half fresh or cooked under the drill. They also store well if harvested early and kept in a cool cellar or spare fridge.

How to prepare citrus fruits for drying?

Just cut into thin slices. These will dry overnight with air at 70oC.

What sort of drier can be used?

We found it difficult to control the temperature of an ordinary oven even with the fan on – a common problem with Spanish appliances – so we invested in a domestic sized drier manufactured by Doerrex and marketed in Spain by Conasi. It is only 33.5..cms wide and 27.5 centimetres high with the three trays that come with the drier and 35.5 cms with a set of two extra trays. We purchased an extra set a couple of years after first buying our drier to expand production.

Conasi have opened up a special email address for enquiries and orders from English speakers resident in Spain.

Making the fruit & vegetable drier pay for it’s self

The drier costs 185 euros in Spain which is not expensive when one uses it regularly for fruits and vegetables. What we have dried includes the following.

Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, lemons, mandarins, mango, oranges, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, and strawberries,

Vegetables: Courgettes as crisps for tapas coated with a dash of dash of soy sauce an olive oil, leeks, mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peanuts, and peppers.

Herbs: Basil, lemon verbena, parsley, sage, ,tarragon, and thyme.

So in conclusion happy drying. It can make a fantastic difference to your diet and no more do you need to purchase dried fruits with unnatural colorants, preservatives and sweeteners extra unnecessary sweeteners, colouring and preservatives.

© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2008.