Salting and drying have been used as food preservation techniques for millennia. Even today, in many countries people prefer dried or salted foods to those frozen or otherwise conserved.
During drying, approximately 85 – 88 per cent of the water evaporates, thus preventing the survival and /or proliferation of bacteria. Bacteria need moisture to survive and multiply.
In western countries, several fruits and vegetables are dried and widely used in food processing and/or cooking.
Drying may be artificial (in ovens), or natural, by strong sunshine. Mediterranean, African, and South American countries use sunshine for drying and many believe this method to yield superior tasting foods.
Popular dried fruits are: dates, Plums (prunes), raisins (grapes), apples, apricots, bananas, cranberries, figs, kiwi, mangoes, papaws, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapples, strawberries and tomatoes.
During the drying process some of the vitamin C is lost, and in most instances sulphur dioxide is employed to fix the natural colour, although this chemical triggers asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
Dried okra is popular in North African countries and eastern Mediterranean countries.
Thompson seedless grapes are employed for raisins in the U S A, and can be stored for up to 15 months at 6 – 10 C temperature at low humidity.
Bartlett pears are most popular for drying, and highly recommended for teething babies, backpackers, cyclists and hikers.
Only freestone peaches are used fur sun drying.
Apricots are produced form plump, ripe, fresh fruit, and sun-dried. They are potent laxatives, much like prunes, but certainly more expensive and less popular then prunes.
Dried fruits are often employed in cereals, particularly in Bircher Musli, the Swiss breakfast specialty, invented by Dr. Bircher Musli.
Dried fruits and units are often mixed and marketed as trail mix for hikers and very poplar in breakfast cereals.