Origination of Dried Fruits
Important Facts About Dried Fruit
Have you ever wondered about the origination of dried fruits? Why and how did we go from consuming fruits in their fresh form to a dried form? Dried fruits have been around for a long time and are enjoyed in many different capacities. Not only are dried fruits something we can snack on in their raw form, but they can also be used in a large variety of recipes for cooking and baking.
Dried fruits are simple foods that have had the original water content naturally removed. Each type of dried fruit originates from the countries and locations where that particular fruit is found most abundantly. For example, dried bananas, mangos, and pineapples are most likely from countries that produce those types of fruits like South America, Asia, Australia, China, and other tropical locations. Figs and dates are more from the Middle Eastern region like Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Spain. The United States is also a big producer of dried fruits with the myriad of climates that support growing a wide variety of fruits.
Dried fruits have a long tradition dating all the way back to the 1700 BC in Mesopotamia, and were sought after for its sweet taste and nutritional value. Some of the oldest known written recipes have been found in tablets. The power of the sun and wind tunnels were used as a way to preserve the abundance of fruit being harvested throughout the year. Rather than letting the fruits go to waste, they were dried as a way of preservation. This provided a way for the fruit to be consumed not just seasonally, but for much longer periods of time.
As time progressed, other methods of removing the water have been practiced through the implementation of dehydrators and specialized dryers. Some of the most popular dried fruits consumed today are raisins, dates, prunes, figs, apricots, peaches, apples, and pears. They are usually found in their raw form because no additional sweeteners are necessary.
Dried fruit consumption is widespread, and over time other dried fruits have been introduced like blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, mango, pineapple, papaya, and kiwi. These dried fruits are sometimes infused with additional sweeteners before going through the drying process.
Depending on the drying method used, most of the nutritional value in dried fruits is retained. This is great news and allows us to reap the benefits of the nutrient content and also enjoy their flavors throughout the year rather than just when the fruit is in season.
As the making of dried fruits has progressed over time and is also consumed in higher quantities, the use of sulfur dioxide has become a standard application as a way to protect the fruit’s color and flavor. The use of sulfur dioxide helps, especially with golden raisins, dried peaches, apples, and apricots to keep them from losing their light colors by blocking any browning reactions which would otherwise darken the fruits and alter their flavors. The use of sulfur dioxide as a food additive began in 1664 and was later approved to be used in the United States in the 1800's. Its use is harmless to healthy individuals unless there are sensitivities to it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that one out of one hundred people are sulfite sensitive or allergic, and about five percent of asthmatics are also potentially at risk of an adverse reaction. It is a product derived from fossil fuels.
In learning how to dry fruit and vegetables at home, you may find it a laborious process. Several fruits do not dry well, so stick to fruits that will produce the most excellent results. If you decide to make dried fruit at home, I recommend drying fruits and vegetables that grow on vines or tree fruits. Some examples of these would be grapes, currants, apricots, peaches, nectarines, mangos, bananas, apples, figs, and pears. You may find that after learning how to dry fruit, it is much easier to make your purchase from suppliers that make dried fruits readily available at the stores.
If you try drying fruits and vegetables at home be sure to wash the produce thoroughly. If you are working with larger fruits and vegetables, they need to be cut into small slices, roughly ⅛ - ¼ inches thick. If you are working with small vine fruits like berries and grapes this is unnecessary, just be sure to remove the stems. Once you have prepared your produce, lay the pieces on parchment paper or dehydrator sheets. You can either place them outside in the hot sun, in the oven on low heat, or purchase a dehydrator. Regardless of which method you use the drying of fruits and vegetables will require lots of patience and time before the water is removed enough to be preserved properly.
This could take hours or a few days if you are using the natural sun. Once the fruit has dried, be sure the dried fruits are stored in sealed bags. Just as you would want to keep an air tight seal when you purchase your dried fruits from outside vendors, you want to do the same when drying fruits and vegetables at home. If they are not dried thoroughly, they will not go bad immediately, but it shortens the shelf life.
Understanding more about the origination of dried fruits not only gives us a deeper understanding of how they have made their way into our diets today, but it helps us understand why they did. We are so lucky that food is so available and easy to obtain with supermarkets, natural food stores, and online options. We may also deepen our appreciation for them when we consume them, knowing the investment of time and patience that would have to go into the process of drying fruits and vegetables on our own.
Today, dried fruits are most commonly found and consumed by purchasing them from the store or through online sources. You can learn how to dry fruit at home, but unlike days gone by, most of us do not have the same bandwidth of time to dry our own fruits. Fortunately, there are companies like ours, Eatnuts.com that make dried fruits and nuts readily available to consumers. We pride ourselves in the freshness of the dried fruits that we offer, and the feedback from our customers confirms that we are doing something right. We invite you to try some of our dried fruits and enjoy them as a snack on their own, or in your cooking and baking adventures. We also have recipes to try as a way to include nutritional dried fruits into your diet.
- Some Dried Fruit Facts for Earth Day
- Healthiest Dried Fruits
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About the Author
Lisa Saremi is health and wellness coach for Limitless-U and blogger for eatnuts.com. Lisa received training as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition's cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program on dietary theories, practical lifestyle management and innovative coaching methods with top health and wellness experts.