Our Sun Dried Process
Sun drying is one of mankind's oldest preservative techniques. It was used in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is a slow, gentle process whose benefits more than compensate for its time-intensive nature - especially when compared to modern mechanical drying methods.
Sun drying relies on the sun to allow the processed product to reach optimum moisture and quality levels. Tomatoes, which contain more moisture than an average stone fruit, must bask in the sun for a period of 4 to 10 days to develop the characteristics prized by culinary experts and gourmets. The changes in Central California Valley temperatures from the low 100's during the day to a cooler 70-80° at night, ensures that the tomatoes dry very gradually.
The process begins with a twelve-hour exposure to the burning of elemental sulfur, a substance which naturally occurs in nature and which is used in the processing of fine wines and balsamic vinegars. The sulfur ensures that the tomatoes retain their natural brilliant red color and a sweet intense flavor; and, discourages rodents, insects and birds from the area around the drying yard. VSP Products places their tomato drying trays on a fully paved dry yard, completely surrounded by fencing. The tomatoes are further protected from intrusion by foreign material by the use of carefully placed canvas wind breaks. The perimeter of the yard has a metal rodent barrier extending from below ground level to approximately three feet high. Our facility is also serviced weekly by a pest control program.
In addition, VSP Products has an on-site laboratory and our product is checked throughout the drying and packing processes for compliance with our high quality standards. Special attention is paid to the texture of the tomato, removing them from the trays when they are sufficiently dry but retain a soft pliable texture. VSP Products is inspected by the Dried Fruit Association (DFA). VSP Products averages a score of over 1800 out of 2000 possible points.
The difference between sun dried and mechanical dehydration is important. Sun dried tomatoes must be dried over several days by the sun's natural heat. Dehydrated or tunnel dried tomatoes may be artificially dried at temperatures up to 200° F. in a matter of hours, a process which may burn or scorch the fragile tomato.