Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Drying is an excellent way to preserve fruit that's not very sweet or not quite ripe. Grapes are a great candidate for drying.
1) When harvesting, leave the stems on so there are no open wounds.
2) Wash and separate the individual fruits, sorting out the spoiled ones.
3) Place the fruits on a rack in the sun and cover them with a double layer of cheesecloth for protection from birds and insects. Be sure that the fruit is dried in air that's at least 95oF to prevent any fungus from developing. If evenings get moist, take trays indoors so the fruit doesn't reabsorb the moisture it lost during the day.
4) Turn the grape bunches every day until they have dried to the extent you prefer. Whole trayfuls can be turned at one time by placing a second rack on top of the fruit and then flipping them over.
5) If fruit dries too much pieces can be softened by sprinkling them lightly with water and separating them on a rack placed indoors for a day. Really sweet fruit sometimes dries into an unpleasantly strong molasses flavor.
When's the best time to harvest fruits and vegetables for the best flavor? Research at the University of California, Davis, has found that 6 hours before sunrise is the best time to harvest. As soon as the sun hits fruits or vegetables, the pulp temperature begins to rise. Even shading them will not delay the temperature rise for long. For every 5 degrees lower when the fruit is picked, the shelf life will extend another 3 days. Tomatoes, in particular, develop more graininess and mushiness when they're cooled after being harvested after being thoroughly warm.