Raisins and nuts may be the mainstays of trail mix, but dried tropical fruits provide a colorful touch. Papaya takes well to dehydrating at home, and is ready after less than a day’s prepping and drying. Along with serving them as snacks rich in vitamins and minerals, dried papayas add interest to baked goods or savory Indian-style stews. For a special occasion, the dried tropical fruits can be candied.
Choosing the best papayas leads to the best dried fruit. Look for those that are fully ripe, with smooth skin that dents slightly at your touch. Keep the fruit in the refrigerator for no more than three days before you dehydrate it. To prepare papayas for dehydration, start by cutting them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the interior black seeds and any strand-like material. After laying them cut-side down on a smooth surface, peel the skin from each papaya half, and cut the pulp into strips about 1/2-inch wide.
Twist of Lime
Before you set papaya slices in the dehydrator, you may opt to treat them by soaking them in a bowl of water to which you’ve added a spoonful of lime juice. Pretreatment often is used to prevent the browning that occurs when a fruit’s flesh is exposed to air, which results in nutrient and flavor loss. This oxidation effect is more apt to happen with apples and peaches than papayas. If you do choose to treat the papaya slices, soak them for no more than five minutes, then carefully drain them and pat them dry.
You can lay papaya strips on regular dehydrator trays. Set the dial to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or as high as 140 F in humid weather. As it dries, the pulp changes from orange to pinkish and shrinks. The average length of drying time for papaya is about six to eight hours. The dried fruit’s optimum state is mostly dry but with enough internal juice to allow for chewiness. Once they reach that stage, remove the papaya slices from the dehydrator and let them dry on a flat surface for about two hours before storing.
Sweetening the Sweet
Candied fruits are even sweeter — and obviously less healthy — than normal dehydrated fruits. It takes several days and multiple complex steps to achieve a classic glace, in which sugar gradually replaces most of the fruit’s natural juices. For a simpler sweet snack, blanch papaya in a sugar syrup just before it goes into the dehydrator. Start by immersing the peeled, sliced papaya in a solution of 2 parts water, 1 part clear corn syrup and 1 part white sugar that has been briefly brought to a boil. After simmering for 10 minutes, the fruit should sit in the syrup for 30 minutes, then go into the dehydrator as usual.
References and ResourcesCook's Thesaurus: Dried Fruits
Cook's Thesaurus: Tropical Fruits
How to Dry Foods; Deanna DeLong
The Essential Dehydrator; Susan Palmquist and Jill Houk
Nesco: Fruit Preparation