Fruit that’s dried in the sun instead of by machine has a caramelly, complex sweetness, says Victor Martino, a longtime fruit farmer in Modesto, California, whose sun-dried fruits are memorable for their intense, rich flavor. “It’s more work this way,” he acknowledges, “but it’s worth it.”
One reason their dried fruits taste so good, say Victor and his wife Angie, is that they’re choosy about fruit varieties, only planting those that will thrive and yield the best-tasting fruits. Blenheim apricots, for example, don’t grow well in the hot climes of their farm’s Modesto location, but Goldensweets do. And not all fruits are right for drying. White peaches may taste heavenly eaten fresh, but when dried, they lack acidity to balance their sweetness, say the Martinos.
They’re also picky about quality. While larger-scale operations often consign sub-par fruits to drying, the Martinos have always refused. Even with fruits destined for drying, they insist on perfect size, color, texture, and balance between acid and sugar. “Some years,” says Victor, “almost 25 percent of our crop has gone to compost, because it just wasn’t good enough to eat.”