The versatility of dried fruits make them a popular pantry item. Here are 6 everyday dried fruits and their shelf life.
Raisins and Sultanas
Raisins are dried grapes. Common raisins include dark brown and golden raisins.
Golden raisins are also called sultanas. They are smaller than raisins, due to the type of grapes used.
Some sultanas are coated in vegetable oil before drying. Other manufacturers treat sultanas with Sulphur dioxide which helps retain the light golden color.
Raisins and sultanas are produced in many parts globally. Seedless grapes are used. These dried fruits are popularly used in baking, cooking or simply enjoyed as snacks.
Don’t be fooled by their size. These sweet morsels are choke full of nutritious benefits. They are rich in iron, fiber and energy. They are high in sugar hence you might want to go moderate on them.
Touted for their laxative properties, prunes are simply dried plums. Drying is done naturally using the sun or by using a dehydrator.
Prunes are commonly consumed as they are or as prune juice. Their not-so-cute, crinkled appearance may put you off.
However, prunes are a nutritious powerhouse. They are rich sources of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, C, fiber, sorbitol and minerals like boron, potassium, iron and manganese.
As such, prune consumption offers numerous benefits as follows: promote healthy heart; a laxative which relieves constipation; promote healthy skin, vision and hair; improve bone health due to the presence of phenolic compounds like lignans.
Apricots are either fresh or dried. Apricot trees flourish in Mediterranean climates. They are popular in California, Middle East and South Africa.
Apricots are either dried whole or halved. The stones are first removed before drying. Apricots are mostly dried in the sun.
You can enjoy dried apricots as a snack, or use it in both savory and sweet dishes. Some cuisines incorporate dried apricots in stews. For sweet treats, use dried apricots in pies, cookies, muffins, cakes, granola bars, ice creams or shakes.
Nutritional components of dried apricots are as follows: they are rich in fiber; minerals like iron, zinc and potassium; powerful antioxidant called beta-carotene which improves eye health.
Figs are some of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated. They are indigenous to the Middle East, some Asian countries, parts of Europe and Mediterranean region where they are extremely popular and readily available.
Figs can be fresh or dried. There are hundreds of fig varieties grown across the world.
Figs have a mild, sweet taste and are touted for their health benefits. These include: rich sources of antioxidants; contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, C, K, iron, zinc, potassium, copper and manganese. Figs also contain fiber which relieves constipation.
Besides having nutritional value, figs are popularly used in beauty. Make a simple facial mask by applying mashed figs on your face.
Besides the fruits, fig leaves are also used for medicinal purposes and are believed to control certain diabetes symptoms. It is always important to seek your doctor’s advice before trying any home remedies.
Dried Banana Chips
The origin of bananas is a fairly complex subject. It is believed that the banana fruit has its origin in Southeast Asia, with India being among the well-known producers.
Banana chips are made from both ripe and unripe bananas. Drying can be done in various ways – the use of a dehydrator, baking or deep-frying.
Drying does not alter either the yellow color or the sweetness. Plain dried banana chips offer the most nutritional value as opposed to ones with added sugars.
Popular in Caribbean, Asian, Mexican as well as African cuisines, banana chips are valued for creating satiety.
Nutritionally, dried banana chips contain a good amount of vitamins A, C, iron, potassium as well as dietary fiber. You can use banana chips as snacks, meal accompaniments or as ingredients to various products such as granola bars.
Date palms are considered ancient as cultivation began thousands of years ago. They are prominent in the Middle East and North Africa where the trees are in abundance.
There are several varieties classified as per color, ripeness and size.
Due to the desert climate where dates are grown, communities make use of the entire date tree. Besides the fruits, date trees offer shade in the desserts, the leaves and twigs are used for making household commodities such as carpets, baskets, chairs, tables and beds.
These communities consider dates to be a survival food. Merchants traversing the desserts would stock up and live on dates for weeks.
Dates are used in many ways. Apart from eating whole dates, dried dates are also made into date syrup which is sold in many Middle East countries. Owing to their extreme sweetness, you can use them as sugar substitute.
Dates offer nutritional value. Besides being rich in fructose, dates contain vitamins. Dried dates are rich in iron and calcium. For culinary purposes, use dates in baking. Their sticky texture make baked products moist. You can also use dates in ice creams and milk shakes. Throw in a few dates when making savory dishes for contrast.
Shelf Life of Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are one of those food items you can depend on to serve you long-term. Knowing about the 6 everyday dried fruits, allows you to maximise on their shelf life. This depends on storage conditions.
- Store all dried fruits in a cool, dry place.
- Pack fruits in quantities that will only be used per recipe or serving. This is because re-opening containers or bags exposes the fruits to air or moisture which facilitates spoilage. You can use the pantry for easy access, fridge or freezer for unopened packets. Use airtight containers to prevent entry of contaminants.
- Opened dried fruits can last anywhere between 3-12 months in the pantry. Some dried fruits last longer in the pantry than others.
- Refrigerated ones keep well for up to 2 years. Frozen dried fruits can last indefinitely until you start using them.
Do Dried Fruits Go Bad?
Yes, poor storage exacerbates spoilage. Here are 4 ordinary spoilage indicators:
- Taste – spoiled dried fruits have a somewhat sour or fermenting taste.
- Odor – use your sense of smell to distinguish any off-odors from usual smell.
- Texture – usable dried fruits have a crunchy, chewy texture. If you observe any other texture such as stickiness or slimy feel, this could indicate expiration.
- Visible mold growth and oozing of liquids in dried fruits are a cause for alarm. Discard them immediately.
Dried fruits can serve you well if you understand their composition, benefits, shelf life as well as how to store them. The above 6 everyday dried fruits and their shelf life offer a simple guidance on dried fruits.