Dried fruits are a dietary source of many nutrients but mostly contain carbohydrates and fibre. They contain small amounts of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese and copper and small amounts of vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins. Most fried fruits also contain the antioxidant beta carotene which helps to protect the body from damage. Dried fruits could therefore be a positive addition to the diet. However the downside is that when fruit has been dried it becomes a concentrated source of fruit sugar which can quickly add to calorific intake. The dry fibrous texture becomes difficult to digest and for some individuals can cause digestive upsets of bloating and spasms.
I believe that rehydrating dried fruits before using helps to alleviate many of these downsides
Soaking Dried Fruit Before Use
When buying dried fruit it is useful to know that most manufacturers add the chemical sulphur dioxide as a preservative and to maintain bright fruit colours. Some people may be sensitive to this chemical therefore if possible, try and source dried fruits which do not contain sulphur dioxide.
Prepare dried fruit before using by first washing with either a solution of bicarbonate soda or a specialised soap for washing fruits and vegetables. This removes surface dirt and contaminants. Next cover the washed fruit with filtered water and leave until it has become soft in texture. This may take 2-4 hours depending on the fruit used.
Once the fruit has been hydrated it is ready to add to your smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, pancake batters and salads.
Another way to use is to blend the rehydrated fruit with some of the soak water to make a fruit paste. Store the fruit paste in a glass jar and keep refrigerated and use within 2-3 weeks.
See my easy recipes for date, apricot and fig spreads.
Advantages of Using Blended Soaked Dried Fruit
A fruit paste made from blending re-hydrated dried fruit may be used to replace all types of sugar and artificial sweeteners. It is an excellent sweetener for porridge, smoothies, yoghurt and may even be added to savoury dishes like middle eastern tagine dishes or sauces like tomato sauce in place of sugar. You may also use the paste to replace spreadsand sauces like jam, marmalade or other spreads like processed honey, agave syrup, fruit syrups and maple syrup.
Fruit paste may ease conditions like constipation and will be much easier to digest than un-soaked dried fruit.
The fibre contained within the fruit paste ensures that the fruit sugar contained within is not quickly released into the blood which may cause blood sugar to spike.
Dates, apricots, figs and raisons are all ideal for hydrating and making into a fruit paste. remember to bear in mind that a paste made from these dried fruits is still a concentrated form of calories so use in moderation.
Amala (Indian Gooseberry) is an interesting fruit which is usually found dried in many ethnic shops. It is rich in vitamin C and may be a source of minerals. Amla has a sour taste and may be used in cooking where a sour taste is required. Amla is also astringent and may be useful to alleviate conditions where there is excess mucous in the digestive system.