Strawberries are highly perishable, so preserve them quickly when they’re at their peak. Let the berries freeze solid on a baking sheet, then move them into plastic bags. You can also crush, puree, and freeze them. Thaw, then pour this supersweet treat into punch or over desserts.
For chocolate-covered strawberries, slice a big batch of fresh strawberries, roll the slices in a powdered instant hot chocolate mix, then dry them overnight. Delicious!
Watermelon and Cantaloupe
Freeze chunks of watermelon or cantaloupe. For a thirst-quenching slushie, simply puree the frozen chunks. (If you’re using cantaloupe, you may want to add lemon juice or honey.) Or puree fresh watermelon, then freeze the puree in ice cube trays to add to cool drinks later on.
Better yet, cut the melon flesh into long, thin slivers and dry them. With the water evaporated, you get a fruit-leather-like sticky, chewy candy. But don't cut the slivers any thinner than 1⁄2 inch or so, or you won't get them unstuck from the dehydrator trays.
Ripe berries don’t last long, so put any excess into long-term storage when they’re fresh from the garden. Freeze unwashed berries on a baking sheet. When they’re firm, pack them into freezer containers to use later in desserts. Or simply fill the blender with berries, puree, and then freeze the puree in plastic containers. For a very special cake, add a pint of puree to chocolate cake batter.
Raspberries also dry very well. Just a few hours in the dehydrator and they're ready to put into tightly sealed jars or in a bag in the freezer.
Blueberries are a snap to freeze. Pick out any bruised or not quite ripe berries, remove the stems, and rinse gently with water. Put the best berries into a freezer container. They’re great on cereal, thawed or frozen, and excellent on ice cream.
Peaches and Nectarines
Sliced or halved peaches and nectarines are a snap to freeze. Remove the skin, dip the slices in ascorbic acid solution or citrus juice to preserve their color, and then freeze them in sweet syrup. The sugar acts as a preservative and helps them hold their texture. (But you can eliminate the sugar solution, if you'd prefer.)
Both fruits also dry well in the dehydrator. Just be sure to dip the cut pieces in citrus juice or honey first to preserve their color. Or puree either fruit with honey or pineapple, then dry the puree into a fruit leather using a special insert available for your dehydrator tray. Kids love it!