Various blanching methods and drying temperatures were applied to bell pepper (
) to investigate the effect on its drying characteristics. Pepper (Capiscum annum
) is an abundant and cheap source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. However, its high moisture content makes it susceptible to deterioration. The most common method of preservation is drying but the dried products obtained are of reduced nutritional qualities. Pretreatment of pepper before drying improves the quality of the dried pepper and increases its drying rate. Steam and water blanching as a form of pretreatment has been reported to increase drying rate and improve the quality of dried products but there is not much information on other types of oil/water blanching methods. The effect of blanching (steam, water, palm oil/water and groundnut oil/water) as a pretreatment on the drying kinetics of bell pepper dried at temperatures of 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90°C, was studied. Drying of raw untreated bell pepper was taken as a control. The results indicate that water removal at the initial stage of the drying process was highest and there was a rapid decrease as drying continued until equilibrium was reached at the end of process. The blanched samples generally had higher drying rates (at p0.05) than the untreated samples. The values for the drying rate for steam and water blanched samples were higher (but not at p<0.05) than the drying rates for samples blanched in oil/water mixtures. The drying rate as well as effective moisture diffusivity, Deff
, increased with increasing drying temperature. Values of Deff
varied from 3.55 x 10-9
/s to 2.34 x 10-9
/s with the highest being SB (steam blanched) at 80°C and the lowest UB (unblanched) at 50°C. The drying process took place mainly in the falling rate period. The activation energies varied from 39.59 to 83.87 kJ/mol, with PB (palm oil/water blanched) samples having the lowest and UB having the highest Ea value. The lower values for pretreated samples imply that water movement from the internal regions is faster in pretreated samples. This suggests that blanching as a method of pretreatment generally increases water diffusion.