The power of the sun, the big flaming ball of gas that keeps our planet alive, is a fabulous free energy tool that can be harnessed to dry and preserve food. Right now, many home gardens are overflowing with produce, and you may find yourself unable to use all that you have planted. You can also find loads of local produce at farmer’s markets this time of the year.
A great way to preserve fresh food is to dehydrate it, including such things as blueberries, bell peppers, herbs, cherries, squash and eggplant. There is nothing quite so delicious as a sun dried tomato, either.
Food dehydrating is not a new concept; humans have been dehydrating food under the sun for thousands of years. There is something so rewarding about preserving food, providing for your family and being at least somewhat self sustainable.
Here are 3 great reasons why you should consider sun drying your food:
Takes Less Time Than Canning
Canning can be a very daunting task. By the time you do all of the washing, sterilizing and other preparation, you are exhausted. With solar drying you simply have to chop, blanch (if necessary), place food on the drying trays and let the sun do the work.
Dehydrated Foods Taste Great
Sun dried foods are bursting with flavor. In fact, they have significantly more concentrated flavor than you will find in fresh foods. When the water is removed from foods, intense flavor results.
Superior Nutritional Value
Food that has been dehydrated maintains its nutritional value as well as its water soluble vitamins and minerals.
How to Build a Simple Solar Dehydrator
This simple dehydrator is designed to be placed on a table or other outdoor surface and angled toward the sun. The design uses 3 wooden boxes that make up the entire dehydrator. Box number one is the bottom heater, the center box holds the food, and the top box collects the sun.
Things you need
- 2-by-4-inch lumber
- Measuring tape
- Circular saw
- 3-inch wood screws
- Sheet metal
- Tin snips
- Food grade polypropylene screen
- Wood staples
- Staple gun
- Black spray paint
- Silicone caulk
- Table or other raised surface
- Bricks or scrap lumber
- Construct box number 1. Cut four pieces of 2-by-4-inch lumber measuring 2-feet long. Screw the four pieces together to form a square.
- Cut a piece of sheet metal with a pair of tin snips measuring slightly larger than 2-by-2-feet. Place the metal across box number 1 and screw it in place at each corner.
- Construct box number 2. Make a 2-by-4-inch frame the same way you did for the first box.
- Cut a piece of food grade sheeting to fit across the box. Use a staple gun to attach the screen tightly across the box frame. Cut off any excess screen.
- Make a third box. Build a 2-foot frame like the first two.
- Cut a piece of sheet metal measuring slightly larger than 2-by-2-feet. Spray paint the metal black. Screw the metal sheet to the back of the third frame with the black side facing up.
- Cut a piece of plexiglass measuring slightly larger than 2-feet wide and long. Put a bead of silicone caulking all the way around top rim of the third box. Set the plexiglass on to the silicone seal, then screw in place.
- Set the bottom box on a table or other raised surface in a sunny location outside. Use some bricks or scrap lumber to prop it up so it faces the sun.
- Set the second box on top. Place sliced fruits and veggies on the screen for drying then place the third box on top.
Tips for Sun Drying Foods
You don’t need any special skills to operate a solar dehydrator, just a desire to preserve fresh and nutritionally rich food. Place the dehydrator in a sunny, south facing spot and load it up with food. To speed drying, simply reposition the dehydrator to face the sun as it moves.
The wetter the foods, the more time they will take to dry. For instance, tomatoes and pears will take two days. Be sure to always use produce at its ripest. Wash and slice, and place in the solar dryer. Once your food is dried, store in jars or other airtight containers. Sun dried foods are very versatile and can be rehydrated in soups, stews and stir-fries, or eaten fresh.
Best Foods to Sun Dry
If you are just getting started with sun drying, try any of the following delicious foods:
-The Alternative Daily