Dehydration is a method of food preservation that inhibits the growth of microorganisms by removing water from the food, allowing foods to be stored for an extended period of time. Drying has several advantages over other preservation methods. For one, dried foods usually take up much less space than canned foods or foods bound for the freezer. Also, it is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest methods of preparing food for storage.
There are several ways to dehydrate foods, the most common being electric food dryers that come with stackable trays. While these are handy, why not save the electricity by taking advantage of the sun to dry food for free? If you do a search for DIY solar food dehydrators, you’ll see that there are many, many different options out there, from large, refrigerator-sized versions to small, pizza-box sized food dryers. Here are two DIY solar dehydrators that are right in between – not huge, but spacious enough to dry plenty of food. Both versions include full sets of detailed plans and materials lists.
This dehydrator by 10 Degrees Above was designed to dehydrate an abundance of food while keeping pests like insects, rodents, and birds away from the crop. They also use it to dry out seeds from their best fruits to save for the next planting season. See this page for the full tutorial on how to build one of these.
This dehydrator project on the Home Depot Garden Club is a fairly simple setup that most DIY’ers should be able to tackle pretty easily. The materials list and step-by-step instructions can be found here.
Both of these projects will dry much more food at once than the traditional, electric countertop dehydrators, and after the cost of materials, you will have a way to dry food for free year after year.