(Originally published 9/23/14)
Dehydration is a simple, effective method of preserving fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats. Drying removes the majority of the water that is in food, making it less hospitable to bacteria and mold. Making your own solar food dehydrator is an inexpensive way to save your garden produce for year-round use.
Drying has many advantages over other preservation methods. First, dried foods are easier to store than fresh or canned foods because they take up a fraction of the space and require no refrigerator or freezer. Dried foods also last a long time in storage, as long as they are kept moisture-free.
Dried foods are, by far, the easiest foods to keep on hand for emergencies and for hiking or camping trips, and at a fraction of the bulk and weight of canned foods.
Why use a solar food dehydrator?
Ovens and food dehydrators are the most common methods of drying food, but the sun is just as effective, if not more so. Solar dehydrators can be built fairly easily, with inexpensive materials, as a way to conveniently take advantage of the sunshine for food drying. A solar food dehydrator can be built as small or large as desired.
The best part about solar dehydrators is that they require no electricity to operate. As long as there is sunlight, food can be preserved using this method. This saves electricity, of course, and it is more convenient to let foods dry out in the sun than it is to run a dehydrator or oven indoors during the hot late summer months.
A few months ago we posted an article showing how to make 2 different DIY solar food dehydrators. I recently came across another homemade solar food dryer on The Sifford Sojournal. Their DIY solar dehydrator is a nice-sized 4-shelf unit with enough interior space to dry quite a bit of food at once.
Solar food dehydrator plans
The original plans for this system can be found in PDF form on the North Dakota State University website. See the plans here, and be sure to check out NDSU’s food preservation pages for lots of other great preservation information.
Materials needed to make this dehydrator include plywood, screws, screen to keep insects (and other critters) out of the box and to allow air to flow through, and a plexiglass cover.
The Siffords later added handles and swivel wheels to their dehydrator to make the unit easier to move around – a great idea, as this looks like it could get pretty heavy.
The plans for building this dehydrator are pretty self-explanatory and easy to follow. The Sifford Sourjournal also gives a great description and some photos of the process, along with some tips that might be handy if you decide you want to build one yourself.
Be sure to let the dehydrator sit empty in the sun for a few days before placing food inside it to give the paint fumes time to dissipate.
As you can see, this dehydrator worked very well for the first batch of dried apples and bananas, and with no electricity! Once the unit is built, it can be used indefinitely for free and effective food preservation.
Images via The Sifford Sourjournal
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