Sun Drying

Sun drying process is very slow, because it uses the heat from the sun and the natural movement of the air, and requires a good deal of care. Keep in mind that natural heat is less dependable and much slower than controlled drying in an oven or food dryer.

The food must be protected from insects and covered at night. Sun drying is not as sanitary as other methods of drying. Don't sun dry food if the climate is humid or you live in an area where the air is not clean or if you live near a busy road.

Place prepared pieces of food on screens, drying racks (or natural dryer) and then cover them with a layer of cheesecloth or netting to keep off dust and insects.

Two stainless steel screens are the best for drying food, one acts as a shelf and the other as a protective cover. You can use plastic screens or teflon coated screens. Screens or racks need to be safe for contact with food. Do not use screens made from copper because copper destroys vitamin C and increases oxidation. Avoid screens made from aluminum because they tends to corrode and discolor. Place the screens, racks or natural dryer in direct sunlight on a high surface away from animals and dust. It is good idea to place racks over a sheet of aluminum or tin because the reflection of the sun on the metal increases the drying temperature.

When food is almost dry, put it in an airy, shady place to prevent scorching during the final stage of drying. The length of time to sun dry foods depends on the type of food and the atmospheric conditions. Fruits take 4 to 7 days to dry in the sun. 

Note: Cover trays or dryer during the night because dew and sudden temperature change put moisture back into the food and lengthen the drying time. If the temperature in your area drops more than 20 degrees F during the night time bring the dryer indoors at night.

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Did You Know?
Solar dehydration of foods requires very low humidity (below 60 percent is best) and 4 to 5 consecutive days when the temperature is around 100 degrees F. You can buy or prepare your own solar dryers.

Solar dryers use a reflectant such as stainless steel, aluminum foil or glass to increase the sun's temperature by 20º to 30ºF. To improve air current they have air vents at each end. Cooler air enters the dryer, crosses the food, removes moisture and escapes. Frame is covered with plastic and prevents rain or condensation from dampening the food and screens over the vents keep insects off the food.

Solar dryers may need turning or tilting throughout the day to capture the direct, full sun and food on the shelves needs to be stirred and turned several times a day. FREE Recipes