How to Make a Solar Food Dryer

Dehydrating food at home can be easy once you make a solar food dryer.

March 21, 2014

By Margaret Park

For urban and suburban folk, finding proper gardening space can seem like an insurmountable task. Margaret Park offers a welcome solution with More Food From Small Spaces (Great River Books, 2013), with tips to grow healthy, organic vegetables and fruits while maximizing garden space. This excerpt from "Making Food Last" provides the easy steps necessary for making your own solar food dryer.

You can purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: More Food From Small Spaces.

small cover

On a really hot summer day when temperatures hover around 100 degrees, all you really need to do for dehydrating food is place slices on an oven roasting tray and move it all into the sunshine. A pan that has a slotted top tray with a catchment basin beneath is especially good for a do-it-yourself solar food dryer.

The solar dryer I designed will help with food drying tasks later in the year when air temperatures are lower. The design offered below is very inexpensive to make. It is designed to accomodate the kind of roasting tray/pans described above that are generally dark in color, thus more heat absorbent. The pan is the central feature and the solar drying components are built around it. If you don’t already own an oven roasting pan, keep an eye out for one at yard sales and thrift shops.

You will need:

A dark colored roasting pan
One cardboard box at least as large as the pan.
Aluminum foil

Find a box the pan can fit in. pan and box
Measure 3 inches from the bottom of the box. three inch mark
Measure 1 inch from the bottom of the box on the other end of the box. one inch mark
Draw a line between the two marks to create an angled line. Then repeat these steps on the opposite side of the box.  mark cut angle
Draw a line from the one inch mark on one end to the one inch mark on the other end. Draw a line connecting the three inch marks on the opposite side. one inch rule
Cut on all the marked lines to create a sloped box platform. cut box
These will be placed inside the solar food dryer box. angle box
Insert the sloped base into the leftover top of the box. insert box
Cut lengths of aluminum foil for each box flap that is longer than the flap so that they overlap the neighboring flaps. Fold the foil lengths over the box flaps. Hold them in place temporarily with clips. Foil can be glued to the flaps if desired, but this is not necessary. foil flaps
Turn the box on its side and bring all the foil out to the side at a corner. Smooth it out and draw a 45 degree angle on the foil. corner angle
Cut on the marked line. scissor corner
Ready to be folded. corner cut
Fold the foil inward toward the box corner keeping the 45 degree angle. folder corner
Tape the folded corner. Construct the other corners the same way.
tape corner
Tape the foil on the flaps to the inside of the box. tape inside
Place the roasting pan inside. completed solar dryer

Read more:
Dehydrating Fruit and Vegetables
Growing Your Own Vegetables in a Backyard Garden
Tips for Fruit and Vegetable Storage

Reprinted with permission from More Food From Small Spaces: Growing Denser, Deeper, Higher, Longer Gardens by Margaret Park and published by Great River Books, 2013. Buy this book from our store: More Food From Small Spaces.

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