The harvest of summer\u2019s fruits and vegetables is in full swing. It\u2019s a perfect time to think of drying the abundance of these foods. Drying food is a great way to make fresh foods last longer. Harnessing the power of the sun to aid in drying food is not only a planet-friendly method of food preservation, but also a time-honored tradition that has been used for centuries.\r\n\r\n\r\nWhat is Solar Food Drying?\r\nMuch like the name sounds, solar food drying involves using the sun to dry out foods. This can be something as simple as setting a plate of food outside and letting the sun dry it or something as elaborate as building your own system that acts to protect the food from dust, debris and pests, while the food is drying. Depending on the conditions in your location, it takes an average of two sunny days to dehydrate food in a solar food dehydrator.\r\nWhy Dehydrate Food?\r\nMany people wonder why dehydrate food? The truth is that there are many benefits, some more obvious than others, to drying food.\r\n\r\nPreppers, or people who make a point of preparing for rough days that may lie ahead, like dehydrated food because it lasts a long time, is easy to store and it's highly portable.\r\n\r\nEnvironmentalists, or people who are interested in saving the planet, have different reasons to appreciate the benefits of dehydrating foods, including the following:\r\n\r\n \tRequires less energy than freezing or canning.\r\n \tNot susceptible to power outages.\r\n \tCreates a concentrated product that requires fewer containers and less storage space than the original products.\r\n\r\nThen there are the people who are fans of the power of fruits and vegetables. They understand that drying foods creates foods that retain more nutrients than traditional methods of preservation, and the process of drying foods can serve to improve food\u2019s flavor.\r\nWhy Solar Dehydration?\r\nThere are other methods available for dehydrating foods. Knowing this, why are people so committed to solar food drying?\r\n\r\nTo begin with, there\u2019s the cost factor. The sun shines free \u2013 even on days when you wish it would find a cloud or so to hide behind. That brings the operating costs of drying foods with solar power to zero, once you\u2019ve built the environment in which you\u2019ll do the drying.\r\n\r\nEven the costs of building your own solar food dryer can be mitigated by purchasing supplies from a surplus building supply or Habitat for Humanity store. This helps the planet by giving new life to old building materials and can save a bundle on supplies.\r\n\r\nAnother cost factor to consider involves savings over the costs of other preserving methods, like freezing and canning. Freezing fruits, vegetables, and meats is an effective way of preserving them to use later, but it incurs a monthly cost for operating your freezer \u2013 not to mention the risk of losing the food in your freezer, in the event of a power outage or equipment malfunction.\r\n\r\nCanning often requires long cooking times at high heats in order to properly preserve and store the fruits or vegetables, while preventing spoilage. This uses up precious fossil fuels and makes the inside of homes, if you\u2019re canning your foods inside, uncomfortably warm \u2013 causing air conditioners to work even harder to keep up.\r\n\r\nThen, there\u2019s the simple fact that it\u2019s easy to do and requires very little participation on your part once you set the wheels in motion. Since it often takes two full days to properly dry food, it frees up your time in the meantime to devote to other things. You don\u2019t have to stand over it and watch it like a hawk to make it happen.\r\nWhat Kinds of Foods can be Dried?\r\nDrying food is quite versatile and offers endless possibilities when it comes to fruits and vegetables and, to a lesser extent meats, though the USDA discourages the practice on meats.\r\n\r\nFruit\r\n\r\nMost people think of food drying in the terms of drying fruits or even making leather from fruit. These make great snacks and are fun to experiment with. Then there is the added versatility in that once fruit is dried it can be rehydrated at a later date by soaking it in fruit juice or water, and then used for making jams and syrups, in sauces, and for baking.\r\n\r\nVegetables\r\n\r\nBefore drying vegetables, they need to be blanched. This will stop enzyme activity and aids in killing off any microorganisms on the vegetables. Beans are some of the best foods for drying, including lima beans and snap beans, but other foods that dry well include:\r\n\r\n \tPotatoes\r\n \tPeppers\r\n \tParsley\r\n \tOnions (strong odor when drying)\r\n \tGarlic\r\n \tCorn\r\n \tBeans\r\n \tCarrots\r\n \tBeets\r\n\r\nThere are more than just these, too. If there is a vegetable your family loves and eats in abundant supply, there is likely to be a method of drying it for later use.\r\n\r\nMeat\r\n\r\nMeat is somewhat controversial among food drying experts, despite the fact that people have been doing it for centuries. Because of the potential for illness, it\u2019s important to make sure you get solid training on how to properly dry meat if it\u2019s something you\u2019re interested in. The most common method of drying meat is by turning it into jerky. You can make jerky of almost any meat, including fish, deer, beef, pork, and more.\r\nHow to Use the Sun to Dry Food?\r\nSuccessfully drying foods depends on two primary things: temperature and airflow. The primary goal is to keep air temperatures low enough to avoid cooking the food or causing it to crust, while maintaining enough warm air to discourage the activation of enzymes that would otherwise begin the spoiling process. The target temperature is typically between 120 and 185 degrees. Airflow is also important, as it helps to create balance in the drying process.\r\n\r\nBefore you begin, you should prepare your food by blanching or steaming the vegetables. While this is a relatively new thought when it comes to drying food, it is designed to prevent spoilage and rot.\r\n\r\nCut food into thin slices, less than one-half inch thick, and spread them out over the drying trays, allowing plenty of room for air to move around the individual pieces of fruit or vegetable.\r\n\r\nAdd trays to the solar food dryer, and rotate 180 degrees each day until the food is completely dried. This helps to create a uniform drying process.\r\nProper Storage of Sun-Dried Foods\r\nAllow dehydrated foods to cool completely before attempting to store them. Dried food should be stored in airtight jars or plastic containers in dark spaces. Fruits should have layers of paper between them in order to prevent them from sticking to one another.\r\n\r\nWhen done properly, solar food drying provides families with the opportunity to enjoy favorite fruits and vegetables throughout the year, whether safe at home or on the go.\r\nLink to Us!\r\nIf you found this article useful and shareable, please copy and paste the following into the html code of your website or blog: Learn More About Going Green at the <a href"https:\/\/www.plushbeds.com\/blog\/green\/solar-food-drying-using-the-sun-to-dry-foods\/">PlushBeds Green Living Blog<\/a>.