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Dried Fruit in a Solar Dehydrator

CherriesWe once had some friends give us several boxes of very ripe black cherries--my very favorite berry! Problem was that they were already starting to go bad and we had to do something with them QUICK. So Nick rigged up a temporary solar dehydrator out of supplies that we had here laying around. 3 cement blocks, a few lengths of 2X4's, a piece of metal roofing, a fan, and an old piece of glass window pane.

Solar dehydratorWhile he set it up, I quickly sorted out the good cherries, cleaned and pitted them, and spread them out on some cookie sheets that I had in the kitchen. Then we put them under the glass supported by the the 2X4's and complete with my new oven thermometer we left it in the sun to see how it would work. At night I would bring them back into the house and in the fridge so they wouldn't go bad, but after the first night, I left them out even at night till they were dry. During the day while the sun was shinning the temp was 150 degrees F inside the dehydrator.

oven thermometer in solar dehydratorAt the end of 4 days those cherries were a little too dry! And I had a whole quart and a half of dried cherries! They tasted really delicious on top of our cereal the next morning. I also dried comfrey root out in the sun, however I didn't need to put those inside under the glass. They dried rather quickly just out in the open on baking sheets.



Have you ever dried food in the sun before?


  • Guest
    Sue Natzke Monday, 16 July 2012

    My grandma used to dry apples a lot like this when I was little. She used and old screen door out on some saw horses and because they were sliced thin they would dry in a day or two.

  • Guest
    Lucia Sunday, 22 July 2012

    You know, it used to be that SunMaid Raisins were all dried out in the sun - just laying on the ground (maybe paper under them?) They've modernized a bit now . . .!

  • Guest
    gloria cuffee Sunday, 22 July 2012

    That was very neat in not wasting good and healthy food. Thanks for sharing.

  • Guest
    Molly Sunday, 22 July 2012

    Thank you for sharing this easy way of drying fruit etc.
    Years ago I had the opportunity in Southern Calif. of gleaning Apricots and fully ripe Peaches, I put the prepared fruit on trays, and put them in the hatchback car I had-leaving the windows slightly cracked, and they were so good!

  • Guest
    Loren Hackerott Sunday, 22 July 2012

    I obtained a non working bread proofing cabinet with the idea of cutting a hole near the bottom to connect a black pipe that would lay out in the sun; and another hole in the top to add a length of pipe, to help create the convection draft. I bought racks and some material to put on them and had the electrical repaired.
    So I have spent $175.00 on the project but I have a king sized food dryer that works with electricity and with a little more work should work as a solar food dryer.

  • Guest
    Christopher Sunday, 22 July 2012

    For some of us, solar is good...when the sun shines! Any ideas on a wood/solar dehydrator, that would keep greens in the shade? (We dehydrate a lot of greens.)

  • Guest
    Shirley Tuesday, 11 September 2012

    Hello Christopher. This summer I have been living on a "mountaintop". I have access to a lot of Comfrey I wanted to dry, but I have no dryer. I discovered an excellent system that works for me. On the side of my basement apartment there is a picnic table, against the wall. I spread a doubled sheet on top. I spread the Comfrey leaves on one ayer of sheet and covered it with the other, tucking the sheet between the table edge and the wall. I also anchored the sheet at the front corners, because the wind was really whipping up the gorge. The wind hit the front of the table at an angle, and was able to get between the two layers of sheet, blowing across the drying leaves. The two sheet layers kept the leaves from blowing away. I learned that drying Comfrey works best when the succulent center rib is removed, otherwise it slows the process. The second batch will soon be dried, as well. Two days, probably. Wind power, very little sun shone on the table.

  • Guest
    Christopher Tuesday, 11 September 2012

    Thanks for your reply, Shirley. Sounds like you found something that works! If the leaves are still green (not brown) when dry, they are adequately protected from sun.
    You are right, removing the center rib can speed up the drying.
    Here, we have very little wind, but fans will work.
    I did experiment with stringing kale and cabbage leaves up in the woodshed, with the breeze blowing in under the eaves. It was rather slow, but better than nothing. Of course, I was depending on the center ribs for stringing the leaves.

  • Guest
    Shirley Tuesday, 11 September 2012

    The leaves are a nice green, and crisp-dried. I am grinding them into powder to make winter green drinks--when fresh are not available. I added some thistles, also, and may add some hawthorn leaves and dandelions. And it's all free! Even the drying system is passive. Loving it!

  • Guest
    Mercy Ballard Sunday, 22 July 2012

    I would like to comment on the solar dehydrator! Waht a wonderful and simple way to dehydrate fruits. I will definitly try it. Thanks so much for sharing. God bless!!

  • Guest
    Bonnie Kupka Monday, 23 July 2012

    Many years ago we got 80# of free grapes and dried them between two window screens that were placed on bricks to allow for circulation. The result was 20# of raisins. Many we gave to friends and many we froze.

  • Lisa
    Lisa Monday, 23 July 2012

    Loren, that is a good idea!
    Christopher, not sure that we have any ideas on a potential solar/wood dryer, but one could certainly do them separately. Here is an interesting idea for a wood dehydrator - http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/hooker41.html

    It could be a good idea for areas that don't get good sun in the summer. The author states that solar drying doesn't work very well anywhere except the Southwest, but we have found the Northwest to be quite favorable as our sunny season is when much of the produce is coming off. For winter drying, an easy dehydrator can be made by hanging horizontal rods or racks above the wood stove and letting the dry heat from the stove make quick work of the job. Just some ideas. Anyone else have a thought on that?

  • Guest
    Christopher Monday, 23 July 2012

    Thank you for the link! This does have some definite possibilities. It seems that if the firebox were covered with large rocks that would allow airflow through them, instead of only a sheet of steel, it might help the heat be more steady.
    And, Nick definitely did a good job at putting together an "impromptu" dehydrator! Using the roofing like that is a good idea. If glass was not available, clear plastic or polycarbonate could be substituted. But glass has its advantages--such as, no toxic chemicals off-gassing in the heat.
    Just saw a friend's drying rack, made from old refrigerator racks placed in a steel frame that slides onto the top of their wood stove. Secure, spacious, removable.

  • Guest
    favio Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    could this high temperature " 150 F " kill the enzymes ? care full enzymes can only be expose to less than 107 F some say 118 but others 107

  • Guest
    Skeeter Friday, 24 July 2015

    I completely agree about not going above 105 while drying. I use screens made from 18" by 32" frame of 2X2's (One perfect length of an 8 foot 2X2 board= zero waste). I can stack them 4 layers or so high, and use a bungee to hold them together. I double screen on the bottom, and an extra "blank" screen on the top keeps bugs out while drying. No fan is needed, especially if any wind is available. Probably wouldn't work where it is very humid, but in NE Washington, I don't have much humidity to worry about. If you pin prick your huckleberries before sun drying, they will dry like raisins instead of peppercorns.:)

  • Guest
    Christopher Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    I have a couple questions regarding enzymes. (1) What are they? and (2) Do they all die at the same temperature?
    My research indicates that some enzymes survive temperatures of 1500 degrees F., which is as hot as red-hot steel, and the lower range of temperature for firing pottery. But many of these enzymes are killed by freezing.
    That said, 150 is hotter than we would normally set the thermostat on a dehydrator for drying fruit.

  • Guest
    Skeeter Friday, 24 July 2015

    There is something like well over 4,000 enzymes that our bodies use to do just about everything a human body (or mammal in general) does, and specialized cells in the walls of our intestines that "Grab" them as needed from what you eat. When you raise the temp above say 105 or so, you begin to kill off the very things that help you to be healthy and run well. If you stay around raw, undamaged foods, you'll be way better off for doing that, and staying hydrated with great quality water.:) Drink Kefir in the morning first thing after lemon water too, makes a HUGE difference. Condition of your gut flora is amazingly important.

  • Guest
    favio jesse franco Tuesday, 24 July 2012
  • Guest
    Christopher Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    Thank you! I printed it out, and will read soon.
    Temperature alone will affect living organisms; sunlight will often kill organisms that no amount of heat will destroy; and air can affect things, too.
    I find it puzzling when people refer to dehydrated or frozen food as "raw." And not all enzymes are desirable at all times. But, the fresher our food, the better, overall, and dehydrating is one very useful means of preserving food!
    Another point to remember is the effect of sunlight on a thermometer. We have two thermometers, and it is interesting to watch when the sun shines on one, and not the other. Often, the one in the sun reads 30 to 50 degrees hotter than the one in the shade.

  • Lisa
    Lisa Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    I really don't know exactly at what temp the enzymes die. From what I can tell it does seem that for different enzymes it might be different. The challenge with dehydrating food is to try to keep the temp low enough to preserve as many of those enzymes as possible, and have the temp high enough to dry the food before any spoilage occurs. It does seem that many agree that somewhere between 103 and 120 would be optimum, but I found several places that recommended temperatures of 135 to 145. Either way you know that you are saving more of the nutritional value when dehydrating instead of canning. When I mentioned that our solar dehydrator reached 150, we were actually surprised that it could get that high. And when it did get that high we would turn up the fan. My personal preference was around 125 degrees. And with all that said I also recognize that my oven thermometer may not be all that accurate at such low temperatures.

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