By Lorraine Shoemaker

You can enjoy having your favorite produce year around even if you live in a short growing zone.  One way is to learn to dry food yourself. You can buy an expensive electric food dehydrator,  make a solar dehydrator or simply dehydrate your food in the sun au natural.

Solar food drying is an ideal way to dehydrate and preserve foods. A solar dehydrator can be simple or complex, small or large. A solar “hotbox” is an enclosed wooden box that protects your food during drying. It is a box with drawers and a clear covering (glass or plastic),with screened openings on  the bottom and sides for circulation. Solar rays enter through the clear glass top of the dehydrator box, then the box traps the heat and dries the food. The dehydrator may have an absorber plate inside, which indirectly heats your food by creating a convection current of air that enters the vent at the bottom of the dryer. The cool, fresh air enters the vent, heats up and  circulates through the dryer, then exits through a vent at the top. As your food dries, moisture is carried away with the hot air. The inside heat must remain at no less than least 86 degrees to avoid mold and spoilage.You can have fresh food all year if you can get as little as  two days of sunshine in a row, depending on the food.

A solar food dehydrator is a great way to enjoy nutritious, tasty, high quality foods all year long. Favorites foods for drying: Apples, apricots, bananas, peaches, pears, plums and strawberries, carrots, corn, green beans, onions, peas (sweet, in pod), peppers, potatoes, summer tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms, and of course all your favorite herbs.