Making a Solar Dehydrator

My herb garden usually goes bonkers in the summer and there is no way to use it all fresh. I love drying the herbs in my garden for cooking, making spice blends and teas. I also collect wild edibles when I’m hiking to make salves, balms, teas etc… I never have enough time in the summer to make all the these things so I’m always looking to find ways to put them up and save them for those dark and dreary days of winter. Then I pull them out and get to play with, and remember, those glorious summer days as I blend spices, teas and make delectable treats.  I usually freeze some in ice cube trays but my favorite way to put up herbs for the rest of the year is to dehydrate them. Every year my poor little $35 generetic dehydrator runs non-stop all summer and I still can’t get it all done. This year Hubs decided to make me a solar dehydrator to help me out. Bless him!!

He made it 4 foot long and 2 foot wide to give me lots of room and managed to make it mostly from scraps we already had lying around, so the cost for the actual box was minimal. He started by making the 4′ X 2′ box that sets on 22″ legs to keep it off the ground. The front opens downward for easy access and there are slide bolt locks to keep it in place.

The top is made of plexi-glass, set into a wood frame for support. Be careful if you use to use real glass, it needs to be defused in some way so as not to create a magnifying glass effect and catch your food on fire! He lined the bottom with reflective insutlation (it’s bought by the roll at the local hardware store) and taped down with HVAC tape. He painted the inside black with ‘grill’ paint to help with retaining the heat (we do live in the Pacific Northwest!). Also because we live in the rainy and cloudy Pacific Northwest he mounted two lightbulbs so that if we don’t have enough sun we can still dehydrate things. We drilled 5 one inch holes near the top for ventilation, a super important part of your dehydrator, to help reduce humidity. You can cover these holes with window screen or left over mesh from the trays to keep bugs out.

He made three drying trays to give me LOTS of space for drying my herbs. The man knows me well! The biggest struggle was on looking for mesh for the trays. Most of what we found at the local hardward store was fiberglass window screens or aluminum. I really don’t want my food laying on fiberglass or aluminum! So we kept looking. We finally decided to order some stainless steel mesh off the internet. It’s VERY pricey! It was by far the most expensive part of this protject at $150, but I feel better about laying my food on it.

I can’t wait to give it a try!!