Are you in need of a way to dehydrate various herbs, plants, flowers, roots and fruits from your garden or surrounding landscape? Try making home-made solar food dehydrator bags.
**What you will need:
A method to close the bags and keep bugs out --> Ziploc bags, old zippers, Velcro, magnets, buttons, pull string etc
A breathable dark cloth to absorb suns light and allow air flow --> black toil, black wedding veil, black mesh etc. Make sure that the holes are secure enough so little petals from flowers do not fall through.
Thread and sewing machine to sew the bag shut.
1. Purchase enough fabric to make several bags that will be ( 1 foot X width of fabric folded in half ). I purchased 1 and a half yards to make about 5-6 bags.
2. Fold the Fabric in half and cut to leave about 1 foot opening. The finished product will be about 1 foot by 3 foot long bag.
3. Sew on two edges.
4. Turn the bag right side out.
5. To add a ziploc bag closure, do the following:
-->Cut the bag in half to leave the zipper portion and remove the bottom of the bag
-->Turn the ziploc bag inside out so that the closure portion is on the outside
-->Since your bag is right side out, you can now sew on the ziploc bag to the outside of the mesh bag with raw edges together.
-->Turn the ziploc bag right side out
6. If you decide to use a different closure go ahead and sew that to the mesh bag.
7. Make more bags to hold more food or other products as the drying time may be longer than a typical food dehydrator and the sun may not show up one day. Note: be sure to zigzag stitch on raw edges so the fabric doesn't fray.
Now you may dehydrate various foods in the sun or even in a dry location in your home.
****Here are some ideas on how you may dehydrate foods or other products in your bags:
--> Get two hangers and four or more clothes pins or safety pins. Put product to dehydrate into bag. Attach one hanger to bottom and one hanger to top of bag with clothes pins or safety pins. Hang the bag on a horizontal clothes line or post in your back yard or indoors.
-->Create a solar heating box with aluminum foil glued to the inside of the box. Hang or lay bags on racks in the heating box. Unlike regular cooking boxes, do not include a glass cover but allow air to flow through the box.
For homemade glue: Cook 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp vinegar in a pot on stove until starts to thicken. Store in fridge six months and is stronger than elmer's glue.
--> as bags are hanging on a line, create reflection panels by gluing non-shiny side to cardboard flat surface and placing around the line reflect sun better and increase heat through the bags.
-->To dehydrate liquid or sticky items cut a piece of cardboard that will fit inside the bag. Glue aluminum foil to the cardboard with shiny side up. To create "dishes" that hold goopy items, cut milk jugs down to flattened size like the bottom of milk jug to a1/2 inch dish. You may hand sew, staple, Velcro strip, magnetic, snaps etc the milk jug to the cardboard piece. Like above, hang the bag on a horizontal clothes line or post or even create a solar box that will hold the bag.
-->Another variation to dehydrate liquid or sticky items is to cut several dishes that will hold the sticky stuff with old milk jugs. A design could be a rectangle with 2-3 inch height on sides of jug. To allow air flow cut long rectangle or slits on sides and keep sides stable so it can be stacked. Hold bag vertically and place several dishes in the bag. To keep stability cut cardboard that will fit into the bag and cover it with aluminum foil shiny side up. Cut two pieces or fold the card board so that it will fill in a corner of the bag. Maybe you could make permanent shelves by attaching this to the cardboard or using wires to connect the jug dishes.
Hang the dish shelves that are in the bag vertically on a clothes line.
-->Fold the bags over clothes line and hang like hanging clothes.
-->Hang bags from a ceiling fan and allow to swing around.
-->Lay on a cardboard-aluminum foil reflection panel and set in the sun. Be sure to clamp down with clothes pins or rocks.
--The ways to use these dehydrator bags are endless. Come up with other ways to make it work. Maybe a velcro closure bag could go for a few minutes in your clothes dryer????
--Be sure to only use food-safe products in these bags. UV rays kill most germs but you never know what lurks around.
--1 gallon of food will be plenty to dry in a 1 ft X 3 ft bag. Dries a qt size of food successfully.
--Wash the bags in a regular dish washing routine. Only put in dishwasher if you know that a plastic closure will not melt in dry cycle of dishwasher. Let dry in the sun too ;)