Sunday, July 18, 2010

Solar cooking/drying workshop

Yesterday we hosted a short workshop on solar cooking/drying.  Our guest facilitator had spent time ahead of the workshop building various models that were home-scale size, made of inexpensive materials and simple construction.  The idea was to give participants an idea of the range of possibilities, inspire creative thinking and experimentation (and tinkering), and make solar cooking feel like something easily accessible to a wide range of people.  There are so many books out there about solar cooking, and it really seems like a topic with few difinitive answers - there are so many variables, such as climate, sun exposure, time of year, humidity, what you are cooking/drying, etc.  He had made a solar dryer, using wire cooling racks (used for baking) as his screens, with wooden frames built around the screens to fit snugly.  The bottom was painted black, the top had plexiglass sheeting to trap heat.  This dryer box could be used for drying herbs, fruits, vegetables.  As well, there were several examples of simple solar ovens to demonstrate cooking and baking (for vegetables, soups, breads, etc) - including a foil-lined box cooker and a solar collector dish.  By the time we got to this stage in the workshop we were running short on time, so all we had time to cook was an egg - but this was done in an astounding matter of seconds using a cast iron frying pan held directly over the solar dish (note - while wearing sunglasses and long protective gloves!)  The solar collector dish was tilted toward the sun, reflecting several hundred watts off it's mirrored surface!  The idea was that a roasting pot or other cooker could be rigged up on a frame over this solar dish. You would have to keep this solar dish covered with a tarp when not in use, as it would easily be a potential fire hazard!  Needless to say, this was an interesting introductory workshop that peaked more questions...

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