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Plantwise Factsheets for Farmers

Solar driers help preserving vegetables

Zambia

Recognize the problem

Vegetables are often difficult to grow as they are easily attacked by various insect pests and diseases. But even after a good harvest, losses in vegetables occur because they quickly perish.  They either get rotten or lose their nutritional value. Then they are useless for consumption.

Background

The shelf life of fresh harvested vegetables is short especially when the temperatures are high. When dried, then vegetables can be stored much longer than at fresh stage. But drying is not so easy. Vegetable solar driers are devices that can dry vegetables by the use of the sun. They are constructed to absorb the heat from the sun and confine it in within the drier. The solar drier can be compared to an oven. The drier should be made to allow air flow within the inside so that humidity can exit.  If totally closed and not aerated, fruits would rot.  The freshly harvested vegetables are placed inside the drier and left to slowly dry.

Management

  • Get 4 to 6 cm thick wooden poles:
    • 5 pieces: 0.5 m; 2 pieces: 0.6 m, 2 pieces: 0.53 m
    • 6 pieces: 1m to 1.5 long, 4 pieces: 1m long
  • Get about 6 m x 1 m transparent or black plastic sheet (DPC)
  • Get a 1 m x 0.5 m wooden board. 
  • Make a wooden frame: 1 m wide x 0.5m deep x 0.5 to 0.6m high. Thus one side is higher than the other side to allow air flow.
  • Cover all sides, except floor, with transparent plastic to allow sun heating the to-be-dried vegetables. 
  • The floor is a wooden board.
  • The slanting = higher side (0.6 m high) holds the doorway
  • Make a door that fits the slanted side (1 x 0.5 x 0.6m) and hinge to the box frame.
  • On the top part of the door leave 0.1m uncovered space for air flow
  • Make a 4 footed stand with about 1 m poles.
  • Place the drier in an open area without any obstructions from sun
  • Chop vegetables into small pieces and place them on a tray on the drier`s box floor.
  • The layer of vegetables should not be more than 2 fingers thick to allow effective drying. 
  • The vegetables are dry when they produce a cracking sound when slightly squeezed in the hand.
  • The dried vegetables are now ready to be stored in a cool dry place until use. Alternative sizes and structures exist, such as using a mesh floor, and/or black plastic sheets as covers.

The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to: Zambia

Authors: Mwenya Mulenga
Senior Agricultural Officer
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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