My journey in food dehydration started last fall with the harvest of hop flowers from our garden. I sun-dried them on the deck with the intended future use in hop pillows for holiday gifts. Dried hops have a gentle and comforting aroma that can last for months after harvest. Thinking the the hops were dry, I stored them in a half gallon mason jar. When I checked on them a week later, they weren’t dry enough. They grew mold and were ruined.
Dehydration was already on my mind after a summer backpacking trip in the Absaroka Mountain Range near Yellowstone National Park. With miles and elevation to cover and plenty of access to fresh water, we packed light with dehydrated meals – some homemade and some store bought. The purchased ready-made dehydrated dinners were expensive and weren’t flavorful. Compared to my companions garden grown veggies in home-dried ratatouille with quinoa, the store bought coconut curry fell flat. I started to get excited about all of the nutritious vegetable-dense preservative-free foods I could make at home ahead of our next adventure.
We always have an excess of garden vegetables each fall. I enjoy sharing the bounty with friends and neighbors, but long for the sweet taste of garden grown foods all winter. Other methods of food preservation can be tricky. Freezing is an option, but can damage the delicate cell structure of certain veggies and ruin the texture. Canning is a great shelf-stable option, but requires large equipment and can be intimidating. High acidic foods like salsa and tomato sauce are easy. Low acidic foods must be boiled to a minimum temperature to eliminate potentials for bacteria. Also, I do not plan on carrying jars on my backpacking trips.
Dehydrated foods keep for an incredibly long time. Hermetically sealed veggies can remain fresh for 10 years! Foods that are more water-dense (think dried apricots and cherries) keep for 5 years if not exposed to air. In my own pantry, I have noticed dried fruits and nuts stay tasty for at least one year when stored in a mason jar with a lid.
Eager to get into the oldest method of food preservation, but finding sun-drying methods impractical (too much loss due to squirrel theft and flies), I looked at electric counter-top food dehydrators. We live in a small home, a large dehydrator is not practical for storage.
So, we developed a solar powered food dehydrator for mason jars and called it Dryceratop. As product designers and DIY enthusiasts, we are always looking for ways to improve our day to day processes. We already own a ton of mason jars for food and herb storage and love utilizing them for multiple applications. Dryceratop is incredibly simple. The jar, set in the sun, heats up from solar gain. The solar panel powers a small fan. The warm circulating air can carry away the water in food quickly. The fan and solar panel will last for many years. Conventional food dehydrators are huge, clunky, consume energy and cost a lot. Dryceratop is tiny and folds away into a drawer when not in use. It uses 100% solar energy and will never cost anything to operate for years of service. Compared to the conventional counter-top food dehydrator the Dryceratop matches heat and humidity levels. As long as the sun is shining, Dryceratop is dehydrating!
Dryceratop is currently funding on Kickstarter, ending July 7, 2019. This is our sixth crowd sourcing campaign for our products! As a small operation (it’s just the two of us, husband and wife), we have found launching on Kickstarter a great option to fund the initial production run. The two of us, with help from some friends, are manufacturing all of the Dryceratops in our NE Minneapolis workshop. I hope you will begin food preservation through solar dehydration and consider backing our project.
We plan to sell Dryceratop along with our other products on our website: www.flatpackfoundry.com