At last! It may be pouring wolves and leopards – and very welcome it is too, after so many drought years – but we finally have a solar dryer.
I was trying to get it early in the year, to make papad. I’ve long dreamt of doing this at a cottage industry scale to provide some of our village women with an income. And also help preserve some of their produce that might otherwise spoil and be wasted.
But guess what! I got bogged down because no one would sell a dryer without a polycarbonate sheet cover. Apparently glass lets in more UV rays than polycarbonate. I tried arguing with several manufacturers, saying that UV rays weren’t a concern for someone who was currently drying everything outdoors. If we didn’t have such unpredictable weather, I’d be happy to continue doing that. And plastics have their own set of problems for the users and the environment. And so on. But they wouldn’t budge. ‘We’ve done our R&D. We don’t customise,’ said one pompous jackass. How hard can it be to just leave off one plastic sheet when assembling?
Yes, we could have built our own but given our handyman skills, it would probably take us a few years to get it right. Finally, Rudra Solar from Gujarat agreed to oblige. And here we are! Complete with the tempered glass sheet that we added, a temperature gauge and a little solar panel that runs two tiny fans. It’s completely waterproof, dust proof, insect proof and rodent proof. You can leave stuff out overnight – they do recommend connecting the fans to a power source to avoid excessive humidity inside the dryer but, not having a power source, we don’t bother. We decided to get the 10 kg model so we can learn how to use it before trying to train others. If this works well, we hope to share the learning and the resource.
We can’t do much until January anyway, but for the moment it’s useful to dry odds and ends. Rajendra and Raju are also learning to make use of it. I’ve so far made a small batch of tutti frutti with two raw papayas; some copra; some rosemary from prunings; a batch of narthangai – this is a dry salted citron that’s the prime remedy for nausea, not to mention a divine accompaniment to good old tire sadam, aka curd rice. Also a batch of raw onions, which I’ll powder and add to my masalas. I read somewhere that this is the secret ingredient in Maggi noodles magic masala. And so it is. Things go better with onion powder!