Sunday, July 08, 2007

here comes the sun

so, because i am becoming such a little greenie (not the dog treat, mind you), i recently decided that i wanted a solar oven. what's that, you ask? well, basically, it's a dark plastic box with a clear plastic lid that collects heat inside and gets hot enough to cook food. i found out about this earth saving cooking device from the path to freedom urban homestead folks. a popular brand of oven, called a solar sport, is made by the solar oven society. this great company is not only helping to save the environment, they're helping women and families in third world countries that are sun rich, but fuel poor. some women in africa have to spend a full day searching for wood just to have enough fuel to cook their food. the solar oven allows them to use the sun's energy as a free and endlessly renewable resource to cook their food while simultaneously freeing up their time for jobs, for other chores and to spend with their families. another problem with using wood as cooking fuel is that the wood not only adds excessive amounts of carbon to the atmosphere, it is usually burned in closed areas risking injuries from fires and increasing health problems from the families that constantly have to breathe in all that smoke. another great use for the solar oven is to make it simple to use the sun to make safe drinking water by pasteurization. every purchase of a solar oven from the solar oven society helps to fund the organization's efforts to distribute solar ovens in developing countries.

my loving family bought me one for my birthday (thanks, family!) and, i'm embarrassed to say, it promptly sat on the inside of my house for almost two months. work's been a little crazy recently and that, coupled with june gloom, has made it difficult for me to find a day that i'm not at the office and is also sunny enough to use the oven. well, today was the day and i decided to test out my solar oven! i haven't been to the market in a while and i didn't have much on hand, so i decided to keep it simple for my first test and just make a pot of basmati rice. at about 11 am, i put the rice and water in the pot (two black camping-style cooking pots come with the oven), arranged the oven facing south in direct sun on a table on my rooftop patio and put the pot in the oven...

the oven door opens

then i clipped the clear plastic top on the oven and let it be (now that's the real meaning of "set it and forget it," mr. popeil)...

the solar oven

the oven also comes with an oven thermometer, which i put in so i could see how hot my oven would get. after setting everything up, i set about pottering around in my garden for a while. after about 15 minutes, the temperature inside the oven was almost 150 degrees. by about 45 minutes to an hour, it was up over 200. the manual said it takes about two hours to cook rice, so i left it to cook and went about my day. about two hours later, i went back upstairs to my patio and checked out the oven. the temperature inside was about 225. i opened up the oven and lifted the lid off the pot to find this...

the lid comes off

...a perfectly cooked, steaming pot of basmati rice - i kid you not!

sun cooked rice

i was so excited! i cooked food with the sun! it was so simple and didn't heat up my kitchen and didn't add to my carbon footprint and all the energy was free! i can't wait to try out some other foods. i'm thinking during the weekdays, i could use it as an electricity-free crock pot and make stuff like red beans for red beans and rice, indian-style dal and stews and such. i'm really looking forward to doing some low and slow braising, like alton brown's baby back ribs. i also got the reflectors for the oven, which direct more sunlight into the inside so you can boost the temperature up to 300 to do baking. can't wait to try that either. yay!

7 comments:

Doodles said...

I am damned impressed.......and you are very welcome.

Ellie said...

That is utterly fantastic! Man, I could SO do with one of these, especially as we cook rice roughly about once every two days! Think of the energy I could save!

Joanna said...

How WONDERFUL ... I have seen the desertification in Africa that results from the need for firewood. I'm going straight on to that website to buy one, SUCH fun for us, and SO essential in Africa.

Thanks SO MUCH for sharing

Joanna
joannasfood.blogspot.com

PS how sunny was it that day? We're further north than you ...

mooncrazy said...

Hey, that's great! We are so proud of you.

Joanna, you are right, it's fun for use but survival for many others. I do think it opens the door for us to think differently about energy.

Good job lil bird, now we'll look forward to many of your experiments.

maltese parakeet said...

joanna, it was pretty sunny that day. you may have some luck with the additional reflectors. also, i remember reading something in the recipe book that they successfully used it in minnesota, and that's pretty far north!

Sylvie said...

How green and earth friendly this device is. Slow cooking at it's best.

David said...

I seem to recall seeing George Duran using one of these (or something similar) in an episode of "Ham On The Street".

I confess that I'm not much of one for "being green", but this thing (and your enthusiasm) is getting me to think a little differently.