A sleek fold-up All American sun oven is set up on my patio table. I slightly rotate it and reposition the angle every hour or so to track the sun. (MABurgess photo)
June in Baja Arizona should officially be Solar Cookery Month– time to not add any more heat in the house. Thanks to some fabulous Baja Arizona “solarizers,” namely Technicians for Sustainability (www.TFSsolar.com), our house is now blessed with a PV array–yet despite this “free” electricity we still don’t want any extra BTUs loose in the kitchen.
Tia Marta here encouraging you to take your cooking OUTSIDE!! A great project to do with kids is to make your own solar oven with a cardboard box and lots of tinfoil. (The internet has easy do-it-yourself plans.) Or you can purchase a ready-made solar oven online. Check my website http://www.flordemayoarts.com under the menu “Native Foods” to buy one of the most efficient and least expensive solar ovens you’ll find anywhere!
Try de-hydrating saguaro fruit in a solar oven with the lid partially open to allow moisture to escape. It doesn’t take long to dry sliced fruits or vegetables. (MABurgess)
Wild desert fruits and orchard fruits will be coming on aplenty, and when solar-dried, they make wonderful snacks and trail mix. As seasonal veggies come available in your garden or at farmers markets, you can slice and solar dry them for winter soups and stews.
It’s almost time to harvest mesquite pods (kui wihog) and saguaro fruit (bahidaj), in the dry heat of Solstice-time before monsoon moisture arrives. Here are solar-oven-dried mesquite pods, crispy and ready to mill into flour. Solar drying of mesquite pods–oven door slightly open–allows bruchid beetles to escape. Solar-dried aguaro fruit chun (pronounced choo’nya) is ready to store or eat as rare sweet snacks! (MABurgess photo)
Washed velvet mesquite pods, covered with drinking water, set in solar oven to simmer for making Tia Marta’s “Bosque Butter.” (MABurgess photo)
Mesquite “Bosque Butter” and “Bosque Syrup” a la Tia Marta–Scroll back to the July 15, 2017 Savor post for how-to directions for these delicious products, made from solar-oven-simmered mesquite pods. (MABurgess photo)
Pellet-sized fan-palm dates washed and ready to simmer for making “Datil Silvestre Syrup”–First they should be transferred with water to a dark pan with dark lid for placing in solar oven to absorb more heat. Scroll to Jan.30,2015 post for recipe.
Concentrated Solar Fan Palm Syrup–nothing added–just water and fan palm fruit simmered in solar oven. For easy directions search “More Ideas for Wild Dates” post for January 30,2015. (MABurgess)
Solar-oven-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful, and keep for a long time. These are heirloom mission figs harvested from my Padre Kino fig tree purchased from the Mission Garden’s and Jesus Garcia’s Kino Tree Project–the “Cordova House” varietal. You swoon with their true sweetness. (A caveat for any dried fruit or veggies: be sure there is NO residual moisture before storing them in glass or plastic containers to prevent mold.)
Tepary beans, presoaked overnight, into the solar oven by 10am and done by 2pm, avg temp 300 or better (see thermometer). Note the suspension shelf to allow for no-spill when you change the oven angle to the sun. This is a demo glass lid. A black lid for a solar cooking pot will heat up faster absorbing sunlight. (MABurgess photo)
George Price’s “Sonoran Caviar”–Cooking pre-soaked tepary beans slowly in a solar oven or crockpot makes them tender while keeping their shape for delicious marinated salads. Directions for making “Sonoran Caviar” are in the Aug.8,2014 post Cool Summer Dishes. (MABurgess photo)
We cook such a variety of great dishes–from the simple to the complex– out on our patio table. I stuff and bake a whole chicken and set it in the solar oven after lunch. By suppertime, mouth-watering aromas are wafting from the patio.
For fall harvest or winter dinners, I like to stuff an heirloom squash or Tohono O’odham pumpkin (Tohono O’odham ha:l) with cooked beans and heirloom wheat- berries to bake in the solar oven. It makes a beautiful vegetarian feast.
A solar oven is a boon on a camping trip or in an RV on vacation for heating dishwater as well as for cooking. It was a God-send for us when power went out. Solar ovens in emergency situations can be used for making safe drinking water. (Hurricane-prone areas– take heed!)
For one of my favorite hot-weather dishes–marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad–the solar oven is a must. On stove-top, wheat-berries take an unpleasant hour20minutes to fully plump up. That’s alot of heat. Outdoors in the solar oven they take about 2 hours while the house stays cool, keeping humidity low. Hey–no brainer!
Muff’s Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad Recipe
1 cup washed heirloom wheat-berries (available from NativeSeeds/SEARCH, grown organically at BKWFarms in Marana)
4 cups drinking water
Simmer wheat-berries in solar oven until round, plump and softer than al dente, and have absorbed the water–approximately 2-2 1/2 hours depending on the sun. Drain any excess water.
Chill in frig. Marinate overnight with !/2 cup balsamic vinegar or your favorite citrus dressing. Add any assorted chopped veggies (sweet peppers, I’itoi’s onions, celery, carrots, pinyon nuts, cholla buds, barrel cactus fruit, nopalitos….). Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce.
Muff’s White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad laced with pickled cholla buds, roasted nopalitos and barrel cactus fruit nibbles. (MABurgess photo)
While cooking with a solar oven, it will help to “visit” your oven every 1/2 hour or hour to adjust the orientation to be perpendicular to the sun’s rays. Think about it–You gotta get up that frequently anyway from that computer or device where you’ve been immobile–just for health and circulation’s sake! Think of your solar oven as part of your wellness program.
A solar oven is so forgiving too. If you need to run errands, just place the oven in a median position to the movement of the sun. Cooking may take a little longer, but, you are freed up to take that class, get crazy on the internet, texting or whatever. And if you should get detained, good old Mr. Sun will turn off your oven for you. No dependency on digital timers. Happy cooking with the sun this summer!