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Hot Pot SOLAR COOKING IS FUN AND EFFICIENT “Poor women may spend three to five hours per day gathering firewood to cook. On sunny days when they can use a solar cooker, it frees up a huge amount of time. Kids can go to school instead of gathering wood.” Solar cookers come in three basic designs. Parabolic cookers look like shiny satellite dishes with a pot suspended in the middle. These BY DR. AMY ROGERS cookers have the advantage of getting very, very hot (up to 1,000 degrees SCIENCE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Fahrenheit), but they’re expensive S and must be adjusted frequently to ome days in Sacramento, follow the sun and keep its rays in it feels hot enough to fry focus. Box solar cookers are lined with an egg on the sidewalk. a shiny, reflective material and have But it doesn’t take triple-digit a transparent cover to keep warm air temperatures to cook just air inside. They can be as simple as about anything using California’s a pizza box lined with foil, or a more abundant sunshine. Solar cookers, sophisticated version that can reach or sun-powered ovens, concentrate 400 degrees. the energy of the sun and provide a Panel cookers are the easiest to free, zero-emissions way to prepare make and the cheapest to buy. They meals even when you’re wearing can be portable and collapsible for long sleeves. of summer, the Earth’s tilted axis bread and brownies. When you’re generally runs from April through points the northern hemisphere most running the air conditioner and you October. Surprisingly, higher summer directly toward the sun, giving us the dread turning on your kitchen stove air temperatures are not the reason. longest day and the most intense solar or oven, solar cooking can save you The sun’s “heat” doesn’t power a fuel for cooking. money and help to keep you cool. In our area, solar cooking season solar cooker. A solar cooker collects What can you cook using the sun? While solar cooking is a fun hobby electromagnetic radiation, including A simple cardboard-and-aluminum- in Sacramento, in poorer parts of the visible light, from the sun and focuses foil panel cooker can cook anything world it can change lives. Sacramento- it on a black-colored cooking pot. The your Crock-Pot can. Stews, either based Solar Cookers International radiant energy absorbed by the pot is vegetarian or with meat, are foolproof is a local nonprofit that works with turned into heat, which the cooker is in a solar cooker because they’re organizations all over the world to designed to trap. impossible to overcook. Foods that bring solar cooking to those who can take a lot of heat on the stove, such as benefit from it most, especially poor and easiest not on the hottest days, hard-cooked eggs, whole fresh beets, women and people in refugee camps. but on days when the sun’s energy is rice, potatoes and lentils can all be After recently attending a United at its peak—that is, any cloudless day prepared outdoors in a solar cooker. Nations meeting of the Commission around the summer solstice, which In June and July, you can even solar on the Status of Women, SCI is June 21 this year. On this first day cook baked goods such as banana executive director Julie Greene said, Therefore, solar cooking is fastest 50 ILP JUN n 14 easy storage or carrying to a campsite. Panel cookers act like a funnel for sunshine with a set of shiny cardboard panels slanted around a pot. Food is placed in a thin-walled black metal pot with a lid. (GraniteWare is ideal.) A clear, heat-resistant bag (such as a turkey roasting bag) or an inverted glass bowl goes over the pot to trap heat and moisture. At our latitude, a CooKit, a panel cooker designed here in the Central Valley, can reach 220 degrees. The intensity of the heat generated surprises people. Greene, who is an experienced solar cook, says, “I tell people, ‘Don’t touch the pot—it’s hot!’

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