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“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


cookers have the advantage of getting very, very hot (up to 1,000 degrees


Fahrenheit), but they’re expensive


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


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!’

Inside land park jun 14