The Basic Tray Method
If you live in a hot, dry area you can sun-dry foods by placing the food on screen trays and draping the trays with cheesecloth to deter pests. This method works best in weather conditions with temperatures around 100 degrees F and low humidity for several days. Only sun-dry foods if you live in an area without problem air pollution and away from busy roads. Particulate matter from the air can settle on the food you dry.
Purchase window screens at the hardware store to use as drying trays. Thoroughly wash the trays and line them with cheesecloth. Place the food you want to dry on the lined trays, leaving room for airflow around each piece. Drape another layer of cheesecloth over the food so insects and small pests cannot get to the food. Secure the cheesecloth to the tray with clothespins. Place the trays outside on a table in the sun. Allow for airflow underneath the trays by elevating them with wooden boards or books.
To dry herbs, thoroughly wash the herbs and let the water evaporate until dry. Herbs dry quickly in the heat of summer and dry best out of intense sunlight if the humidity is very low. Check the herbs for dryness after 3-5 hours. Herbs that are properly dry should crumble easily.
Fruits and vegetables can take several days to dry, so check the weather forecast to be sure temperatures stay high and humidity stays low. Thoroughly wash the food and cut into even slices about 1/4" to 3/8" thick. Make your own sun-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, dried plums and more. The food is dry when it is leather-like and pliable and free of moist spots.
If your food is not getting fully dry in the sun, avoid spoilage by using your oven. Fruits and vegetables dry best at about 130 - 140 degrees F. Check your oven thermometer to see if your oven light or gas oven pilot light keeps the oven within this range. Turn the oven on if the temperature can be kept under 150 degrees F, or turn to the lowest setting and keep the door propped open.
Since you cannot control the temperature when sun-drying food on trays, do not attempt to sun-dry meats without the use of a solar dehydrator (see below).