In Morocco, the majority of small farmers use sun drying as a traditional process of fruits preservation on their farms. Such practice could lead to losses in quality and quantity of dried fruits. This study aims to evaluate sensory and physico-chemical quality of dried figs by using two drying methods: (1) Usual solar drying practiced by farmers and Natural convection solar drying using a green solar dryer. Results showed that the second method reduced the drying time from 10 days (Usual method) to 4 days on average. In addition, we found that the green solar dryer allows an increase in the temperature inside the drying chamber of + 8.1°C, on average, compared to ambient temperature. Sensory analysis showed that the five assessed attributes (Mouth feel, color, appearance, flesh thickness and texture) were highly valued by using natural convection solar drying. The large differences were noted for the "mouth feel" attribute, followed by "color" which are the two main aspects sought by consumers. Regarding physico-chemical properties, solar-dried figs had higher citric acid content (12.0 g/l vs 9.72 g/l) and total soluble sugars (60.6% vs 56.0%) compared to sun-dried figs. The water activity was respectively 0.631 and 0.672 for the 1st and 2nd method. Farmers should be encouraged to improve their drying methods by using natural convection solar drying as a method of fruit preservation that maintains nutritional and sensory qualities of dried figs.
Keywords. Figs, Quality, Sensory, Physico-chemical, Morocco, solar drying prototype.