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we're in the mid planning stages of our year off to cruise. We plan on the Bahamas, Caribbean and maybe the east coast of the US, maybe Europe. I noticed last time we cruised the Bahamas that fresh fruits and vegetables were in short supply so I was considering buying a dehydrator and storing food up ahead of time. Any advice on how-to, what to buy and is it all worth it i.e. does it taste ok once rehydrated?
Thanks.
 

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Old soul
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Hi dtye, I can't comment about the need for dried food in Bahamas and the Caribbean, but I can tell you I've been drying food for decades now and have brought the same practice to me cruising. In fact, I have probably 2 months of dried food currently on board. And my plan is to dry food whenever we can buy in bulk at cheap prices.

When you ask, what to buy, do you mean what food dries well, or are you just planning to buy dehydrated food from a store? If the former I can give you a list of what works for us. If the latter, well, I might try and dissuade you, and suggest you dry stuff yourself. It's easy, and cheap, and it ensures you're getting real food, and not a whole whack of preservatives.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I do want to know about drying my own fruits and vegetables. What type of dehydrator is best and what is the best way to store and rehydrate the food? thanks.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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we're in the mid planning stages of our year off to cruise. We plan on the Bahamas, Caribbean and maybe the east coast of the US, maybe Europe. I noticed last time we cruised the Bahamas that fresh fruits and vegetables were in short supply so I was considering buying a dehydrator and storing food up ahead of time. Any advice on how-to, what to buy and is it all worth it i.e. does it taste ok once rehydrated?
I agree with you that fresh fruit and veg in the Bahamas do not meet the expectations of most Americans. You can do better by coordinating your big shops with the mail boat. The locals do, so when you show up two days later not only is the food older but the good stuff is gone. Explorer Charts have the schedule for most of the mail boats to most of the islands.

Local cooking styles and recipes are adapted to the food that is available. You can be a bit adventurous.

Fruit and veg in the Caribbean is a little variable but there are places to stock up that are as good or better than in the US. Europe is more consistent but really good.

My understanding is that backpackers use dehydrated food because it is much lighter and somewhat less volume than fresh. Provisioning a boat isn't so sensitive to those issues. A bigger issue is that so much water is used to rehydrate. I spend much more time lugging water than food already.

There are three approaches to long-term food storage that I can think of: dehydration, canning, and freezing.

Dehydration requires energy to dehydrate and water to rehydrate. Flavor is affected. Pack spices.

Commercial canning usually brings a lot of salt and some preservatives along for the ride. It's inexpensive, good volume efficiency, has some flavor degradation, and adds to liquids aboard.

Home canning allows you to control the salt and preservatives but adds glass which freaks some people out. It requires a pressure canner (although some products can use a hot water bath). My 16 qt pressure canner is also my pasta cooker and has been on many a beach as a crab steamer.

Commercially frozen food preserves flavor well. It adds some volume efficiency. It requires ongoing energy to stay frozen.

Home frozen (and worse boat frozen) often brings some cellular disruption that can make some food mushy.

Everyone makes their own choices.

When we go cruising we load up on frozen meat and veg. We home can a lot of things (pasta sauce, chicken, soups, tomatoes, ...). The only dehydrated food we carry are commercial dried beans and home dried herbs. YMMV.

We actually find freezer space to be a bigger deal than refrigeration space.

Without freezer our choice would be to do more canning vice dehydrating.
 

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Old soul
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I do want to know about drying my own fruits and vegetables. What type of dehydrator is best and what is the best way to store and rehydrate the food? thanks.
The great thing about drying your own food is you know exactly what you're getting, and it's usually (but not always) cheaper than going with commercial stuff. I've never tasted commercially dried stuff that is as good as mine. Dried food should be as good as fresh once properly reconstituted.

The benefits of drying (as I see them) are long-term preservation with minimal nutrient loss, much reduced storage space, and minimal loss of food quality. For canoeing the benefits were also in weight, but that's not really an issue for a sailboat. And while it takes water to reconstituted the food, I don't think it's any a big concern for most cruisers. It doesn't take a lot of water, and most of it gets consumed, so no real loss.

I dry all manner of fruits and veg. Most anything will dry, just so long as it has texture. Citrus tends to take longer, and becomes more candyish to my taste. I like apples, pears, peaches; that sort of thing.

Veg is more wide open. We like tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, onions, zucchini, celery ... really, just about anything.

Most sauces dry easy and well, as do fruit leathers. As long as there is texture to them.

I used to make jerky but now just dry ground beef (cooked, fat drained off). I also dry cooked chicken.

You can also dry full meals like chilli, mulligatawny soup, pea soup, that sort of thing.

The best dehydrator is a question I'm also exploring now that we've moved full-time on our boat. On land I used a home built version; basically a plywood box with screened shelves and a heat source to move the air. On the boat I've built a solar dehydrator, but haven't had a chance to test it yet. I'm also looking at something like these: Excalibur Food Dehydrator | Buy Factory Direct & Save
 
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