One concern live-aboards seem to mention a lot is the in ability to find fresh fruits and vegetables in some places, places you think it would be normal to find fresh produce, but isn’t always. I actually could not find limes on a tropical island until the container ship came a few days later.
Another concern is having produce for long passages. Most talk about having to eat all of the fresh produce at the beginning of the voyage and then switching to canned or packaged foods for the balance of the trip. So it got me thinking about Dehydrating Food and whether it would be feasible for sailing.
Conventional food dehydrators suck down lots of power. So they’re great if you’re on shore power, but what about when your on the hook or at sea?
Well, you can make yourself a solar-powered dehydrator, but unless you are on a mega-yacht, it’s going to either be you or the dehydrator. They’re huge!
There was one model I found that was a hanging version made out of black netting with shelving added. The reviews were very unflattering and if you look at their videos on YouTube it’s obvious that the quality is questionable. So I’m not sharing the site link for that product.
I did find a DIY hanging solar food dehydrator that looks fairly easy to assemble and I guess you can make as sturdy as you like. I however am not sure if just leaving food outside is the way I want to go. I mean aren’t you going to attract bugs too? And seagulls?
The great thing about drying food is you can capture the food’s best flavor since you can dry them at the height of their season. Even though the produce is dried, the flavor is very well-preserved and is by far better than eating produce that is out of season or harvested before ripening and shipped.
What fruits and vegetables can you dehydrate? There is a sizable list of fruits and vegetables, including some you may not expect, that you can dehydrate. Here are just a few and some uses for them.
Dehydrating Foods – Vegetables:
- Potatoes – You will need to slice or dice them and then par boil them for about 10 minutes before dehydrating. Great for soups and stews. If you soak (vinegar and salt) or season (BBQ, onion powder, etc.) the potatoes after boiling and before dehydrating you can enhance the flavor. They’re not going to have chip texture so not all that great for snacking, but great in cooked foods.
- Peppers, sweet and hot – You can leave chili peppers whole but sweet peppers should be either sliced or diced. Use them in soups, stews, bread baking, skillet dishes, etc.
- Onions – Slice or dice the onions for drying. You can use onions in so many things including soups, dips, stews, skillet dishes, salad dressing and more.
- Mushrooms – You can slice dice or leave mushrooms whole (except large portabellas) to dehydrate them. I love using dried mushrooms to cook. They are a great substitution for meat in a dish since they have texture. I make my twist on Putanesca Sauce using mushrooms which is not in the traditional recipe. My recipe for Putanesca Sauce is in my cookbook Sail Away Girl Cooks A Little Bit for Now on Amazon. You can also then have mushrooms that have a very short season, like morels, long after their season is over.
Dehydrating Foods – Fruits:
- Tomatoes – Don’t know why, but drying tomatoes enhances the sweetness of the fruit. Use the tomatoes in stews, bread baking, on bruschetta, in salad dressings, and tons more recipes.
- Cucumbers – You can choose to make these chewy or crisp depending on how long you dry them and they make a great healthy snack.
- Bananas – Choose bananas that are toward the green side. Ripe bananas don’t do well. You can dry them chewy or crisp as you like. Did you know that the dehydrated bananas you get at the store are more often than not fried before dried? Yep so making your own is much healthier. Use these for snacking. Yes I know that you’re not supposed to take bananas on a boat, live a little!
- Mangos – These are so good for you and so tasty. Great snack that is really easy to eat on board.
Dehydrating Foods – Proteins:
- Beef (or Turkey, Elk, Deer, etc.) Jerky – Choose lean meat for this and remove any visible fat when you are slicing it up. During the drying process you should also blot any fat that surfaces. Fat is what goes rancid. You should season the meat either with dry seasonings or marinate the meat in a wet marinade for several hours before dehydrating so that the meat has flavor after drying. Using a wet marinade will extend the drying process, but is usually worth the extra time.
- Fish – Choose a non-fatty fish as again it’s the oil/fat that goes rancid. Cut into very thin slices and season right before placing on the dehydrator. You can soak the fish in soy sauce a few minutes, blot dry, and then place the fish on the dehydrator tray too.
For the proteins, you should vacuum seal and freeze the protein until you plan on using it. Be sure and bring the protein to room temperature before cooking with it or consuming it.
For both protein jerky’s, you can eat them as a snack or use them in recipes.
This sounds like a lot of trouble I know. But you aren’t going to do this every day you’re out sailing and you will be so glad you took the time and effort when you are in the middle of the Atlantic and want some non-preservative filled meat and vegetables to eat instead of something from a can.
You can make up your own soup mixes or seasoning packets too. Just combine the vegetables together along with spices and vacuum seal. Then you have a quick preparation for your favorite dish or soup that will be easy to prepare underway. Just don’t combine the protein in, leave that separate.
The dehydrated foods also take up a lot less space on the boat than the actual produce and proteins do. Hopefully the space gained isn’t taken up by the dehydrator. 🙂
Now I only wish I knew what to do about the dehydrator. Do I buy a space eating, energy sucking, commercial model or do I go with the home built solar model?
Would love to know what some of you are doing for this or if anyone out there sailing is dehydrating anything at all.
See you on the water,
Sail Away Girl