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In my fantasy world I am going for a Mesozoic-inspired biome, so I want there to be no grasses. This means no wheat, rice, corn, and the like. I imagine that the staple crops will be tubers, legumes, cabbages, roots, onions, and mushrooms.

This made me think: Most of the long-term storable vegetarian foods I know about are grass-based (grains, biscuits).

Which non-grain vegetarian foods would be best for long-term storage?

My stories are set across centuries, and the available technology ranges from late medieval to early modern period, perhaps 1500 through 1900.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it really about dehydration? Legumes I would think...peanuts, dried peas, dried beans. Even dehydrated mashed potatoe powder seem to last forever but requires modern methods. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 14 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ What is "long-term"? Since agriculture began, people have been storing potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. in cold cellars to last all winter. That's why you can buy them in the grocery stores now, all year round. There's also picking, for other fruits and vegetables. Just look in any book on historical methods for preserving food over winter. $\endgroup$ Aug 14 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ You can pickle anything, you can dry anything, you can salt anything, you can freeze anything .. not that I'd promise just anything is going to taste great after you have .. pick a method and choose something to use it on. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 14 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ There's going to be strong incentives in this world to develop food dehydration technologies. Unlike here, they will be leading determinants of war outcomes and economic and demographic growth. In my country, NZ, when the Europeans arrived, the first Maori tribes to get muskets went on rampages, but a few tribes also went all in on potatoes and the longer campaigning it allowed meant that their enemies were utterly destroyed. Dehydrated potato is the Holy Grail; lots of technologies will develop around it earlier than here. $\endgroup$ Aug 18 at 12:11

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Depends on how much processing & preservation you allow

Most anything edible can be made into a long-term storage item if you cure it and keep it away from the ground or moisture. Drying, smoking, salting, pickling, etc, there are many ways to preserve things. Though if you want something a little less processed...

Try nuts. If you can farm them, nuts are a great way to pack away nutrition for hard times. Just ask just about any animal whose anual task is collecting them before winter and they'll tell you the same... if they could talk.

Alternatively... grow pine trees or some other conifer if they're available in your world. Not only will they give you wood, you can eat them. From the bark to the cones to the resin and even the needles, most conifers are some degree of edible. Some even have medicinal properties. Pregnant women might have to be careful about eating conifer-matter though as there are some cases of pine needle ingestion leading to abortions in cows, but other than that they should be fine. And hey, pines have nuts too, so, you know...

Go nuts.

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    $\begingroup$ "Try nuts" Yep, grass ain't the only thing with seeds, if it's a plant it has seeds 🤔 well, mostly 🤗 not sure what nuts and seeds were around back then though? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 14 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's the hard shell of a nut or seed that makes the difference for its ability to remain unspoiled, keeping out moisture and fungus. If you give a squirrel a peanut whose shell has been compromised, it'll likely eat the nut right away. But if the shell is intact, it'll likely store it for later. Squirrels know! :) $\endgroup$
    – Wyck
    Aug 16 at 1:09
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Dry beans (soybeans, pintos, Great Northern, etc.) keep almost forever with no more effort than keeping them dry. Additionally, legumes contain "complete" proteins, so can substitute for meat, nutritionally.

Tree nuts also keep well, for a year or more in the shell. Sunflower seeds can be soaked in brine and will then keep dry for a long time.

Some gourd fruits (winter squash, in particular) will keep in cellars without additional refrigeration through a summer and well into the next winter, as long as the skin is intact. Further, pumpkin seeds can be dried for long term storage.

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Many Pacific Islands never had edible grasses but solved this problem using fruit.

Big ones like breadfruit are best, fermented breadfruit paste was used for voyages that might take months. But some has been found to be still edible 50 years after they were made.

Some places like the Marquesas breadfruit was the staple but didn't produce fruit year around so they fermented the paste and used it for 3 months and more at a time.

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Chuño is an Incan process of freeze-drying potatoes. The processs involves leaving potatoes to freeze at night then dry out in the day, then trampled to remove any remaining water. The resulting dehydrated potatoes can last for decades. It can be made into a flour.

So I'd say potatoes would make a good grain replacement.

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A warning if you're looking for something Mesozoic-era: most angiosperms had not evolved until the late Cretaceous, including tubers (Solanacease, Euphorbiaceae), beans (Fabaceae), or cruciferous vegetables (Brassicaceae). If anything, grasses like primitive rice were the first to evolve.

To have a Mesozoic-like setting, you'll need to be careful to avoid really any type of flower or fruits, or most vegetative structures we see today. I recommend this site for some ideas on gymnosperm "fruits" or go with pine nuts: https://www.indefenseofplants.com/blog/2018/10/24/gymnosperms-and-fleshy-fruits

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dates

Remarkably durable food for vegetarians, last several months at room temperature, a year in modern, cool storage (4-6 degrees celcius).

A cave, relatively cold environment, could be used to store dates for the autumn and winter season.

https://www.doesitgobad.com/do-dates-go-bad/

enter image description here

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Tubers and roots can be dried and processed into flour and kept indefinitely. The flour can be reconstituted into pretty much anything that wheat flour can be used to produce including puddings, breads and cookies. The protein content will vary depending on the specific specie and will dictate how easily a bread can be made from it. Gluten, the stretchy part of bread dough, is a protein.

As others have noted, any type of seed or nut will typically have low enough water content on it's own to be stored for quite some time in cool, dry and dark locations. Keeping everything away from vermin will be the challenge.

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Booze.

Ferment whatever you have. Alcohol is a great way of converting marginal foods into something calorific.

In the given time period, small beer was the normal drink for people of all ages. It provides food and hydration, and will keep you going through the winter.

Yes, also pickle, salt, lacto-ferment... but... booze!

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    $\begingroup$ Lacto fermentation doesn't require milk! It is the process that makes saurakraut $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Aug 15 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ Poor mesozoic aliens.. they will be drunk all day. like medieval people.. I wonder if they will ever escape their 1500-1900 level of development of you allow this :d :d $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Aug 16 at 13:35

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