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Fall Kale Dehydrating for Summer Hiking Health

The Hiker Must Do before the end of the month! Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons
The Hiker Must Do before the end of the month! Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons

What’s the perfect trail food that no one carries on trail? Kale! This leafy green has as many nutrients as that multivitamin in your med kit that you keep forgetting to take. Kale is a natural detoxifier, which is a plus for hikers who spend the whole day eating (or making) trail dust. Dark, leafy vegetables also have anti-inflammatories, meaning less Vitamin Ibuprofen for those of us with lots of miles on our feet. Plus, any thru-hiker can appreciate how rehydrated kale can be incredibly filling for its weight. A pint sized ziplock equal to an entire bunch weighs in at less than an oz.

It’s kale! I promise! (Ok, fine, there are some beet greens in there, too)
It’s kale! I promise! (Ok, fine, there are some beet greens in there, too)

Unless you live in California, before your local farmer’s markets holds its last sale until the spring, be sure to stock up on kale to dehydrate. The dried stuff lasts more than a year and will be a great asset to your March trail food.

Redbor Kale (purple), Curly Kale, Russian Kale, red and golden beets and Hakurei turnips (their green tops are edible)
Redbor Kale (purple), Curly Kale, Russian Kale, red and golden beets and Hakurei turnips (their green tops are edible)

 

 Snorkel’s Dehydrated Kale “Recipe”*

1)      Be sure to thoroughly wash your kale before starting, especially if it isn’t organic. Who knows what could be trapped between those nice little leafy ridges?

2)      Strip the leaves off the thick stems, which can be tough and unsavory. From here, you can cut the remaining leaves into 1” strips or (for people like me), tear the leaves into strips of similar sizes.

3)      Go raw to retain your kale’s nutrients! Since raw kale can be a bit rough, I dip my strips in salty hot water to slightly soften it. The salt helps with flavor and preservation. Baking soda or baking powder also work to tenderize and preserve the somewhat tough vegetable.

Drying set up includes bowl of leaf chunks (ready to toss into water), lots of towels, and dehydrating slats (the things that look like window screens)
Drying set up includes bowl of leaf chunks (ready to toss into water), lots of towels, and dehydrating slats (the things that look like window screens)

4)      Lie the kale strips on slats for your dehydrator, being sure not to overlap.

5)      Put it in the dehydrator on the vegetable setting. In my circa 1970s dehydrator, it takes about 24 hours to get completely dry. Since I usually don’t use my kale for several months, it’s important that my kale is completely dry to prevent rotting in storage. If done correctly, dehydrated kale has lasted me a year.

*This recipe also works for Swiss chard and Collard Greens. I’ve also had luck with turnip and beet greens (although these guys are usually tougher and less tasty than kale).

Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.

Comments

Hmmm

Hi, Liz. I’ve once again gotten here through the Gossamer Gear newsletter. I’m glad you’ve written about kale as a trail vegetable. I hope more people become aware of that–that it’s not only possible to eat vegetables on long-distance hikes, but especially greens. Have you carried seaweed (i.e. dulse, kelp, kombu, wakame, nori, hijiki, etc.)? It is an acquired taste, but light, highly nutritious, and generally undervalued as food on and off trail. I’ve been eating and cooking it on long hikes for years. I also made a batch of kale chips the night before my most recent long hike, then crumbled them and sprinkled on dinner most nights. I just coated the kale leaves with olive oil and salt and stuck them in the oven for less than a minute. A word about kale stems: people should eat those, too (for the extra fiber and nutrients); I usually do. If you’re dehydrating in the conventional manner, just slice the stems into thin (eighth-inch thick) pieces. Otherwise, to answer your question (number one under the recipe heading): more protein!

admin

Thanks for stumbling across the article and for sharing your ideas about trail vegetables. I’m glad you touched on the subject of seaweeds on trail–they are very light and pack tons of nutrients. I like to throw wakame in with most of my noodles since it’s relatively inexpensive, quite nutritious, and very filling. My mom is Japanese, so I like to think of seaweed on trail as “comfort food” to help me through the hard sections. Special thanks about the kale stems–I’ve been a little intimidated by them since they can be tough. To throw the question back at you—what protein do you like to eat on trail?

Hmmm

I was partly joking about the “extra” protein in the kale leaves. I’m not keen on eating worms and insects (unless in desperate need of protein). My usual protein sources on trail are (in no particular order) lentils, dried black and pinto bean flakes, dulse (which apparently has the most protein of all seaweed), dried mushrooms (shiitake, porcini), quinoa, short-grain brown rice, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax), very dark chocolate (85% cocoa or higher), goat’s milk powder (Meyenberg; I eat it with crumbled Bavarian rye bread for breakfast, and sometimes make a soup of it, quinoa, and dulse), cheese, and (if I’m not in bear territory) sardines and smoked herring. I have eaten Clif bars in the past, but in recent years have eliminated soy (except for instant miso) from my trail diet, mainly out of concern about its status as a mostly over-processed GMO supercrop. I feel fortunate not to be subject to intense protein cravings I can’t satisfy with the aforementioned list of food. I have never come off the trail craving meat (which I don’t otherwise eat, anyway); most of the time I just want more vegetables! Other than seaweed, is there another food from your Japanese heritage that you have eaten on trail? Bonito flakes?

admin

Haven’t done the worm thing yet, but have had some fly and bee larvae before. 🙂 Thanks for sharing about dulse being high protein–didn’t know that! Do you have a favorite source of dulse? They sell it at my local coop by the scoopful…I imagine I’d need their whole supply to last a thru-hike! Like you, I do a lot of freeze dried instant Miso as Japanese “comfort food” when I’m trail. I also carry umeboshi, pickled Japanese plums, which I prefer to tabs and pills for replenishing salt. I think you just gave me a great idea for a blog post on Japanese hiking foods! Thanks for sharing your food list to reduce protein cravings…not many hikers can say that they hit town without wanting a burger. Maybe this will help us all! -Snorkel