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.
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.
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.
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).