Tag Archives: dehydrating

Beautiful, Bountiful Chard

Dehydrating experts recommend using produce that’s in season, fresh & bountiful. In my garden this summer, that produce is chard. So of course I’ve been putting it into backpacking meals now that I’ve finally started dehydrating for this summer’s Sierra excertion.

While chard is not high in calories or protein (7 & 1g per cup, respectively), it packs a real
nutritional wallop:

“… a good source of Thiamin, Folate and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.”

Chard is an especially potent source of Vitaman A, offering up 44% of the RDA in one cup! Most of us are in no great danger of a Vitamin A defiency, but still, there’s something comforting about eating delicious leafy veg that not only promotes healthy vision, but may also, as the Mayo Clinic states, “prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function.”

A cuppa chard also provides 77g of sodium, which adds to its tastiness quota and is never amiss on the trail, at least, where we are generally sweating out all the salt we consume.

And chard is so visually attractive! That vibrant green leaf ribbed in red, gold or white! I’ve been chopping up raw chard to add to the pre-cooked Tasty Bites* and noticing how much more appealing the fresh veg is than the pre-cooked meal from the foil pouch.

While appreciating the bright green, however, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What will dehydrating do to all this Vit A?”

Nothing. apparently, as long as the product is kept out of the sunlight:

“Vitamin A is retained during the drying process. Because vitamin A is light sensitive, foods that contain it-like carrots, bell peppers, mangoes-should be stored in a dark place.”

The same site points out that “Minerals … such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, and so on–are also not altered when [produce] is dried.” So we don’t lose the mineral load of chard on the trail.

Some vitamin C, most of us realize, is lost in the dehydration process, but that’s easily remedied by imbibing a daily dose of fizzy flavored EmergenC in your choice of fruit flavors.

My next dehydrating adventure with chard is going to involve chicken stock, polenta, black-eyed peas with oregeno & lemon. I’ll keep you posted!

*More on That: To veg-up the flavorful & convenient Tasty Meals, I use 1 lb of fresh veg to 2 packs of Tasty Bites. With the addition of a dried grain, this makes 2 meals for 2 people, or a total of 4 individual meals. I do not use all chard. The combination so far is 1/3 each by weight of peas, green beans & chard. I use frozen peas & green beans for convenience; all the veg is put into the food processor & chopped into smaller bits for future ease of hydration. The green peas & beans add protein, especially important this year as we are going to be back-packing vegetarians … well, except for the half-pound of “emergency” hand-made fennel sausage (finocchiona) we picked up in San Diego’s Little Italy farmers market this spring.

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Persimmons: A Winter Treat

On these grey & chilly days, I long for sunny days & starry nights in the backcountry. And the dampness deters much dehydration since my equipment is set up in the detached laundry room, sans benefit of central heat.

Frankly, I’m feeling a little … oh, let’s just say unmotivated regarding trail food. My last outdoor adventure was a 10-mile run on Angel Island, thanks to the Pacific Coast Trail Runs folks , but I sure didn’t need to pack any food for that.

If I had packed some food, however, it would have been some sweet, bright orange chunks of dried persimmons! Whoo-hoo! Now there’s a treat to brighten up a soggy winter day. If I were as handy with a camera as I am with a dehydrator and knife, I’d be able to show you pictures of these little gems. Instead, you get a story.

First, for weeks, maybe months, I lusted after the persimmons hanging coyly from my neighbors’ trees. Yes — 2 trees on my street, neither of them in my backyard. And everytime I stopped by to knock on the door to beg some extra fruit, no one would answer the door.

Certainly I could have stooped to buying persimmons, but somehow that seemed wrong. I have not yet bought a single persimmon in my decade in California. Somehow, they appear in my kitchen without monetary exchange, although this year I was starting to have doubts.

Back in 1999, the first winter I spend in California, already wondering about the intellegence of living in a place that had non-stop winter rains, Mr. Jack took me over to visit an old friend of his, a charming retired Scoutmaster. As we stood in the kitchen, making small talk, he turned to me & announced, out of the blue, that he had a bumper crop of persimmons this year. Would I like some?

“Oh yes!” I gushed. “I love persimmons!”

He grabbed a bag and stepped out the door to fill it for me.

I turned to Mr. Jack with just 1 question: “What are persimmons?”

To this day, I find it hard to believe that I spent the first 3 decades of my life without these lucious fruits. And here I was, this winter of 2009, about to miss out again.

Until I noticed the heavy-hanging fruit on a tree almost in my backyard. One of the neighbors on the adjourning street had not yet harvested the persimmon tree. I scooted around the corner and scooped out the house. Hmmm. An as-yet unmet neighbor. I’m an introvert. This could be difficult. I scooted back around the corner & knocked on the known-neighbor’s door. Nope.

I stuffed a plastic shopping bag with handles into my jacket pocket. I jammed the garden clippers into a back trouser pocket. I took a walk around the corner, took off my wool cap and knocked on the unknown -neighbor’s door, rehersing my pitch … and came home with pounds of slightly overripe Fuyu persimmons; much longer and they would be as juicy and soft as an edible Hachiya.

Traditionally, persimmons are dried whole or in “cartwheels,” as shown in the picture to the right.

Since I wanted a finished product that would work well in a backpacking fruit mix, however, I used 2 different methods: whole fruits chopped into big chunks and some pureed and dried into fruit leather wafers. Of course, I overate both kinds trying to decide which was more delicious. I did save a few cups for next year’s backpack fruit mix.

And of course, I ate several pounds of fruit without benefit of dehydrator. And why not? Persimmons are not only sweet, sticky, delicious and beautiful, but also remarkably good for us, despite the high sugar load of 18.6% (bananas have 20.4%, blueberries only 11). Each fruit is loaded with Vitamins A, Bs & C, as well as important minerals & anti-oxidants. And did I mention that the dehydrated chunks are chewy like gumdrops?

My next door neighbor’s tree is still unpicked. As soon as this rain stops, I might be knocking on her door for just one more batch.

Dahl: a damn fine food, on & off the trail

Spent my morning tea time looking through the Ansel Adam’s masterpiece Sierra Nevada: the John Muir Trail. As both a Sierra lover & a a press aficionado, I must recommend this amazingly published art exhibit. If you haven’t yet seen it, find a copy & set aside some time to spend in the Sierras without having to change out of your pajamas. I’m full of memories of past hikes & dreaming ahead to next summer’s adventure.

While we’re on the trail, every night’s supper is pease porridge, which Mr. Jack refers to as a quick-and-simple dahl: a by-weight 1:1 mixture of chia seeds, dehydrated split pea soup and toasted quinoa flakes. For the 2 of us, it weighs about 6 oz, including the critical seasoning square of organic vegetable bouillon, which does include at least turmeric, if not the other spices more traditionally associated with dhal.

Dahl is a traditional Indian dish of rice, beans and spices, that has hundreds, if not thousands, of variations. Fran’s House of Ayurveda blog, for instance, has a great winter squash/lentil recipe with simple directions. With canned pumpkin on sale this month, this is especially appealing, although I would need to use another bean since lentils are on my “avoid” list.

I’ve been making a lot of dahl since our JMT hike when we discovered that rice & bean dishes supplied more energy than any other combination of food. So of course, I’ve developed a more slapdash approach than that suggested in other recipes, using pre-cooked rice & beans because it’s easier for me to cook a big batch of beans & freeze to use as needed. In a pinch, I use canned beans.

Turns out that dahl makes a perfect breakfast! It’s the kind of food designed to be made in a big pot & reheated as needed. I am aware of the 3-day leftover rule; at our house, however, that is completely ignored as neither Mr. Jack nor I have delicate stomachs and often find ourselves happily eating food more than a week after its initial appearance. Here’s my casual recipe, which you may enjoy trying on some cool fall or winter day, either for breakfast or later in the day:

You’ll need:

2 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked beans (canned are fine if you don’t have the inclination to soak & cook your own)
2 cups mixed cooked vegetables

Note: If you are using frozen rather than fresh vegetables, you will not need to cook before adding to the dahl. Canned vegetables are not recommended as they get too mushy.

My current dal includes these vegetables, which I piled into a saucepan in this order, & steamed until just tender:

  • 2 golden beets, julienned
  • a handful of green beans, chopped into 1/2″ lengths
  • small chayote (or other soft-fleshed squash) cubed 1/2″

Fresh greens, a handful or 2 if available (chard, spinach, beet, turnip). Adding chopped, raw greens to the completed dahl is one of my favorite ways to enjoy more vegetables.

1 onion, chopped
fresh ginger, about 1″, minced
cooking oil: grapeseed, olive or coconut; ghee
basic dahl spices — adjust to your own taste; heat can be added as desired

  • cumin, whole, 2 TB
  • corriander, whole, 2 TB
  • fenugreek, ground, 1 TB
  • tumeric, ground, 1 TB

Salt to taste

You will need a big pan for all of this to end up in, as well as a few other pans for toasting seeds, sauting onion & ginger, and steaming the vegetables.

A coffee grinder works great for grinding the seed spices.

Ready, set, go!

Put cooked rice & 3 cups of water in a big pan with a lid (use a pressure cooker if you have one) — cook at low heat until the rice has broken down into a porridge
While the rice is porridging:

  • Roast about 2 TBs each cumin & corrieander seeds
  • Pour out & let them cool before grinding

Saute

  • In a oiled pan, low to medium heat, saute a chopped onion very slowly.
  • When about half-done, add finely minced ginger & keep stirring.
  • When the onions are nicely translucent & browned, add the toasted, ground cumin & corrieander, along with tumeric and ground fengreek.
  • Add some more oil — I like coconut for the extra flavor, but grapeseed or olive would work as well. Ghee would probably be perfect.

Finish up
To the rice porridge pot, add:

  • Spice/onion mixture into the rice porridge of rice, along with:
  • Cooked beans
  • Veggies, assorted
  • Salt to taste

Note: This recipe has no real heat. Feel free to add a chopped chili pepper along with the ginger, or a pinch of chili flake along with the spices at the end. Do remember that heat added on the first day may get hotter as the dish matures! For breakfast each morning, I put 2 cups into a small saucepan, along with a half-cup of water, cover & simmer on the lowest possible heat while I have my tea.

Hope you enjoy some dahls this winter season. If you decide to cook a big pot & dehydrate to enjoy on the trail, leave the rice out. Next blog, we’ll talk about rehydrating rice for backpacking.
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