Tag Archives: emergency food

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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Eating across the Sierras: < 1.5 lbs of food

Jack & I started our JMT backpack with an average of 1.24 lbs of food per person per day for the first 11 days and about 1.34 for the next 11 days, including the 10 oz of secchi salami Mr. Jack threw into the Muir Ranch re-supply box for “emergencies.”

Aside: In all fairness to Jack, although I whine mightily about his intractable penchant for bringing along salami, I am first in line when he starts slicing it up at the end of a long day. On this hike, as on so many others, the salami did not survive to fulfill its function as emergency rations unless one considers overwhelming desire to consume salami at the first opportunity an emergency!

In addition to the food we packed into our bear canisters—nearly all of which was gone by the time we got to our car, as I mentioned in the introductory blog—I also ate on the trail 3 chocolate-based food bars (avg 1.6 oz each @ 190 calories) given to me by Karen from Vermont and a handful of raw cashews (probably also about 1.6 oz @ about 260 calories) donated by a couple on top of Forrester Pass who were on their way out. She was eating a Snickers bar; I had politely declined to accept any candy.

You’ll notice that our daily food weight is slightly lower than the suggested range of 1.5-2 lbs per person suggested by most backpacking experts. How do we get away with such low food weights? It comes from understanding that all calories are not created equal and planning a menu that optimizes nutritional density and eliminates—as much as possible—empty calories and ounces. Which is not to say we are ever going to give up our tea!

We know this menu works because we’ve used similar food plans in the past

  • In 2008, on the 8-day High Sierra Trail backpack, ending over Whitney Portal (107 miles, 2 passes) Jack lost 5 lbs he was happy to see go, and I lost none, coming home at the 135 I’d left with.
  • In 2007, on the North Lake-South Lake semi-loop (55 miles, 3 passes @ 11,000’+ in 5 days), we came home with no remarkable weight loss.

So why, this year, did Jack lose nearly 20 lbs & I lose just over 5? Maybe it was the considerably longer backpack with many more passes, but I particularly suspect the unseasonably cold weather, particularly the hail storm through which we hiked for nearly 2 hours, including 3 frigid high-water crossings.

Next blog, I’ll provide a sample day’s worth of backpacking food with calorie count and the percentage breakdown of fat, carbs and protein, including a fiber report. First, though, I’ll have to plug all the foods into the Red Elephant’s Daily Plate account over at Mr. Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong.com. Once all the information’s in, we can check details to see how our backpacking food plan compares to yours … and to the experts’ recommendations.