Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Bring safe and tasty food on your outdoor adventures

Consider bringing items that do not require refrigeration, such as peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, seeds, fresh whole fruit, dried fruit and crackers.

“Be sure to check your sleeping bag,” one of my college friends said.

“For what?” I replied to my friends on my first camping adventure.

“Snakes like to crawl into sleeping bags,” one of them replied.

I am sure my wide-eyed look of terror was fulfilling to them. They continued telling me about bears and other wild animals. I quickly understood they were teasing me. I only encountered pouring rain in a leaking tent. I should have brought an air mattress so I could float.

I really wanted to sleep in my car, but I did not dare to leave the tent.

Some people are “glampers” (campers in fully-equipped, “glamourous” recreational vehicles), or perhaps “hampers” (hotel-based campers). I made up the last one.

That experience ended my tent-based camping adventures, although I certainly appreciate the beauty of nature. The popularity of camping has increased from the late 1800s to the present.

Many people enjoy picnics and hiking, and we have a lot of opportunities in the Midwest to explore nature. Check out the North Dakota tourism website at www.ndtourism.com or the tourism information in your final destination.

Hiking and other outdoor activities have health benefits. Not only is walking good for your physical health, but unplugging from work and technology can be good for your mental health.

As you explore nature while getting exercise, you might get a little hungry. If you are hiking trails equipped with a backpack, you probably want to keep your snacks lightweight.

Remember that perishable foods without temperature control (ice packs, etc.) are safe at temperatures above 90 F for just one hour. If the temperature is in the 70s or 80s, you have a two-hour window during which your food is safe without ice.

Most foodborne-illness-causing bacteria grow quickly in warm temperatures, doubling in number about every 20 minutes.

You could bring perishable food (meat sandwiches, salad, cut fruits and vegetables) in a cooler with ice in your vehicle. Then you can transfer the food to a backpack and extend its safe time until you find a stopping point.

Alternatively, consider bringing items that do not require refrigeration, such as peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, seeds, fresh whole fruit, dried fruit (raisins, apple chips) and crackers. Be sure to bring plenty of water because hydration is especially important during physical activity in warm temperatures.

Travel with sunscreen of at least 30 SPF (sun protection factor) and insect repellent. Keep these items separate from food items by placing them in zip-top plastic bags, for example. Bring some hand wipes to clean your hands before eating.

Explore nutrition along with nature this summer. Check out our online and face-to-face Nourish options. Registration is open. You can learn about nourishing your bones, joints and skin in the comfort of your home or in a camper or tent with internet access. Register for the free seven-lesson online class at www.ag.ndsu.edu/nourish or check if your county NDSU Extension office is providing the classes.

You can put your food preservation skills to work for your outdoor adventures. Consider making jerky, dried fruit or dried fruit leather. Visit the NDSU Extension resources at www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and navigate to “Food Preservation and Wild Game” and “Food Safety” for more outdoor tips. Also see the “Drying Fruits” and “Jerky Making” publications. Many models of food dehydrators are available, and oven-drying is another option.

Here are some basic tips on making your own fruit leather from our fruit leather publication. The drying time will vary depending on the equipment, moisture content of the fruit leather and the humidity in the air.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Fruit Leather

1 cup rhubarb puree
1 cup strawberry puree
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Note: In general, three-fourths of a pound of fruit makes about 1 cup of puree. Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Thoroughly rinse soft-skinned fruits under running water. Cut fruit into chunks and place them in the top of a double boiler (or in a heavy pan with a small amount of water on very low heat). Place water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring it to a boil. Cover and steam the fruit for 15 or 20 minutes or until it is soft and a thermometer placed in the fruit mixture registers 160 F. Place the cooked fruit in a blender and puree. 

Spray a cookie sheet or similar flat tray with vegetable spray, or line the tray with plastic wrap or parchment paper and spray with vegetable spray. Another option is to use the specially designed plastic sheets for electric dehydrators and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure the tray has edges so the puree will not spill, and be sure the dimensions of the trays are about 2 inches smaller than the dimensions of the oven to allow for good air circulation.

Spread puree evenly onto the drying tray, about ¼ inch thick or less. A 12-by-17-inch cookie sheet holds about 2 cups of puree. Electric dehydrators typically run at 140 F. Oven temperature should be warm, not hot (less than 200 F), and you can leave the door slightly open to regulate the low temperature. Be sure the leather is dry to the point where no indentations are evident when you light touch the fruit leather. The leather should peel easily from the tray. Roll in plastic wrap and cut in strips. Store in an air-right container for up to two months at room temperature.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 13, 2024

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7006, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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