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Celebrating a favorite hiking snack on National Trail Mix Day

August 31st is National Trail Mix Day

Some of my fondest memories are hikes I have taken with my father. From riding in a hiking pack at six months old to tackling the trails through the Grand Canyon, we have taken advantage of every opportunity to strap our hiking boots on and hit the nearest trail. Dad would point out the different kinds of cacti and lichens and I would watch out for squirrels, chipmunks and lizards. If the shadow of a hawk swept over our path, we both would stop and watch in open-mouth amazement as it hunted for its lunch. Every hour or so, my father would find a sturdy boulder in the shade and pull out a water bottle and a bag of trail mix. Together we would pick out our favorite ingredients. He went for the raisins and peanuts. I scarfed down the M&Ms. Trail mix has always been our snack of choice when hiking. We took bags of it with us when we hiked the Grand Canyon and while my taste buds would have preferred cheese crackers, the nuts, fruits and sweets gave me the energy to put one exhausted foot in front of the other.

In light of National Trail Mix Day (yes, apparently that’s a thing), I am dedicating a post to the snack that has never failed to provide energy, nutrition and fond memories during outdoor adventures.

Trail mix is most likely humanity’s oldest snack. Anthropologists believe that ancient nomads carried bags of dried berries, nuts, seeds, and dried meats while moving from place to place. They needed something lightweight and energy efficient in order to cross vast distances quickly. This snacking strategy continued through the ages. Roman soldiers carried small wheels of hard cheese filled with dried figs and dates, seeds and cured meats during their marches across the countryside. The fat from the cheese and meats gave them the energy they needed to march all day and battle with an opposing army in the afternoon. World explorers have carried similar mixtures of nuts, seeds and dried fruits and meats as well. Quick energy came from the dried fruits while the sustained energy was supplied by the protein in the seeds and nuts. Salty dried meats like jerky or bacon helped replace the sodium lost during the day. The typical mixture of peanuts, raisins, oats, and chocolates wasn’t given the name “trail mix” until 1968 when two companies in California started selling it to the masses.

Nearly every country has its own name and version of trail mix. Ajil is a popular Persian type of trail mix combining pumpkin seeds, pistachios, almonds, figs, mulberries, dried chickpeas, raisins and currants, among other tasty ingredients. Basic panforte in Italy is little more than fruit, nuts, honey, and chocolate. Citizens in New Zealand and Iraq pack a similar mix called scroggin in their backpacks as well.

When putting your own mix together, don’t leave out the five super ingredients that will provide nutrients and reliable energy. Raw almonds (packed with muscle-building protein, monounsaturated fat and vitamin E), dark chocolate, unsalted shelled pumpkin and sunflower seeds, freshly ground flax seeds (rich in omega-3 fatty acids), dried fruits with no sugar added, and toasted rolled oats (add a hint of vanilla or cinnamon to this high fiber ingredient). Add a few pretzels or salty crackers to the mix to help replenish sodium.

My favorite outdoor snack recipe features dried cranberries and black cherries, pecans, walnuts, raw slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, and 70 percent dark chocolate. So good.

Recipe ideas:

  • allows you to mix your own trail mix if you don’t have a bulk section at your super market.
  • Also, check out this Rainforest Alliance trail mix recipe featuring sustainable ingredients.  

Tell us your favorite trail mix memory and share your recipes in the comments section below!

August 30, 2014

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