Autumn is such a transition time. While we bask in the glow from awesome summer outdoor missions, we also have to let go of the glorious summer weather, and accept that some items on that tick list will have to wait till next year. I don’t throw in the outdoor adventure towel come autumn, but it is hard to let go of summer. I try to eek out some last climbing and backpack trips before the winter weather takes over, but that’s a total gamble this time of year in the pacific northwest.
Just today my friends Mickey, Noah and I decided to cancel this week’s trip to the Enchantment Lakes area of Washington, due to a soggy weather window. We were heading up for a four day backpack loop in one of the most amazing alpine zones in the northwest, but we didn’t see any reason to just trudge around in the wet. One benefit of living so close to your destination when you have to cancel; you can save it for another time and not worry about wasting a plane ticket!
Aside from the obvious disappointment about not getting up there, I’m sad I won’t get to share some fabulous food with my friends – both of them eat on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and it’s so nice to share backcountry time and food with people who appreciate it!
All That Food…
For the past couple weeks, even though I knew the trip might get weathered out, I’ve been doing lots of meal planning and prep. I love to eat really well in the backcountry, and delicious, lightweight paleo trail food can’t be left for last-minute… that is, if you want more than snack bars and tea! Sitting in my kitchen are four days of awesome backcountry meals and snacks, and they’re waiting for a future date with my tummy. Can’t wait!
I had planned to do a series of posts on the complete backcountry meals after the trip. Since we cancelled, I thought I’d start now with a teaser on some simple items. I will be sharing the whole meals here on BCP over the next couple weeks… so hang on… there’s some seriously good backcountry grub coming your way!
My Secret Weapon
The first simple item I’ll share is one that has become a regular part of my diet – both in the backcountry and at home. I seriously can’t believe I haven’t shared these already; dried plantain chips… my secret weapon! Why? I don’t eat a lot of carbs, but I do need a certain amount to function well; having these chips around is my security blanket – no worries on a trip that I’ll crash due to not enough carbs! They help my body feel ready for what I ask of it. I love plantains fried in coconut oil and salt, but who wants to carry fresh plantains in the backcountry? Right. And, when I need a snack to go with me in town, these chips are a perfect road-worthy carb.
Okay, the first time I tried one, my response was, “Mmm. Chalky cardboard.” Really. But… wait… then… a complex, sweet taste bloomed, the texture was fine, and I wanted another. And another. And more. My body was all about that plantain goodness! They have a chewy, sweet flavor, and provide good levels of carbs, starch, potassium, and Vitamins C, B6, and A. Now I think plantain chips are the bees knees – I always have a stash of them saved for outdoor trips, and more often than not, they disappear before I even go. Yes, I have to make more because they are so worth it. One added benefit to having dried plantain chips along on the trail: They double nicely as poker chips. Edible money!
I like to use very ripe plantains for chips (black spots), which does increase the sugar content and reduce starch, but, in the backcountry I’m not worried about that. I’ll burn it quickly, and I prefer the taste compared to those made with green plantains. Your choice. I don’t recommend putting coconut oil on the chips before (or after) drying; it leaves them really leathery. Just get your coconut oil a different way when you are in the backcountry! I don’t even put salt on them, but I suppose you could.
- Peel and slice the plantains into discs about 1/4 inch thick.
- Spread on a dehydrator tray with room enough between for air flow.
- If using a mesh tray, don’t worry about flipping. If using a baking sheet in the oven flip half way through to assure even drying.
- Dry at 135°F for 6-10 hours, or until light and airy, not soggy. Drying time will depend on the moisture content in the plantains (riper = moister) as well as relative humidity. If using the oven, make sure it can stay at an even temp the whole time.
- Let cool completely before packaging. If any condensation occurs in package, return to dryer and dry for at least another hour.
- Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
- Try not to eat the whole batch before your trip.
Rationing Tip: Remember how many slices came from one plantain, so you can ration them properly on the trail. Otherwise, you may eat a lot more than you expect in one day!
Go Green or Go Ripe?
Lastly, if you’re wondering about green versus ripe plantains, here’s a bit of info that may help you make your choice:
You’ll hear conflicting opinions on plantains and bananas, when it comes to ripe and green. Ripe and green bananas and plantains both have potential benefits and drawbacks, depending on your body’s needs. Green plantains are high in resistant starch, which passes through the small intestines and functions similarly to insoluble fiber (a plus). Resistant starch helps force the body to use fat by blocking its ability to use carbs as fuel. It can also help increase insulin sensitivity, a benefit to those with blood sugar issues. The short-chain fatty acids produced by fermentation of resistant starch increase the ability of the body to absorb some nutrients, including calcium. However, some people do have bloating and gas with higher resistant starch, perhaps due to imbalances in the gut biome.
In ripe bananas and plantains, the starches are converted to sugars, which are more easily digested. However, that can be tricky for people with blood sugar balance issues because it feeds the blood sugar swings that cause problems. Ripe ones have a higher antioxidant content as well. I tend to avoid super ripe plantains, except when I fry them; they taste better to me that way and it’s a kind of treat for me since I don’t eat sweets. I know some people who prefer to fry green ones. As for crackers, ripe plantains make for a sweeter taste, but green ones make for a crunchier cracker. My sweet tooth leads me to use the ripe ones while it would likely serve my body better to use green ones. I believe that the final gauge of what to use should be determined by your body’s response.
2/4/15 edit: As I stated above, I usually make my plantain chips out of ripe plantains. Last week I made some out of green ones – so green they were hard to peel. The result: dry, chalky, not-quite-edible cardboard. I recommend letting your plantains get at least a bit ripe!