While this sounds like kind of a silly question, the fact is a good portion of camp chefs seem to concentrate heavily on the proteins and grains, yet skimp when it comes to vegetables. Maybe it’s the lack of access to fresh produce while exploring the back country or our primal instincts take over as we huddle around the campfire.
The New York Times just published an interesting article about “vegetable anxiety” and how to tackle summer’s vegetable bounty. While the article specifically focuses on how to tackle these vegetable issues in your home kitchen, some of the points made definitely cross over into the camping world.
There were a couple disturbing facts:
Americans eat an average of a little more than a cup of vegetables a day and a little more than a half-cup of fruit, or about a quarter of what the government recommends.
If this is what happens at home, then are we doomed at camp? Camp chefs work in a “kitchen” with limited resources. In most cases, there is no abundance of water, cooking tools, or a pantry stocked full of spices or seasonings. We make the most out of very little. However, all is not lost.
We would argue that if we tackled vegetables in the context of camp meals just as we prep our tents and tool kits, we’d be pleasantly surprised. With some proper planning, improved storage techniques, and a little education, cooking more vegetables at camp should be a breeze.
Here are a few ideas to think about when planning your next adventure:
Prepare a Meal Plan
The best way to get more vegetables in our meals is to add them back on the menu. Rather than being an afterthought, pick something in season and create a meal around the vegetable. Whether it be shiitake mushrooms or eggplant, build your sides around the vegetable as your main dish.
Improve Your Storage
Whether you’re on two wheels or four, rethink how you transport food to the campsite. Rather than toss everything in a single bag or box, separate fruits and vegetables just as you would the proteins and grains you’re already carrying. While this make take up a minimal amount of extra space, the lack of mushed greens or soggy fruit will be much appreciated by hungry campers come meal time.
Here are a couple links on storing fruit and vegetables. Modify the tips to fit your own specific needs:
- Storing Fruits and Vegetables (via FoodNetwork)
- Guidelines for Storing your Vegetables (via Angelic Organics)
- Spoiled Rotten – How to Store Fruits and Vegetables (via Vegetarian Times)
Hone Your Skills
While every camp chef carries a kitchen knife or pocket knife on them at all times, do they know how to use it when it comes to meal prep? The New York Times article said this can be a major crossroads between a meal with vegetables and a meal without:
Knife skills, of course, are where the rubber meets the road in vegetable cookery. If Americans are still not eating their vegetables, in many cases it’s not because they don’t like the taste: it’s because vegetables are implacably time-consuming to peel and cut.
Look for a knife-skills workshop or class at your local cooking supply store or culinary school. While you’ll probably cut more onions than you’ve ever cut in your life, the instruction and guidance from a culinary professional will go a long way in the field. These classes can range in price depending upon location, but a few dollars to eliminate some vegetable anxiety and add more greens into your diet might be well worth it.
Ask a Friend
We all know people that camp and many of them are excellent camp cooks. Odds are they’d be more than happy to share a recipe or two and give you some pointers about how to tackle adding more veggies. I have quite a few vegetarian and vegan friends that are a wealth of knowledge for ideas and recipes. Next time you plan an outing, add a “cooking class” to the agenda right after that hike around the lake. “On the campsite” training is by far the best place to learn from others and pick up a few pointers.
What are some of the ways you add more vegetables to your camp meals? How do you tackle the storage issue? Post some of your tips and tricks below and we’ll compile them into a future post of reader’s tips!