When I made plans to go camping last weekend, I also planned to skip my Friday organic produce box delivery — because who wants a fridge full of fresh produce when you’re a hundred miles away, floating on a blow-up raft and lazily admiring your lakeside campsite?
I logged in to my account and was about to hit “skip” when it dawned on me that there were plenty of fresh things I could take to enjoy in the great outdoors. So, instead of skipping, I customized my box to include fruits and veggies that would travel well in a cooler and be a welcome addition to our campground menu. Because one cannot live by crackers and Clif bars alone; or at least one shouldn’t.
Obviously, some produce items are destined to fare worse on road trips than others. Tomatoes and peaches, for example, are likely to bruise or get smooshed with anything less than the gentlest handling, and in all my years I’ve yet to see a head of lettuce emerge un-wilted on the second night of a trip.
My strategy is to bring things that are physically hardy and don’t need much refrigeration. Here are six items from my Golden Gate Organics box that I took camping last weekend, and all of them proved to be terrific choices:
Cantaloupe – A melon of any kind is always a welcome addition to a campout, but cantaloupe is my favorite because it comes in its own handy-dandy compostable bowl, meaning fewer dirty camp dishes.
Cucumbers – Cukes are wonderfully refreshing when it’s hot out, and dipping them in hummus makes an excellent snack. They’re great tucked into sandwiches too.
Celery — With its high water content, celery holds up surprisingly well in less than ideal conditions. A jar of peanut butter is the perfect companion for a mid-day, high-protein snack.
Corn – The official vegetable of summer is also the official vegetable of campfire cooks everywhere. Leave the husks on and soak the ears in water before tossing them on the grill alongside whatever else you’re firing up.
Apples – A perfectly portable pomme never fails to be just the right thing on a day hike.
Avocado – The humble avocado plays a crucially important role in my camp kitchen; it serves as a stand-in for mayo on sandwiches.
One of the most notorious sources of food poisoning in outdoor settings is mayonnaise because folks don’t do a proper job of keeping it cold. Forty degrees or cooler is what’s considered safe for foods that need refrigeration, and while most ice-filled coolers start out their journeys well within the safe range, a day or two later that is often no longer the case. Unless you have a thermometer, it’s hard to know when you’ve reached the tipping point, but even without that, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risks of bacteria growth and food-borne illness.
The FDA’s website offers these tips to help keep food safe in coolers and when preparing food outdoors:
* Freeze raw meat, poultry and seafood before packing it so it stays cold longer, and keep those items well wrapped and separate from fresh produce to avoid cross contamination.
* Put beverages and perishables in separate coolers so folks can help themselves to drinks without repeatedly exposing fresh produce to warm outdoor temperatures.
* Wash fruits and veggies really well before packing them, even items with thick rinds like melons.
* Remember to wash your hands before handling food, and make sure that utensils, dishes and surfaces are clean as well.
With just a little effort you can leave the crackers and Clif bars behind on your next camping trip and instead enjoy food that is fresh, as well as safe.
Happy summer adventures!