Happy National Trails Day! We know you’re gearing up to get outside and explore Iowa’s trails with the Iowa By Trail app, so consider bringing along a satisfyingly sweet and salty snack — trail mix.
Trail mix, or gorp (said to be an acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts” or “granola, oatmeal, raisins and peanuts”), has ancient roots. Nomadic tribes used to mix together dried fruit, nuts and meat together to take on long journeys. They needed lightweight, high energy, nutritious food that didn’t require cooking and could be stored for long periods of time. Native Americans had their own version of trail mix — pemmican, which consisted of dried buffalo, moose, or caribou mixed with dried berries and animal fat — that lasted for months.
Despite this history, two companies, Harmony Foods and Hadley Fruit of Orchards of California, claim that the name “trail mix” was invented by surfers who mixed together peanuts and raisins to keep up their energy. In New Zealand, trail mix is called scroggin, which supposedly stands for sultanas, chocolate, raisins, and other goody-goodies including nuts (but that’s most likely just folk etymology). Many European countries named the mix as a staple for students, a cheap snack usually accompanying a drink. For example, in Denmark, it’s known as Studenterhavre, “student oats,” and in Germany it’s known as Studentenfutter, “student feed.” Whichever word or meaning you choose to use, this treat will still taste delicious.
Trail mix in a great on the go, and can be made easily with whatever you have on hand. The key is to mix salty and sweet flavors and crunchy and soft textures. You can find an easy, versatile recipe for trail mix here. Some of my favorite additions to trail mix are coconut chips, crystallized ginger, pumpkin seeds, sesame sticks, pretzels and dark chocolate chips. Fuel up for the trail with your own favorite combination, and continue to explore trails with Iowa By Trail all summer long!