Why food tastes better outside

Bringing snacks on a forest bath is an absolute must

I have a big bike messenger backpack filled with journeying essentials that I often carry when I’m leading a group on a forest bath. I usually have a picnic blanket, a first aid kit, essential oils, a stick of palo santo, a book of poems, a deck of Rumi cards, some extra layers and most importantly — snacks.

Let’s be clear — my big white backpack is filled mostly with snacks!

The key to connecting to nature is slowing down, clearing your mind, and engaging your senses. If you’ve ever tried to engage all five senses at once, you’d find that it’s hard to think about anything. You’d be completely present. Taste, touch, smell, see, hear. Be.

Eating mindfully — that is, really taking the time to observe and taste — is a way to engage all your senses. When you eat mindfully in nature, you’re getting a double benefit.

There’s a scientific reason why food taste better outside. Evolutionarily, we’re programmed to relax in nature. The landscape elicits a soft focus from us to calm our nervous system down after being in a fight-or-flight scenario…As a species we’re not actually in fight-or-flight mode anymore but the demands of modern life trigger and trigger and trigger this. And so we need more time in nature to counter this. When we are relaxed, our parasympathetic system (known as the “rest-and-digest” branch) kicks in.

I sometimes bring elements of foraging to forest bathing. I’ll point out wild radish, wild onions, nasturtium, and other edible plants along the forest bath. Being able to touch, smell, and taste the plants creates a multi-sensorial experience that makes cures our modern ailments like FOMO and endless scroll syndrome.

What’s magical about foraging is it really cultivates this sense that nature provides for us with such awesome abundance if we know how to look for it. It will provide the thing you need at the exact right time. For example, miner’s lettuce and stinging nettles pop up in the springtime in the Bay Area. It’s nature’s way of telling us that spring is the time to eat leafy greens and revive our system after winter.

Miner’s lettuce and sharpie: nature is the original greens cleanse

Picking wildflowers is such a thrill. It feels illicit because they are so beautiful. (Note: It is actually illicit in some places. The laws and ethics of foraging are complicated. Basic common sense is only pick where the wild food is abundant, only take what you need, and always leave more than you take.)

The ritual of slowing down to pick flowers and thanking the universe for providing such beauty, then bringing them home to wash them and cook with them is in itself healing. It nurtures a real connection to the land. And eating flowers brings about such joy. Who can be upset with a mouth full of flowers?

Lately I’ve gotten really into making healthy barks like this and this to bring on forest baths. They are surprisingly easy to make and are a nice treat (full of good fats and protein and no processed sugar) when you’ve been outside for a few hours. Even though forest bathing is slow-paced, there’s something about being in nature that really works up the appetite.

White chocolate cashew butter bark with slivered almonds and raspberries

Here is a paleo bark recipe I adapted from the Unconventional Baker. I added foraged nasturtium and wild radish flowers.


INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup melted cocoa butter
  • ¼ cup almond butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp maca powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup washed wildflowers (I used nasturtium and wild radish)
  • a few tbsp cacao nibs

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients, except flowers and nibs in blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Line flat plate with parchment paper. Pour the blended mixture onto the parchment paper and use a spoon to spread it out flat to about ¼″ thickness.
  3. Sprinkle with flowers and cacao nibs.
  4. Place the tray in the freezer and allow it to set for about an hour.
  5. Remove from freezer, rough chop it with a knife and enjoy! If you’re putting it in a backpack, place in a container and not a plastic bag so it doesn’t smoosh

We served this with turmeric almond milk lattes on a recent Mother’s Day Earth Mother Forest bath after a brief meditation focusing on gratitude for the mother figures who have supported each of us in our lives.

Paleo white chocolate bark with almond butter, cacao nibs, and foraged flowers

The turmeric almond milk lattes are also really easy to make. I make big batches of turmeric paste ahead of time and then just scoop a few spoonfuls into a pot of warm almond milk. Here’s the recipe (adapted from Mind Body Green)

Make the turmeric paste—

Blend 5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, 1/2 cup organic turmeric powder, 1 cup water, and 1.5 teaspoons black pepper in a pot and simmer for about 10 minutes

When the paste cools, place it in mason jar. Take a dollop and add to warm milk whenever the mood strikes. The paste will keep for about two weeks.

I always make a big enough for the whole group and pour it in a thermos to bring on forest baths.

Pouring turmeric lattes during a full moon bath at Land’s End

If you live in the Bay Area, I lead regular forest baths with The Forest Bathing Club — join our MeetUp! I’m also available for private and corporate forest baths.

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