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The Green Life: Mixed Reviews: Our Trail-Mix Taste Test

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March 08, 2010

Mixed Reviews: Our Trail-Mix Taste Test

No one knows exactly when humans first paired nuts with dried fruit and thought, "Gorp! I must have this as I journey forth afoot." We do know, however, that the salty-sweet concoction now called trail mix became commercially available in the 1960s and that makers have been refining recipes ever since.

We recruited 15 hungry Sierra Club staffers to blind-taste and rate several varieties, the stipulation being that all the brands we tasted had to be Earth-conscious in some way (and therefore turned out to be more expensive than your average trail mix). The results were all over the map, so much so that we found only four worth recommending. More than one mixture received the lowest score of 1 from some tasters and the highest score of 10 from others — proving that one hiker's bird feed can be another's nectar. Here are Sierra magazine's top four brands.

GrandyOats: High Antioxidant Trail Mix
Score: 7.7 | $10 for 16 oz.

"Good if you like it simple and hearty" was the general impression of this "crunchy," "mellow," "very wholesome" blend of "plump and juicy" raisins, snappy almonds, huge walnut pieces, and mulberries. The GrandyOats Summit Blend scored well too. Both mixes are certified organic, and the company works with the American Hiking Society and other groups to maintain trails.

SunRidge Farms: Organic Hit the Trail Mix
Score: 7.2 | $4.59 for 8 oz.

"This made me feel like I was out hiking," one person said about this "rustic" blend. Others noted its "perfect combination of flavors," "old-school trail mix" taste, "many types of crunch," and "nice fruit-to-nut ratio." A few naysayers described it as "boring." The family-owned SunRidge's Wild Ginger Harvest Mix also received high marks. SunRidge is 70 percent solar-powered, uses biodiesel-fueled delivery trucks, and recycles.

Global Gardens: Global Peace Snackmix
Score: 6.3 | $11 for 8 oz.

"This is genius. It gives a whole new meaning to trail mix," one taster said about this "exotic," "bold" concoction. "Indian spices + chocolate + coconut = delish!" But not everyone was a fan: More than one called it "bizarre," and some complained about its "dirty appearance." A good summary: "Looks like dog chow, tastes like dessert." Global Gardens uses organic ingredients, sources locally, and recycles extensively.

Navitas Naturals Trail Power: 3 Berries, Cacao Nibs, Cashews
Score: 5.2 | $6 for 4 oz.

People either loved or hated this one. Lovers: "Yes! Fruit, fruit, and more fruit. It's a party in my mouth," and "Sexy and delicious! Makes me feel wild and free." Haters: "It looks like what I was told not to eat as a child," "last-resort food," "mushy texture," and "missing nuts." Navitas Naturals is a certified-organic company that gets ingredients directly from indigenous farmers around the world.

--Avital Binshtock

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