If you think of summers of the past, do the times that you were walking in the woods seem really peaceful and idyllic? The Japanese call the phenomenon shirin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” and believe that a walk among the leaves is good for your emotional and physical health.

Being in nature nourishes us almost as much as food. Japanese studies show that taking a 40-minute walk in the woods reduces stress, depression, hostility, insomnia and high blood pressure, measurably more than an indoor walk.

Here in Minnesota, our bountiful green spaces and lakes are ready to help. No matter how busy you are, you have to take time to eat, so why not eat outside?

You can forest bathe with an energy bar, but a colorful, crunchy, packable meatless meal in a bowl is more in the spirit of nature.

This easy wheat berry salad is a celebration of the season’s fresh strawberries and spearmint, giving it a fresh, sweet appeal. Wheat berries won’t wilt in a dressing and hold a tender crunchiness that pops when you chew. Walnuts add protein and heart-healthy fats.

Find wheat berries, sold in bulk or in bags, in natural foods stores and most grocery stores. You could also use spelt, kamut or farro, all of which are varieties of wheat, in this recipe.

Unlike some grains, wheat berries are almost impossible to mess up. Simply simmer them in plenty of water for about 45 minutes, then test one by letting it cool for a few seconds before biting the grain. When the grain is tender in the center, drain well and let cool.

Once your salad is tossed, pack it to go. A wide-mouth quart jar is perfect, but I’ve even packed this in a gallon zip-top bag and carried forks and cups to serve it in. Just don’t crush the delicate strawberries.

Then pack this easy, fruity salad out to the nearest green space.

Take a moment to soak in nature, and nourish your body and soul.

Wheat Berry, Strawberry and Walnut Picnic Salad

Serves 4.

Note: Strawberries and mint give this salad color and sweet, herbal flavors. The hearty wheat berries and walnuts give it plenty of satisfying chewiness to make you feel full longer. Wheat berries are available at most supermarkets and at natural food stores. If you prefer, substitute the wheat berries with spelt, farro or kamut. If you want a little more protein, add 4 ounces of crumbled feta or cubed fresh mozzarella. From Robin Asbell.

• 1 c. wheat berries (see Note)

• 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered

• 2 medium green onions, sliced

• 1/2 c. walnut halves, coarsely chopped

• 1/2 c. fresh spearmint, slivered

• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

• 2 tbsp. honey

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


In a 1-quart pot, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and return to boil, then reduce the heat to hold a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Test by biting a kernel of grain. When tender, drain the grain and rinse with cold water, drain and place in a large bowl. Let the wheat berries cool to room temperature.

Add the strawberries, green onions, walnut halves and slivered mint.

In a cup, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk to mix. Pour the dressing over the wheat berry mixture and toss to combine.

Serve or refrigerate for up to 2 days.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.