Foraging for Food - Nutrients are not only in your grocery store
The natural botanical world has always been intriguing to me. Farming, or agriculture as we know it, is still a relatively new concept. Before livestock and crops, we were hunters and gathers. However, the knowledge of what plants we gathered has somewhat been lost to history. That is not to say we do not know, it is simply no longer common knowledge whereas this knowledge used to be key to our survival. Why is it we don’t forage for our food and medicine anymore? Why is it we feel the need to terraform habitats and replace them with fields for crops? Simply put, it’s convenience- more food for “less” work. Agriculture has allowed humans to stay in one place and build settlements, cities and civilizations, paving the way for modern life.
However, this did not come without a price. We now live on this precious planet rather than within it. We traded quality for quantity. While early farmers concentrated on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients. Crops are also subject to disease, and when affected can cause situations like the potato famine of the 1840s - killing hundreds of thousands. Today just three high-carbohydrate plants - wheat, rice, and corn - provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.
So when we talk about what to forage, which plants are we talking about? Believe it or not, the common dandelion was actually brought to America due to its abundant nutrients and medicinal properties. It’s a great source of Vitamin A, B-6, C and K, protein, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Now we just see it as a weed; it’s all about perception. Those orange carrots you eat - descendants of plants like Queen Anne’s Lace- easily and commonly found along most roadsides in this area (not to be confused with poison hemlock- always be 110% sure what a plant is before you attempt to use it!)
If you are interested in knowing more about the wild plants that surround us, I highly recommend this website to get started: https://www.wildedible.com/foraging. It covers topics including Proper Identification of Wild Edibles, Sustainable Foraging, Foraging Safely, Start With Common Plants, and Improve Your Foraging Skills. If nothing else, enjoy the walk outside in the sunshine! Happy Foraging!
Food for thought: https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-the-human-race