Why should I eat wild?

 “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates, ages ago

This post is dedicated to everyone out there who does a little shudder at the thought of eating leaves straight off a tree. I get it. Honestly, I do. Intellectually we know that the food we buy from the supermarket grows in the ground just like that plant growing in the ground in the wild, but for some reason our emotional response is not always on a par.

So, if the pure joy of getting food for free isn’t enough. If the delight of knowing that your lunch has zero food miles doesn’t have you picking away. If you still have a voice in the back of your head saying, ‘yes, but they’re leaves!’ Then perhaps this post will convince you.

The first thing to note is that farmed produce – i.e. the fruit and veg you buy in a grocery store – has been proved to be significantly lower in trace elements and minerals than it was in 1940. Click to read the full article. (sorry, I haven’t a clue how to make a footnote in wordpress)

From this, it is not difficult to extrapolate that modern, intensive agriculture practices, and genetic modification of food stocks where produce is bread for colour, size and shape, is causing changes to the nutrient structure of the crop. That’s not hard to buy, is it?

As examples, certain types of wild apples, when compared to a supermarket Golden Delicious, contain 100 times the phytonutrients. Or consider that a purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. (If I knew how to make a footnote, I’d put one in here to explain that a phytonutrients are the various substances found in foods that are thought to benefit health and that anthocyanins are free-radical busting, immune-system boosting elements that give produce its rich colours).

So, supermarket food is less-healthy than it was in the middle of the last-century and communities who have not heavily agrculturalised (is this actually a word? thoughts on a postcard…) their produce continue to maintain higher nutrient density in their foods. We can only assume that the drop in nutrient content will continue into the future as factory-farming of spinach and the like, intensifies to meet global demand.

If that isn’t enough to get you to hop off the supermarket veggie train, then consider a comparison between the nutritional components of wild food versus cultivated options. We all agree that spinach is a superfood, right? (I mean, if you can say the word superfood without gagging then you’d agree, no?)

Dandelion leaves contain 7 times the phytonutrients of spinach. 7 times. This news must surely bring joy to any parent who’s had to cajole ‘just two more bites’ out of resistant toddler – imagine, if you’d served them sauteed dandelion instead of sauteed spinach, they’d only need 2 bites in total!

In 2013 some actual sciencey-types conducted a study which found that the wild berries available in Alaska were 3 to 5 times higher in anti-oxidants than cultivated varieties found in supermarkets .  Click here if you don’t believe me.

I could make you a really long list of all of the wild plants and foods that are much higher in nutritional content than a similar, store-bought relative, but then I’d be actually doing my job here and you’d all be bored. Because I know that what you actually need is further convincing, not facts.

Let’s turn then, to the mystical, magical worlds of herbology and what is commonly referred to as Chinese medicine. I’m going to put in a little disclaimer here that says that however many times you’ve heard me take the mick out of alternative anythings, I want you to know that I truly and honestly believe in the wisdom of thousands of years of human evolution and will not discount any of the following as witchcraft. I mean it is, but you know, witchcraft has its uses.

Since the 1st century, hawthorn has been used for treating heart problems, respiratory illnesses and circulatory disorders. It is also still frequently used to treat anxiety disorders and promote immunity, two benefits we could all do with a bit more of these days. (no points for guessing what my next blog post is going to focus on!)

Tea tree, echinacea, lavender and turmeric are all readily and comfortably known to contain healing, anti-inflammatory, immune-system boosting nutrients. But plenty of weeds (don’t get me started on calling them weeds) comfrey, burdock, plantain and nettles, amongst others, contain equally high levels of medicinally valuable nutrients.

We all know the powerful capacity of some of those rockstar plants: foxgloves contain digitalis, a compound that has been synthsised and is used to fight heart failure; poppies contain opium which, in the wrong hands produces heroin, but in the hands of the scientists gives us morphine, a drug that almost everyone knows someone who’s had it at one point or another. yada yada

The last, but possibly most important point, is fairly irrefutable, but since people do like to argue (and since we’re all stuck at home maybe we have a bit more time for it) I’ll supply you with a few links in a minute. But for now, just listen…

GOING OUTSIDE AND PICKING FOOD IS BETTER FOR YOU THAN SITTING AT YOUR DESK GETTING STRESSED BECAUSE YOU’RE NUMBER 33,000 IN THE OCADO QUEUE.

Viruses do not like sunshine, which makes me like them even less than I already do because, seriously, who doesn’t like sunshine?

Getting down and dirty with the soil improves your mental health, because even though it would be easy to lump all of these little critters into one negative group, the truth is that there are loads of really helpful microbes out there who are desperate to protect us.

Exercise helps keep your immune system functioning and the heavy breathing associated with exercise helps force foreign bodies away from the lungs (which is a darn sight more useful information than getting told to gargle with vinegar).

But, most importantly, going out for regular walks is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. And I think we all know that, as we face the unknown weeks and months ahead, nothing is more important than keeping a handle on our own anxiety.

So there you have it. The food you have been eating isn’t as good for you as it used to be and eventually will be even less-good for you. The free food that’s all around you (possibly even in your garden waste because you think they’re weeds!) is higher in nutrient values than a lot of the stuff that you’re spending your hard earned pennies on. Wild food is full of all sorts of healthy little bits and pieces which, should you care to do some actual research, you might even find could replace your daily multivitamin. And to top it all off, the simple act of going outside to pick the stuff, even if you get it home and decide that you simply cannot bear to eat it, is going to keep you well.

Now get out there and get picking. Your immune system will thank you for it.

And I thank you for reading. If you’re enjoying my blogs and would like to support me, please feel free to donate – even just a few pence is really appreciated. If you cannot donate, please know that I will be really grateful to you for sharing these posts along. Thank you.

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