While browsing through several social networks, I often see posts saying "Kale is the new beef". Frequent shoppers of farmer's markets and stores like Whole Foods claim that the health benefits of kale are superior to that of beef. While I do grow kale and enjoy the taste, I do not particularly agree with this statement. Yes, kale grown in nutrient rich soils does have its health benefits, but I find them inferior to wild plants that grow throughout the US and beyond. Have you ever walked through cities or near abandoned buildings and found plants piercing their way thru cement? These plants posses vigor and intelligence that domesticated varieties simply don't have. Forget to water your garden for a few days in the summer and see how quickly your plants shrivel up and die. Meanwhile, wild plants like dandelion, plantain, nettle, and comfrey grow alongside your nicely manicured garden beds with fierceness and tenacity.
The indigenous people who once walked this land were said to be able to identify and process over 100 different plants. With deep respect, they utilized these plants for both their caloric and medicinal properties. Today, we eat mostly the same plants including, but not limited to alliums, brassicas, nightshades, amaranths, legumes, and a few others. Remember that when we go to the grocery store, although it may seem as if we have a large option of vegetables to choose from, most are just genetically modified version of the same plant.
Again, I don't mean to undermind the use of domesticated plants, as they make up a large portion of my diet. But I do wish to stress the importance of truly connecting with natural plants by getting outside and seeking out wild plants.
When it comes to health, there are very few educators who promote foraging and eating wild foods. Those who promote the Paleo diet, miss the boat completely by often never mentioning wild food consumption, when our Paleo ancestors would have been consuming many wild plants throughout the year. I guess when it comes to writing and selling books, most are reaching out to an audience that will be shopping at the supermarket and not heading out into the forest for meals.
Last weekend, I catered a workshop that focused on wild plant identification. Throughout the weekend instructor Arthur Haines helped the students identify dozens of plants that are now "in season" here in Maine. On Saturday night, I prepared a delicious meal made up of many wild foods including wild caught haddock, horseradish, Carolina spring beauty, fiddleheads, ramps, and burdock root. For dessert we shared wild grape mead and chaga tea. All the guests, and myself included felt nourished and energized from this meal that was picked just a few hours before it was prepared and consumed.
To sum up this post, I wish to encourage you to get outside, no matter what the weather is like, and find some wild food. Take a class with local foragers and learn to eat the foods that once nourished a nation of healthy people who lived void of modern day disease.