A single community averaged 120 wild species in their daily diet providing a massive range of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) and phytochemicals, such as plant-made serotonin that keeps us all happy. Each country studied records a dietary range of 300 to 600 wild species once eaten.
There were no simple divisions: we were hunter-gathers, cultivator-collectors, farmer-foragers, agro-pastoralists, fisher-foragers, and our strength was dietary diversity. It was never just farming until around 300 years ago (UK) and many other modern cultures still have over 20% wild food in their diets. In 12 remaining traditional hunter-gather communities studied, between 30% and 93% of calories are wild not farmed.
Sadly today over 50% of the entire globe’s daily calorie intake (and, I would argue, nutrient intake) comes from just 3 species – carb laden corn, wheat, rice. And 80% of calories from just 12 species – you know the other 9, those sad, tasteless, watery supermarket vegetables. No wonder city dwellers only have a third of the beneficial gut bacteria species that foragers have.
The result of the loss of our wild food diversity – and the exercise spent collecting and catching it – is that we have become sick, sad and obese!
As one researcher puts it the “gradual replacement by store-bought produce causes discernable and significantly negative impacts on nutritional security at household and community levels”.
I live in a field in West Lothian. 4 wild acres where I am planting and encouraging medicinal and foraging species. I have been fascinated by herbs and plants since childhood. My original interest was sparked by a wild childhood in Kenya, where I was introduced to herbal medicine by a local Kikuyu herbalist at the age of six. We were outdoors most of the time and I remember with joy the freedom of those early years. I love foraging for wild food as well as wild medicine and would happily never visit a supermarket again.
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