I am currently reading the book, Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for Your Origin, by Gary Paul Nabhan.
I thought doing some book reviews might be a good way to get new ideas (or even old unknown or unremembered ideas) about health into your brain space before it becomes more mainstream to stay ahead of the curve.
This book is actually quite surprising, with a lot of research thrown into a cultural food hop around the world to explore how different traditional cuisines impact the genetics. I am only half way through it and I definitely recommend it.
This more epigenetic approach to our diet will more then likely, I believe, be somewhere the mainstream will be going after the experiments with paleo and vegan diets is played out and people return to more a diet of what our closer ancestors ate.
Only reason I am bringing this up is because the last chapter I read touched on the Cretan diet, which contains some of the highest ingested amounts of wild plants of any agriculture community.
That number being 150 different species!
Can you even identify 150 different plants (edible or otherwise) in the wild around the area you live? When is the last time you picked some leaves to throw in your salad?
Most city Americans will probably find the idea of adding wild greens to your food somewhat absurd, even if its not exactly an original one.
This makes me happy, because if everyone started “harvesting” the wild, pickings would get pretty slim pretty fast. That’s right, I said it, overpopulation is a bitch.
It should be noted though that this wild collection of plants for spices and flavors unwittingly helps the Cretans to be one of the healthiest populations on earth. Course that isn’t the only reason but its safe to assume it is one of the main ones.
This of course is a good reason to be taking medicinal herbs. More then anything else, they help us regain back some of that diversity of diet.
Another book showing how strong of a foundation these Cretan islanders have is that of Christopher McDougall’s, Natural Born Heroes. It provides many more reasons why Cretans are tough, enduring folk. Both books expand on things they do like:
A really high intake of high-quality oil (olive oil that is, which isn’t advised for those that did not grow up on that diet), a active lifestyle (just picking wild greens isn’t like your run of the mill office sitting job), more efficient movements, using fats as fuels instead of carbohydrates, and on, and on.
Personally, I have been making an effort to get back into the act of learning your landscape. Living in Santa Cruz (California), though limited by time, I got a good working knowledge of the plants in the area. Until recently, I have not spent pretty much any time doing that down here in Orange County (Southern California) where I live.
In my experience, everyone seems to have an innate interest in learning about their landscape to some degree. Maybe its just part of our hunter/gatherer heritage that goes unfulfilled for many of us, but people really perk up when plants and animals are discussed in wild settings, kids especially.
This is because we are hardwired to learn our environment.
If you so desire, here is some homework to test this out:
Go for a walk (even in a city neighborhood) and actually examine the plants around you.
While you might not know what they are, just inspecting these organisms with your senses (yes, use them all, taste and spit even) doing this on a regular bases imprints them into your subconscious. You begin to remember them without labels. Your mind will create its own constructs to make sense of the new sensations.
When you finally look some of these plants up, these mental constructs stand out and result in lasting impressions. You know the plant for good now. Basically, you just became best friends.
The act of doing this, interfacing with other living things you normally wouldn’t give much thought to, can quickly lead to a much more wholesome appreciation of life and its diversity.
In the next part I will give a personal example of what my walkabouts have produced towards my understanding of the landscape and its many uses for vibrant health.
If you self-gather at all, please let us know what you grab and for what do you use them.
For more on this check out this similar article: Herbs, Herbs Everywhere, but Not a Thought to Think