This just in: Paleo is more than you thought it was.
We get 60% of our nutrition from just three plant crops, yet there are some 50,000 species of edible plants in the world! Just think what we’re missing by eating such a restricted diet; all the many flavours, trace elements, nutrients, minerals, amino acids and other essential nutritional, dietary and culinary components of this full colour plant spectrum. It follows from this that wild plants can play an important role in balancing out the nutrient deficits from the three staple crops, as well as making eating so much more interesting.
In Spain alone, there are 420 species of edible plants and until very recently their collection and addition into everyday meals was common place. Here in Facinas, where Earth Strength has its base, the ancient practise of foraging for wild greens and herbs continues. The locals can be found scouring the hillsides, meadows and hedgerows for wild delicacies as their ancestors did before them. Many of these wildings find their way into the local economy as well as traditional recipes.
Just today I went into one of the many tiny shops of this village and there were three different sorts of edible wild plants for sale on the shelves; wild asparagus, tagarninas (Spanish oyster plant – a member of the thistle family) and campion. My local cafe serves fried nettles to garnish the hand-made goats cheeses and te de roca, an infusion made from a plant called Jasonia glutinosa is served after a meal. Everywhere here people drink poleo, which is a minty tea made from pennyroyal – a herb that is extremely rare in the UK, though common in Spain.
Sadly and despite the fact these traditions are continued in places such as this village, so much knowledge is being lost as we become ever more reliant on supermarkets and processed foods. A lot of this wisdom could disappear within just one generation unless something is done to preserve this ancient heirloom from our hunter gatherer past. Even here in Facinas, with each death the wisdom dwindles and the lore of 1000 generations becomes nothing more than a quaint folk memory.
And lets be clear, this is an ancient knowledge, one that has been passed down over literally millions of years and was instrumental in supporting our evolution. Along with tracking, learning which plants were edible and which poisonous were amongst our first forays into what would much later be called science.
One of the primal ways of learning this great herbal has been through song. Even now in the 21st century as Aboriginal women walk through the outback, they are singing wild foods into existence along their songlines, which are literally symphonic maps of the wild.
The loss of this tradition and our increasing disconnect from the natural world is also having a profound effect on our health; as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other physical problems of the first world are attributed to our modern diet. To combat this there are thousands of books, DVD’s, TV programmes, diets, exercise regimes and self help gurus offering every conceivable (and inconceivable) sort of advice on how we can make ourselves healthy and conform to the ‘ideal’ body image.
Thankfully away from the celebrity chef’s latest DVD advice on diet there are actually a number places on earth that stand out as beacons of well being and longevity. These are the so called Blue Zones where the people who live there enjoy long, happy and healthy lives. These Blue Zones will form the topic of an upcoming blog post from us, so I will leave the description of them there for now.
Their relevance to this piece however, is that one of the reasons for the good health of the people who live within them is the common practise of collecting wild greens to add to their diet.
The importance of this practise goes way beyond the added nutrition they get from eating the foods. It is also about the movement required to obtain them; walking and climbing through the mountains, the sense of tradition and connection to place as well as the healing power of being immersed in nature.
Part of the rewilding element of an Earth Strength course is learning about the amazing edible and medicinal plants of this area. We will go back to our roots as hunter gatherers as we move through this beautiful landscape, engaging all the senses and connecting with the earth. We will help you turn nature into a book to be read rather than a story to be feared and teach you the soundtrack of the wilderness as we navigate the songlines of this ancient landscape.
You will discover that the wild flowers of this area not only feed you, they are a rich source of natural medicines and can be turned into ropes, baskets, tools and shelter. They can help you to navigate, to find safe drinking water and to preserve and flavour food.
On an Earth Strength course you will be cooking delicious foods over a campfire, flavoured with the herbs and greens that you have discovered. This is a real paleo experience and one that is far removed from the advertising hype and processed foods of that current lifestyle diet choice.
This is where we practice being human.