At the start of every growing season I play a game with my gas powered equipment. The game is to predict how many pulls on the starter cord it will take for the engine to start for the first time, with one pull of course, being the best as a positive indication of the future success and abundance for the year.Yesterday I looked at my rototiller and thought “one pull”. To say I was excited when it started with that first try is an understatement. It is going to be a great year!
I tilled some of my garden beds in anticipation of early sowing of peas, spinach, lettuce, radishes, etc. To be able to be out in the garden this early with dry conditions like yesterday is very unusual for New England.
Anyone who grows food for themselves or to sell knows that one can never ever take the growing process for granted. The calamities that can occur are nearly endless – plant disease, rampant insects, deer, rabbits, woodchucks, hail, too much rain, too little rain, and on and on. Most years are good to great with the worst occurrence being that one or several vegetables that are normally successful either fail or don’t grow well at all for reasons that can’t be determined. It’s always different year after year.
While I was sashaying behind my rototiller my heart soared as I discovered the bounty of all the almost ready to harvest spring “weeds” growing all over my field. In Greece these are known as “horta greens” and are one of the main reasons for the longevity of the Greeks. In another week or two I will be able to pick stinging nettle, dandelion greens, yellow and common dock and several varieties of mustard – all free highly nutritious foods – with no effort and ready weeks before the cultivated vegetables.
Did you know that only one cup of dandelion greens has one-half of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals recommended for our diets? Many wild plants are extremely nutrient dense, even more so that their cultivated superstar cousin greens (kale, collards, beets greens, mustards, and spinach).
I would never suggest substituting the cultivated plants exclusively with foraged ones but I want to begin to teach you how to identify and include them in small amounts on a weekly basis in your meals.
Some foraged plants (like dandelion) have a bitter taste which can be unpalatable to many people. Taste buds can be physiologically averse to bitter foods but a more likely explanation is that taste buds get trained based on the diet they are fed. We all know that too much salt and sugar are consumed in the Western diet and this over-consumption can overemphasize the bitterness of some foods. Bitter foods are important to consume regularly because they stimulate digestive enzymes and help the gall bladder release bile to enhance the digestive process.
There is a body of knowledge gaining momentum on the importance of eating a diet including a wide diversity of foods. This is the main focus of my educational and teaching activities. Get out of the habit of buying, preparing, and eating the same foods. Incorporate wide varieties of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, oils, etc. and add foraged wild greens, roots, and sea vegetables to insure a more healthful state of being.
Conscious Cuisine is dedicated to educating and exposing people to the variety of common and abundant plants that grow close by. I believe it is imperative that we take a greater responsibility for our individual health and the health of those in our community of family and friends. A great side benefit of this is a more connected relationship with nature – getting outside and exploring, especially with children, is revitalizing to all.
Those that know me personally or who have heard me present this information know that I am passionate about this mission. I am also always on the lookout for new information on health and healing to share with you.
This is my inaugural blog posting. In the future I will be offering all kinds of useful information and content with the goal of keeping it simple and understandable. This blog is for you and I welcome suggestions for topics that may be of interest. I am very excited to be starting the growing and foraging season so early this year and will keep you updated on many of the wild plants as they become available.
Looking forward to foraging with you soon!
In Health and Nature,