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Why Eat Wild Food?

--by Dolores L. Nyerges

Copyright 1996, all rights reserved.
(courtesy of Dolores L. Nyerges, used with permission)
(See the original article here

      When Christopher began preparing the book Guide to Wild Foods for republication, I found myself thinking that I'd like to write a chapter on the benefits of using wild food on a daily basis. I'd come to so appreciate the many wild foods we had available, and frequently used.

     The chapter seemed (almost) to write itself. After publication, I continued researching and studying some of the topics mentioned. Soon I had so much more that I wanted to share that I created this booklet, which contains the original chapter and the additional data and new or expanded thinking which resulted from the continued work. The new data is in italics.

WHY EAT WILD FOOD?

  "Live light upon the land
if you would not be earthbound."
     --Shining Bear

     For years I thought "Wild food would get me through an emergency, so I'm glad I'm familiar with the local wild plants." Though I used wild food somewhat frequently, this context lurked, unacknowledged, as one of the larger motivators for that use. It was only after marketing Wild Salad (a mix of wild greens) through the local Certified Farmers' Markets that I began to appreciate the broader opportunity that my knowledge affords. I was listening to our sales spiel:

      "These greens are fresh, picked this morning. Many of them are more nutritious than regular produce. They have never been fertilized, waxed, nor treated with pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. They've not been genetically engineered. We wash our hands before we pick them and then use tongs or gloves for any subsequent handling. And your dollars don't support greedy agribiz."

     From hearing that spiel, and thinking into the deeper meanings and ramifications, I saw my knowledge of wild food in quite a different way, and realized that there were several very good reasons to use wild food on a daily basis. And, from that process within myself, this chapter sprang to life.

Freshness

     It's hard to tell how fresh grocery store produce is. We know that most produce comes from afar, and thus must be at least a few days old. Irradiation, refrigeration, fungicide, and wax promote the appearance of freshness long after an item would normally have shown signs of deterioration. Aging produce loses its vitality quickly. We have seen reports from studies which measured the vitamin and mineral loss as various fruits and vegetables sat on the grocery shelf.

     In agribiz, saleability takes priority over real freshness. Produce is hybridized specifically to make it more marketing-hardy, and many things are picked before they are ready so that spoilage and bruising will be minimized during the trip from farm to store. Many objectionable things are done to produce to present a fresh appearance.

      Until I actually worked in the Certified Farmers' Markets, I had generally assumed that the produce available there was fresh, and that asking the merchants was a reliable way to get information about their produce (was it sprayed, etc.). I hasten to interject that I've concluded that the Certified Farmers' Markets are the best "commercial" source of produce available to those fortunate enough to have access to them, but one needs to shop with discretion. Many farmers pick the whole crop at once and then "preserve" it for the selling season. Apples, stone fruit, and grapes may be weeks or months old due to cold storage. One must ask each farmer/merchant, always recalling that not everyone sees the value of honesty. A fruit merchant lied to me for a couple of seasons about having unsprayed fruit. Discovering the lie was a shock -- it awoke me to the need to be more careful.

      When one knows and uses the local wild foods, genuine freshness is assured. One can also harvest the food when it is at its peak of readiness.

     Edgar Cayce said at various times during his readings that produce grown in one's locale is preferable to that brought in from afar. This was partly about freshness, but also was about a particular suitability of local flora as pertains to the consumer's physical affinity to the locale.

Avoid Hybridization/Genetic Engineering

     As we've mentioned, plants destined for the table are hybridized with saleability as the main goal. Nutritional value, flavor, and other important qualities are given less consideration. Though this is a controversial subject, there is research material available which suggests that agribiz hybridization is an unsound practice. Many hybrids couldn't survive without the intense agribiz processes of "farming." Consider, for example, the seedless grape and watermelon -- how would they propagate in the wild?

     Genetic engineering is yet another means to the goal of maximum-saleability. Avoiding such "creations" will probably be challenging in the foreseeable future even if laws require they be identified on the grocers' shelves. Produce ends up in many food products (such as frozen pizza), and the manufacturer of same may not know as much as we'd like about the produce bought for his product, nor will he necessarily be required to share such details with us, the consumers. Not only might the processed food in the grocery store be of uncertain "heritage," but the dishes served in restaurants as well. Our ability to choose what we eat is seriously threatened. If, for example, one has opted for vegetarianism on moral grounds, it will probably become ever more difficult to be certain we aren't eating something we'd object to.

     Wild edibles have the opportunity to be naturally strong, healthy, and adaptable. "Survival of the fittest" is their unspoken motto. Without the unwise intervention of Mammon-focused humans, the unfit plants simply don't survive.

      In the year since I wrote this section of the chapter, I've accumulated alot of data on genetic engineering. Many items that have been genetically altered are now available in the marketplace.

     The Calgene (called FlavrSavr) tomato has been sold in the U.S. Another type of tomato is, according to the BBC, now being sold in the United Kingdom in a tomato paste product. This UK tomato has an added gene that increases storage-life. The product was approved by the British government because the genetic alteration is considered "inert." The reporter opined that government approval would be more difficult to get for the"genetically-active" foodstuffs planned for release in the marketplace in the near future. The U.K. product is also labeled as "genetically modified." The Canadian government does not require that genetically-altered food products be labeled, according to this same reporter.

     The growth hormone, bovine somatotropin, is injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. This hormone, abbreviated BST, is produced naturally in cows' pituitary glands but has never been available in large amounts. Genetically altered bacteria are now used to make large amounts of the hormone for commercial use.

     Another genetically-altered product is a vaccine given to chickens and turkeys. A gene was taken from the Newcastle disease virus and was inserted into Fowl Pox virus. This vaccine is said to protect the birds from both diseases.

     Media reports cite numerous plans and experiments for ways of genetically engineering drugs for human beings. Researchers are now genetically altering pigs in hopes the animals will provide replacement organs for human surgical patients.

     Farmers now have access to numerous genetically-altered seeds (which will be used to grow our food crops). There are types of genetically-altered corn, soybeans, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and canola (for oil-production). The "benefits" listed for these new food-sources sound "good."

     "Plant breeders already are churning out new crop varieties with greater levels of protein, oil, starch, and amino acids and better cooking and manufacturing characteristics. Animal breeders are developing livestock that produce less fat and cholesterol."

     In all cases I've become aware of, the alterations are for the purpose of increasing profits. Look for yourself behind the claims of "this will stop a disease, or foil a pest, or allow for longer storage" for the reason these genetic alterations are made. Consider a few quotes I selected here and there, mostly from the Internet:

     "Roundup resistance is 'a major breakthrough in soybean production technology' with the potential to change the whole price structure in the herbicide market."

     "Weed control with Roundup may cost as little as $5 per acre."

     "The Bt gene protects potatoes from the Colorado potato beetle, an insect that costs farmers as much as $200 per acre to control using conventional insecticides."

     "European corn borers cause as much as $1 billion in yield losses each year in the U.S. Each corn borer causes a yield reduction of 5% per plant, and a field with an average of three ECB per plant could suffer losses of $50 per acre. Tests by university researchers show that Bt corn provides 94% control of severe ECB infestations."

     "Bt hybrids yielded an average of 13.76 more bushels per acre than did hybrids without the Bt gene."

     "This technology is powerful, but it must add to the bottom line."

     "The first biotech food crop approved for planting was developed for its longer shelf life and vine-ripened taste. Instead of selling seed with the gene to farmers, the company decided to enter the tomato production and marketing business directly. The company's motive stemmed from the size of the respective markets. The market for tomato seed is only $15 to $20 million, while the market for the sale of branded fresh tomatoes is estimated at $3.5 billion."

     And the following quote reveals to me the attitude of these big companies toward their fellow human beings, called so cavalierly "the consumer":

     "...the public uproar over genetically altered crops seems to be on the wane. As (big bio-genetics company) executives put it in their most recent annual report, 'The threats and bombast of the biotech opponents have proved to be hollow and now seem largely irrelevant'."

      Irrelevant?

     I've felt leery about the idea of genetic alteration ever since I first heard of it. Though I find that facts and thinking are generally the better resources for decision/choice-making, I always pay heed to that inner alert. So, I set out to find someone involved in the work of genetic engineering who would talk honestly with me about the things that should concern us "consumers." After having more than one "door shut in my face," I had the good fortune to correspond with Douglas Lundberg, a teacher of genetic engineering at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. I Asked specifically about the chances of genetically-altered flora passing their genetic characteristics to the wild flora. I'd seen an article in the Los Angeles Times about genetically-altered crops passing the herbicide-resistant gene to adjacent "weeds," so I naturally wondered how safely we may assume our wild flora are or will be purely natural. Mr. Lundberg replied (I've lightly edited, for grammar):

     "I feel a bit uneasy about this because it is pure speculation.
     But, as I see it: There is some reason for caution. Our current method of gene transfer is with DNA that has 'markers' so that we can determine if actual transformation has taken place. With the Flavr-Svr tomato, there is a gene for resistance to a particular antibiotic, chloramphenicol (spelling might be off) in every cell of the tomato. This probably will do no harm to humans, but certainly increases this 'natural' gene's presence in our biosphere. Good or bad, I don't know. My concern is what 'marker' will be used tomorrow and what may be the ramifications of such widespread existence? Today might be OK, tomorrow might not.

      The scientist's problem is that the unknown is so much larger than the known.

     Can the genes be transferred in the 'wild'? My opinion is yes. Bacteria, viruses and just normal uptake may spread the genes to other plants. At this point, that may not be bad, but we just do not know.

      Let me start at the beginning. In the 80s, we learned that one can transfer genes through a virus or a 'plasmid.' That is, we can isolate a gene, insert it into a virus and then put the virus into a cell -- any cell, human, bacteria or plant. This is called "transformation". We thought that it was new and 'invented by man.' Apparently not so. Since then we (in the 90s) have found that bacteria can transfer genes to other organisms under certain circumstances. We have now even found that bits of DNA (genes) laying around from dead organisms can be taken up by living organisms. For instance, if a plant dies and decays in the wild, part of its DNA can be taken up by one-celled organisms and transferred to others naturally. It appears that gene transfer is more of a natural mechanism than was ever thought.

      To go on, DNA is DNA. It does not matter if it is from a hippo, mouse, bacteria, oak tree, cow or human. The alphabet is the same! So genes can be transferred AND functional because of this universality of the DNA code."

     A couple of people expressed concerns similar to mine in a Forum on-line (lightly edited for grammatical purposes):

      "Can anyone help me understand why everybody seems to want to get in to industrial genetics for food? The benefits seem to be that tomatoes survive the frost, potatoes get larger, etc. (yes, and maybe one finds a cure for cancer and/or a way to feed the starving millions in the world) ... but the main idea seems to be that the food giants get even bigger profits.

     The risks seem to me to be unknown consequences to the people eating the genetically-altered food (is anyone going to believe that one can ascertain all the consequences in advance?), that a virus gets genetically-altered 'by accident' with unkown consequences ...

     Thus it seems to me that the risks are much greater than the potential for benefit and that maybe we should leave this pandora's box closed. Yes, even at the risk of not finding a cure for cancer now.

      Or am I missing something ?"
--Michael Salmony (Natural Medicine Forum on CompuServe).

     "The genetic alterations are not all good. The new attempts (successful) at producing a super soybean with Brazil Nut genes backfired. Thousands of people are severely allergic to Brazil Nuts. Early tests showed that these people were now allergic to this super soybean. What will happen when a genetically altered food contains several or dozens of other food genes? I've written about this in my book and in my columns for Nutrition Advocate. Whenever we get away from natural foods we pay a price somewhere. Corn's alteration was gradual over several centuries, but today it's one of the leading allergenic foods I encounter in my pediatric practice."
--Charles Attwood, M.D. (Natural Medicine Forum on CompuServe)

      Another participant in the Forum offered the facts that we humans have been genetically-manipulating plants and animals for thousands of years, by selective breeding/cross-breeding. He pointed out, accurately as far as I know, that corn as we know it simply wouldn't exist if we hadn't "created" it by selection processes. This person opined that genetic engineering would be no more likely to create a dangerous virus (for example) than would nature "on its own." Overall, he supposed that genetic engineering would be more beneficial than problematical, and that opposition to it was fear born of ignorance.

     "I'm not sure I am happy about your tenet of my ignorance of science ... (I am a scientist, but obviously not in the field of food/genetics) ... but the scientific method has taught me that a) no one can predict the consequences of non-trivial actions (does anyone still believe that nuclear power stations are 'safe' and can be controlled ... ?), and b) modern technology often does things 'in principle' the same as before (a database is like a card file) but there is often a qualitative difference as well as a quantitative one. I think in drawing the parallel between classic mutations (due to gamma rays ...) or even traditional man-made ones (cross fertilizing flowers to yield new types ...) to the modern industrial strength genetic engineering one must surely see a difference not only in quantity (number of mutations produced, difference to previous strains etc.) and also the quality (targeted differences, genetics applied not for survival of the fittest but to maximize industrial profits, etc.).

     Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you like, but I am worried about this development."
--Michael Salmony (Natural Medicine Forum on CompuServe)

     "Unfortunately, we will not know whether you are right or wrong until 50 years from now. The possible deleterious effects if you are wrong are not worth the risk. Artificial selection and/or cross-breeding cannot be anywhere near as intrinsically dangerous as anything that uncontrolled science can do.

     It's more a concern over the unproven rather than a fear of the unknown. Genetic engineering hasn't been around long enough for anyone to have determined what actually happens over the long term when such things are done. Asbestos insulation was considered safe at one time. Silicon implants were considered safe at one time. Leaded gasoline was considered safe at one time, as well as lead in paint. Smoking was considered safe at one time. Fallout from atomic bombs was considered safe at one time. It took decades to come to the conclusion that all of the above were/are not safe at all. Personally, I do not wish to be the guinea pig in somebody's experiment."
--Jim Showalter (Natural Medicine Forum on CompuServe)

     To Jim's comments about things once considered safe, I must add antibiotics! Now we are finding that the "bugs" just got stronger and more resistant. I think the notable difference between genetic manipulation (i.e., selection) and genetic engineering (i.e. "force") is that genetic engineering puts genes where they would "never go" naturally. You'd not find the much-discussed human ear growing on a mouse's back as a result of genetic manipulation. I'm not a "scientist," so I can only cite my best sources when it comes to "scientific processes," but it seems to me that the activity, like nearly all "work" done in agriculture, is greed-engendered (intended to bring in more money) and isn't even focused on "the (real) improvement of the species/cultivar" or "the nutritional or other (real) benefit of the people."

      Doesn't history show us, across the board, that when greed is the motivator, there is never a good outcome?

     What's really incredible about the genetic engineering big business is the legal fracas over "who owns the creations." Greed compounded by arrogance?

From The Progressive Farmer, 1995:
     "Although public outcry over biotech crops has softened, a little publicized and sometimes bitter battle is being fought within the biotech industry itself over who owns this new technology.
     The fight is over patent rights. These patents can include the genes as well as the methods of transferring them. Biotech companies say they need patent protection to secure their multimillion-dollar investments in research and development.
     Mycogen versus Monsanto is a case in point. The companies had been negotiating over a licensing agreement for transfer of Bacillus thuringiensis genes.
     Following a breakdown in the negotiations, Mycogen sued Monsanto. Mycogen claims ownership of a patent covering all insect-resistant transgenic plants now under development that use synthetic gene technology. Mycogen officials say their goals are to settle out of court, allow Monsanto to commercialize Bt crops, and be paid for the rights to their patent.
     Monsanto officials say the company has been developing this technology for 15 years and that Monsanto products will be marketed freely despite Mycogen's allegations.
     One more point. Just as biotech companies vigorously defend gene technology against the competition, you can also expect them to come down hard on any farmers who use so-called brown bag seed sales and violate plant variety protection laws."

Avoid Unnatural Fertilizer

      Nature fertilizes flora in many ways, via animal droppings, earthworm castings, and decaying organic matter such as fallen leaves. This natural plant food is delivered in balanced, appropriate amounts. The Mammon-focused human farmer applies commercial "plant food," which today is nearly always from petro-chemical sources, creating "floraddicts" which become unable to live naturally.

     There are many other recognized objections to the use of commercial fertilizers. We cannot properly deal with this complex and controversial subject here, and suggest you study already-published information. Wild flora grow where conditions favor them, and continue to survive, even thrive, without applications of commercial fertilizer. This speaks for itself.

     We don't advocate "just letting all the plants grow wild." The nurturing of flora is a crucial part of humanity's spiritual development. Such nurturing might properly include the type of work done by Luther Burbank. Some of his creations live on today as testimonials to his loving efforts toward the exercise of dominion in the world of flora. Both agriculture and horticulture must have begun that way -- but gradually fell to ignorance, pragmatism, and greed.

Avoid Pesticides/Herbicides/Fungicides, etc.

     There are many good works in print which detail the myriad chemical applications used on/in our food, and the many detrimental health effects that have been scientifically documented. We highly recommend that you read the books listed in our bibliography, and study these issues yourself, rather than "taking our word for it."

     By now, most of us are aware that food, including produce, is treated to a wide range of potentially-hazardous chemical processes, all to enhance saleability. Soil, seeds, seedlings, growing/mature plants, fruits, and even packaging and storage facilities may receive doses of poison for one "reason" or another. In many cases, "they" don't have to tell us.

     For several years I owned and operated a commercial organic garden service. An associate of mine who had a "regular" garden service became severely ill and spent weeks in the hospital with a perplexing disease of the immune- system. He told me one day that he felt a deep certainty that his problems had resulted from years of handling the pesticides and herbicides he routinely used in his garden service. And I felt a deep certainty that what he was saying was right. "Scientists" would dismiss this as anecdotal evidence, but, given the compromises and dishonesty that riddle our sources of "scientific evidence," I often find that a heart-felt response to anecdotal evidence is worth as much or more than statistics.

      Wild plants are, for the most part, free of chemical treatments of any kind. Those of us who choose to avoid chemical additions to our food have a great resource in the wild flora. There are ways, of course, that wild flora can be contaminated. Some cities/counties use pesticides and herbicides in areas under their jurisdiction. Select your wild food picking areas carefully!

Avoid Wax

     It's fairly common knowledge that many items of grocery produce are coated with a "food-grade" wax in order to retard spoilage. What many people don't know is the extent of the recipients of the wax applications: would you believe chili peppers? Eggplant? Did you know that grocers are not required to list the pesticides and fungicides that are added to the wax, nor explain to you that lac resin (a standard wax ingredient) is excreta from the insect Laccifer lacca, the very source of shellac (with which we paint furniture)?

     Wild flora are not coated with any such possibly-toxic and unappetizing-sounding substance. Any "bug poop" thereon was applied naturally, and can easily be washed off.

Avoid Irradiation

      For a thorough explanation of irradiation, see chapter 13 of Diet For a Poisoned Planet by David Steinman. Though some health food stores display signs proclaiming that they won't sell irradiated food, my understanding is that, at this time, spices are the main type of food item that get this treatment. We can be certain that no wild foods have been irradiated. And there are many wonderful spices growing indigenously about. In our area we have bay leaf, fennel, California pepper, and several types of sage, just to mention a few.

      Dr. Gary Gibbs, an expert on food irradiation, (author of The Food That Would Last Forever: Understanding the Dangers of Food Irradiation), stated several things in Nutrition and Healing magazine, May 1995.
--irradiation creates toxic molecules not found in nature.
--irradiation destroys a number of vitamins, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
--irradiation increases aflatoxin production by more than one hundred fold.
--when a percentage of lab animals' diet was irradiated, the animals suffered respiratory problems, enlarged hearts, morbidity, and premature death.
--children who ate irradiated wheat developed abnormal white blood cells.
--the foods now approved for irradiation are fruits, vegetables, wheat, flour, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, peas, pork, and chicken. Irradiation does kill e. coli and salmonella, so the meat processors are very interested in using it. It's cheaper than keeping good sanitation.
--The FDA requires a label only if 'whole food' is irradiated and then sold unchanged. If you process it in any way or add any other ingredient to it, no label disclosure is required. A fresh, whole tomato requires a label indicating that it's been irradiated. A package of tomato soup made from irradiated tomatoes can be sold with no indication that irradiation has been involved in the processing of the ingredients.

     The stated purpose for irradiation, to "stop spoilage," sounds good. It seems to me that time and money would be much better spent in finding ways to get fresh food to "consumers," not in finding ways to keep it stored longer, and/or to hide the fact that it's old. I have felt the same uneasiness about irradiation that I feel about genetic alteration, which is why I've included the information I've found. I would go out of my way to avoid irradiated food. However, as always, please research for yourself -- don't take my word for it!

      This group, I'm told, is working to ban irradiation. They may be a good source of information about the process.
Food and Water, Inc.
3 Whitman Drive
Denville, New Jersey 07834
(718) 783-2146

Purity

     In recent years we've heard more and more about food-borne disease. E. coli and salmonella are well-known, having been widely discussed in the news. We associate these with undercooked meat, not realizing that E. coli in particular could easily be spread via any food (like salad) that was handled and not subsequently well-cooked or, at least, washed in very hot water.

      Many types of produce could easily bring dozens of socially-transmissible diseases directly onto our plates, simply because much produce is used raw, and is too delicate for washing in water hot enough to kill any bacteria or viruses present. Though this may be uncomfortable to consider, the fact is that hands pass not only E. coli, but many cold and flu types of illnesses. Tuberculosis is passed fairly easily by various social interactions. Inquire for yourself to discover who picks the produce you buy, and if they can/do frequently wash their hands with hot water and soap throughout the workday. Do they always shield the produce from sneezes and coughs? How? And, then, what about the employees at the Central Market where the produce goes between farm and grocery store? Next, think about everyone who might handle produce in the grocery store, including perhaps dozens of customers each day.

     Chances are, the wild foods you pick and consume will have been handled only by you and/or your family.

      The following is a list, and brief description of several diseases you could pick up from produce bought at the store:
Shigellosis comes from Shigella, a group of bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness. The illness usually includes fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea with or without blood in the stools. Transmission of Shigella is through direct contact with an infected person, or from food or water contaminated by an infected person. Handwashing with soap and running water is the single most important preventive measure to interrupt transmission of shigellosis. Excluding persons with diarrhea from handling food and limiting the use of home-prepared foods at large gatherings will reduce the risk of large outbreaks caused by foodborne transmission.

Antibiotic resistance among Shigella is increasing.

Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer.

Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating. Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.

Tuberculosis, as already mentioned, is easily passed through close social contact, including through the handling of any type of food.

Some types of tuberculosis are antibiotic-resistant.

Entamoeba histolytica can be carried on vegetables that have been handled by unwashed hands. Amebiasis is transmitted by fecal contamination of drinking water and foods, but also by direct contact with dirty hands or objects.

Infections that sometimes last for years may be accompanied by 1) no symptoms, 2) vague gastrointestinal distress, 3) dysentery (with blood and mucus). Most infections occur in the digestive tract but other tissues may be invaded. Complications include 4) ulcerative and abscess pain and, rarely, 5) intestinal blockage.

Cryptosporidiosis
Caused by Cryptosporidium Parvum, this disease can be accompanied by severe watery diarrhea. Pulmonary and tracheal cryptosporidiosis in humans is associated with coughing and frequently a low-grade fever. Cryptosporidium sp. could occur, theoretically, on any food touched by a contaminated food handler. Incidence is higher in child day care centers that serve food.

Humans worldwide are infected with Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura; the eggs of these roundworms (nematode) are "sticky" and may be carried to the mouth by hands, other body parts, fomites (inanimate objects), or foods.
Infected foodhandlers may contaminate a wide variety of foods.

Hepatitis A
HAV is excreted in feces of infected people and can produce clinical disease when susceptible individuals consume contaminated water or foods. Contamination of foods by infected workers in food processing plants and restaurants is common.

Rotaviruses cause acute gastroenteritis. Infantile diarrhea, winter diarrhea, acute nonbacterial infectious gastroenteritis, and acute viral gastroenteritis are names applied to the infection caused by the most common and widespread group A rotavirus.
Infected food handlers may contaminate foods that require handling and no further cooking, such as fresh vegetables and fruit.

     These are a few of the illnesses I found listed when I did an Internet search. We haven't even looked at the many "cold" and "flu" illnesses that can be passed via food-handling. Here is an address for additional information, and the source of some of the listings above:

--Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, Mailstop C09, Atlanta, Georgia 30333.

Some Moral and Spiritual Considerations

     We will all bear the responsibility for what we have supported with our dollars. Though, probably, it's neither possible nor wise to utterly isolate oneself from the "evil world," one needs to exercise choice for the better at every opportunity. The food industry, speaking particularly of America, is fraught with unconscionable practices that we ought not support.

     Learning about and harvesting those wild foods available to us is one way to remove dollar-support from, at least, the agribiz part of the food industry.

The Influence of Thoughts and Desires

     The thinking and desiring done by the humans which are involved in our food-production and handling can have an effect on us through the food. Much produce is imbued with greed simply because of the reasons for which it is grown (i.e., solely to make money). Added to this will be the thoughts and desires entertained by the pickers, packers, shippers, wholesalers, and grocery employees. The saying "you are what you eat" has more meaning than we supposed. Many packaged goods can be stored long enough for these influences to dissipate. Not so with fresh produce.

      Learning to identify and to use the wild flora around your area to replace as much of your purchased produce as possible will offer the unusual benefit of freeing you from a lot of non-physical pollution. You may then pick it with love and care and bring home elevated ingredients for your sustenance.

Harmless Harvesting

     To put it baldly, many regular produce items are killed plants. The head of lettuce, the bunch of spinach, the root crops like carrots, the celery -- all plants destroyed in the picking. Wise stewardship involves gentle nurturing of the flora that sustain us. Killing (of animals or plants) is not necessary in order to live, and is, in fact, part of the thinking-pattern that produces cancer. Wherever possible, it is best to leave at least one-seventh of the plant so that it may continue to live. A Great Teacher of ours, Shining Bear, pinched the little tips, buds, and flowers, and collected the seeds of his wild food sources. He never, to my knowledge, destroyed these flora-friends.

Other Health Benefits

     We have all heard of the damaging health-effects of worry and stress. Preparedness and the ability to be self- reliant can contribute to a general sense of well-being and ease. The fresh air and exercise available through active food-foraging can also be beneficial. Information is available on the favorable health-effects of a raw food diet. With a good food-processor, one can make fresh, nutritious raw drinks, dips, dressings, seed butters, and hot (but not cooked) soups with wild flora, in addition to the more typical salad-type dishes.

     Simply being in a meadow of wild flora can be joy-promoting. Try this experiment: find a commercial field of produce and just stand in it. Note what you feel and what thoughts you have. Then spend some time in a field of wild flora (I feel quite uplifted in the midst of a golden expanse of flowering wild mustard).

Conclusion

     We've considered a number of reasons to learn to identify and use wild plants for food. Wild flora often have superior nutritional qualities, whether eaten cooked or raw. Such foraging is a great way to avoid the drawbacks of agribiz produce: hybridization, genetic engineering, commercial fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, lack of freshness, fungicide, wax, socially-transmissible diseases, and unhealthy thought/desire influences. Foraging also allows us to withdraw our dollar-support from agribiz. It's also good for us to get out in the fresh air, get some exercise, and spend time with truly happy flora, and to harvest the useful ones in a loving manner.

     We regularly forage in selected areas around our city. Also, here at home, we generally allow wild flora (er, "weeds") to grow wherever they choose to on our property. We thoughtfully avoid tampering or willful domination, while simultaneously trying to discover the ways to lovingly nurture these wonderful flora-friends.

Bibliography
Diet for a New America by John Robbins
Diet for a Poisoned Planet by David Steinman
The Findhorn Garden by the Findhorn Community

Thanks to Shining Bear for unique guidance and training
to Susan Robbins of the Vegetarian Forum on CompuServe
to Chris Mitchell of the Vegetarian Forum on CompuServe
to Johnny Lynch, teacher of the Vegetarian No-Cooking Class
to Charles Attwood, M.D., author of Dr. Attwood's Low-Fat Prescription for Kids and columnist for Nutrition Advocate.

     This saying (LIVE LIGHT UPON THE LAND) has taken on new meaning for me. It now means "don't be heavily invested in earthsurfacey things." We could spend the rest of our lives accumulating all the facts about wax, pesticide, genetic engineering, diseases, etc. We could speculate about outcomes, and fight "the system," and work endlessly to pass laws, but, so long as greed compels our commerce, do we really think we can stop the genetics scientists, and the big fertilizer companies, and the huge food companies, agribiz farmers, etc. from doing things that may hurt us?

     We've thought, "then, we'll separate ourselves, grow OUR gardens organically, buy open-pollinated seeds, etc., but we find that pollution can't be shut out or away. We're also finding that genetically altered flora pass the genetic changes to other flora. We do need to learn, and to speak out about what we learn. No question about that. But allowing the "out there" activities, and the efforts to change the world, shouldn't take priority over our doing and thinking right in our own lives.

     Find the wild floralbeings and joyfully interact with them. Ask them what care they need in return. Take bits of natural fertilizer with you when you go harvesting (natural tobacco is good). Give the wild flora servings of "liquid compost" that you've made in your blender. Do a joyful breath-exchange with these floral-friends. Lovingly exhale your carbon dioxide on them, then inhale the oxygen they release. There may be a danger that the Frankenflora will spread their mouse or virus (or?) genes to the wild flora in the future. We shouldn't acquiesce to that, and it's appropriate to communicate our concerns as we see fit. But, the positive action of appreciating and nurturing the wild, pure flora all around us now, should take priority over any "battle out there." Worry, and negative thinking affect our immune systems detrimentally. Taking positive action, privately in one's own life, is a much healthier course than worrying about creeping genes. We are free to work at transforming any greediness in our own lives. This is much more important than trying to do away with greed "out there." We can effect this transformation by the proper, loving care and stewardship of those things that we have to use and care for in our lives, including the wild floral food sources.

"Nothing in the world of living things is permanently fixed."
--Hans Zinnser--Rats, Lice and History, 1935

 

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