The United States has the strangest relationship with food and the human body, don’t you think? For example:
Among infants born in 2004, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding through age 3 months was 30.5 percent and through age 6 months was 11.3 percent, while all around us breasts are on display for the purposes of advertising and erotic stimulation. What kind of society neglects the nourishment of its infants because it has sexualized the breast to such a degree that it can’t separate breasts from sex long enough to let the babies eat? What kind of society values image over the health of its children?
Average weight of a fashion model: 108-125 lbs. Average weight of an adult woman in the United States: 162.9 pounds. We have an industry that holds up an ideal of “beauty” that is neither attainable nor healthy for the average woman. This creates a lot of self-esteem and body image issues, especially for our teenage daughters, who start to mistrust food just as they reach an important stage in their development and maturation. What kind of society values image over the health of its teenagers? And what kind of society defines beauty in terms of lack, of being less?
We have an agriculture industry in this country that uses chemicals to fertilize vegetable crops, while it pollutes the ground and the water supply with staggering quantities of animal waste products. Meanwhile the crops grown on the fertilized, tilled ground have fewer and fewer minerals every year, the soil is dead and easily eroded, and we are then told we have to take vitamin and mineral supplements made by chemical manufacturers because we can’t get enough nutrition from our food to be healthy. What kind of society throws away superb and free soil-building organic matter, and pays for chemicals that do not create better soil, to the detriment of the soil and all organisms that depend on it for health and survival?
And finally, we spend all kinds of time and money on chemicals to eradicate weeds from our yards and gardens and fields, then spend more money at the grocery store buying substandard food, and have to spend money on vitamin supplements and visits to the doctor because we are unhealthy, all because we prefer tidy manicured everything to the humble dandelion, plantain, chickweed, dock, etc.
I have friends who are worried about economic disasters and the food supply, convinced people are going to starve. And I suppose that could happen, and it’s a damn shame because it isn’t necessary. All the nutrients we need for healthy bodies are available to us for free. You just have to look around.
Want calcium? You need about 1200 milligrams per day. Lamb’s quarters seeds have 1036 mg in 1/2 cup. The leaves aren’t nearly so high in calcium at 324 mg per half cup, but if you eat the whole plant while its in seed, you should come out all right. Worried about iron? You need about 18 mg a day. About 1/2 cup of mint leaves has 13 mg of iron. 1/2 cup of raspberry leaves has 17. And those same lamb’s quarters seeds? 64 mg of iron per 1/2 cup. How about protein? An adult female needs about 44 grams per day. Sunflower seeds have 24 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
I could go on and on but that would be boring. The truth is that abundant nourishment is easily available in the weeds around us–there’s no need for any of us to starve. There IS a need, however, for most of us to change out thinking. We’d all have plenty to eat if we stopped spraying chemicals on our dandelions and ate them instead; if we made friends with that nettle patch in the woods, harvested dock plants and lambs quarters leaves and seeds. I bet we could feed our animals, too, with a little bit of planning. But we might have to start changing many of our values. We might have to learn to value nourishment over ornament. Or, better yet, open our eyes to the beauty of many things that were formerly not perceived as beautiful, from abundant curves to abundant curly dock.
Want more info? I highly recommend checking out the wild foods pack I mentioned before, that you can purchase for download here. Go OUTSIDE! Get to know the weeds that grow around you, and find out how to eat them and preserve them for winter eating. Sign up for the wild foods newsletter at Of the Field. Visit Wildman Steve Brill. Google “edible weeds” and see what you find. The information–and the nourishment–is out there.
You can take your health and well being in to your own hands and learn what you need to learn. You can trust nature to provide you with abundant nourishment. As with herbalism, foragers often recommend that you start with ONE plant–an easy to recognize, common, safe plant–and explore as many ways as possible to take that plant in to your body. Really get to know it, and when you’ve run out of ways to try it, then start on a new plant, and do the same thing all over again.
Your neighbors might think you’re weird, but you’ll be having so much fun, and you’ll feel so good, you won’t care.
The world she is a changing. I suggest we embrace it, and let the weeds lead us.