Thursday, March 6, 2008

Super Foods

When I started this blog a few short months ago, I expected it to revolve mainly around my interests in food, cooking, the outdoors, and foraging, with the occasional dose of conservation and an environmental screed or two. The more I delve into it, the more I find myself returning to the braided themes of human health and planetary health. Michael Pollan puts it succinctly in the three-sentence manifesto of his new book, In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He's not trying to be cute when he says "Eat food." Most of what we find in the supermarket today would not be regarded as such by earlier generations. Real food shouldn't come in a box. It shouldn't have unpronounceable ingredients and make exaggerated health claims.

So I've been trying to cut processed foods out of my diet. Not an easy thing to do. Flour is a highly processed food. Most beef is highly processed. I'm trying to eat whole foods: seasonal vegetables and local organic meats (and foraged foods when I can). Since the New Year I've lost 20 pounds. I'm approaching my college freshman weight. My energy levels are up.

I'm really getting into plants, too. The last two years I've kept a winter garden. Can I say that kale is one of my favorite foods now? If you're used to Chicken McNuggets and Doritos, this might be a hard claim to swallow, but I can honestly say that kale stir-fried with garlic and a little soy is a go-to dish for me. That said, the research I've been doing of late suggests that even most garden vegetables, grown organically at home with love, still pale in comparison to what are known as "superfoods."

Most superfoods are found in the wild. They've been around since before humans first came down out of the trees. Blueberries and salmon are two foods that top many lists. Such foods have enormous amounts of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists are only now getting a handle on them. Many are herbs; many are considered pests by the establishment: dandelions, stinging nettles, lambsquarters, watercress, purslane. People have known about them for millennia, but it seems we're mostly in a forgetful mood lately.

I've identified a few superfoods that grow wild in my habitat. In future posts this spring I'll be foraging these foods and cooking them. If I sound like I've become a wild-eyed believer...well, maybe I have.


WT said...

Great stuff, Fin. Keep it coming.

valereee said...

Why do you consider beef highly processed?

Langdon Cook said...

Valereee, conventional beef is raised (force-fed) on grains like corn (cows are ruminants; they should be eating grass), shot up with hormones and antibiotics, slaughtered in killing factories with horrid conditions, then diced up and packaged in plastic. That's highly processed. Grass-fed, organic beef is obviously much better. Maybe I should have inserted "conventional" into the clause to clarify.

valereee said...

I guess even with the inorganic feed and the platic package, still wouldn't call it 'highly processed' -- Spam, now that's a highly processed meat -- but it's definitely not anything I want to eat. I buy all my beef from a local farmer. They're raised on pasture and 100% grass-fed.

Sustainable Eats said...

Finspot - 20 pounds? We stopped shopping at the grocer's the first of the year as well but I haven't lost anything that I know about. Maybe I'm spending too much time every night cooking from scratch for the next day. I don't want my family to revolt though!

I wish I had found your blog earlier. I've bought stinging nettles (yes, I'm a city slicker) a few times but wasn't sure how to prepare them. I just happened to pick up some dandelion greens last weekend so I'm excited to try some of your recipes.