Wild foods are those harvested directly from Mother Nature which have not been cultivated, hybridized, raised or grown by people.
Why is adding wild foods to our diets such a great idea? Because animals and plants that grow wild are by and large much healthier, stronger, more vigorous, hardy, and in many cases more nutrient dense and nourishing than those which are raised and grown through conventional agricultural means.
Wild things are strengthened and invigorated by having to contend with the rigors of the elements, and must draw on the fortitude of their innately evolved DNA in order to survive the challenges and often harsh, unrelenting conditions of their natural habitats.
1. Salmon – There are a variety of species of wild salmon, including King, Coho, Chinook and Sockeye.
Wild salmon is not only delicious, but is also rich in protein and is an excellent source of omega 3 essential fatty acids.
If you’re not up for catching your own, wild salmon is available in many areas fresh and also frozen, and is also found canned in many places.
Always check the label to make sure you’re buying wild caught salmon, as much of the salmon available today is farmed, and such fish are raised in confinement and often fed soy based fish food. The flesh of farmed fish is not nearly as nourishing or flavorful as wild caught salmon, and overall they make for an incredibly inferior food, which in my opinion should be avoided at all costs.
Watch out for salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon,” which if not labeled specifically as wild, is more than likely farmed.
2. Wild Rice – Called manoomin, meaning ‘the good berry,’ by the Native American Ojibwe, wild rice is actually the seed of various types of aquatic grasses.
This wild food was traditionally harvested by Native American peoples, and is not only nourishing but also has a delicious, nutty taste and a fluffy, pleasant consistency when cooked. It’s a good source of protein and fiber and is rich in several B vitamins, zinc and manganese.
Wild rice is now cultivated here in the US, and much of this product has been hybridized and genetically manipulated so that it’s no longer the same food as its truly wild progenitors. However truly wild, uncultivated, hand harvested wild rice is still available if you know where to find it.
Here are links to a few online sources for truly wild – wild rice that is harvested by hand in canoes using traditional methods:
3. Blueberries – Wild blueberries are a true taste treat! Not only that, but they’re also packed with nutrition, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients including anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, flavanols and tannins.
Free for the taking and smaller and often more intensely flavored than their cultivated counterparts, wild blueberries can be hand harvested from nature in many areas during the summer months.
Pound for pound, wild blueberries are one of the most delicious, nutritious and easily gathered wild superfoods out there.
Baked into pies, tarts, crumbles, muffins or pancakes; served raw in salads, over yogurt, or drizzled with raw grass fed cream; or simply gobbled right from the bush, these berries are among nature’s most gorgeous, delicious, and deeply nourishing wild food gifts.
4. Crab – King crab, Snow, or Opilio Crab, Dungeness crab, and Blue crab are all wild caught foods that are considered by many to be rare delicacies.
One of the simplest ways of preparing crab is boiling or steaming. Once you crack open the cooked shell, what’s revealed is pure white, sweet, rich crab meat. Pull a hunk from the shell, squeeze a spritz of fresh lemon juice over it, dip that delectable morsel into some drawn butter and you’ll have a classically scrumptious mouthful of some of the best wild eating around.
Chock full of protein and containing vitamin B12 as well as minerals like zinc, copper and selenium, wild caught crab is truly a world class delight for any wild food connoisseur.
5. Dandelion Leaves – Ahh, the lowly, ubiquitous – and in the eyes of many, a pesky and unwanted weed – the dandelion.
As a young child I would gather little bouquets of dandelion flowers thinking they were lovely, and wondered why my dad reviled them so and tried to eradicate them any way he could from the green grassy lawn around our home.
It seemed so strange to my child’s mind that there were so many of those pretty sunny yellow blossoms growing everywhere if no one wanted them around. But it wasn’t until I was older and started to learn about herbalism and began to gain some deeper insight into the intelligence of nature that I began to understand more about dandelions, dandelion medicine, and some of the possible reasons why these plants seem to be so incredibly common in many suburban neighborhood yards.
As it turns out, dandelion is one of the most beneficial herbs for cleansing the liver and supporting improved liver and gall bladder function.
Perhaps Mother Nature, in her mysterious wisdom, has realized that during the past century or so human beings have wrought unthinkable industrial contamination upon the planet, and that as a result many of us are experiencing an unnatural burden upon our livers. I’ve often wondered if maybe dandelions show up so often around places where people live as a kind of offering, because Nature herself has some level of awareness that we can benefit from this plant’s unique healing and cleansing properties.
Dandelion leaves are an excellent source of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium, and also contain vitamin C and several B vitamins.
Best picked fresh just prior to eating, preferably in early spring before the plant flowers, the leaves can be eaten raw in salads and on sandwiches, and can also be steamed, stir-fried, added to soups and stews, or even made into a pesto.
Their bitter, peppery taste adds brightness and pizzazz to just about any dish, their availability is legendary, and their distinct flavor combined with their cleansing and nourishing properties make freshly picked dandelion leaves one of our most versatile, easily obtainable and valuable wild harvested foods.
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