It is hard to make generalisations about what the appeal of foraging is for 21st century folk, already living in a pre-dominantly digital and comfortable world. There will, of course, be various reasons why people choose to seek out their own, hard to reach food when modern conveniences, restaurants and well stocked supermarkets are all too easily available.
Some of those reasons will include; the search for fresh, local, unadulterated and regional tastes, for others, the satisfaction and exhilaration of gathering ingredients in the outdoors, compared with the chore of browsing shopping aisles. Cost might be an aspect - free food - rather than food that is entwined with monetary value, which, for a growing percentage of people, is of real concern. As foraging remains in vogue, that alone will appeal to some; providing a fashionable activity, something perhaps, that's different, to entertain the family, bring people together, and is outside the usual day to day activities. I have come across all these reasons and more, why humans resort back to a seemingly redundant activity.
As you will know, foraging is what we, the human race used to do in the UK - as with everywhere else in the world - in order to feed ourselves and our families. Along with hunting, it was all we did for food, and was an activity that preceded farming, and trading. According to Ray Mears, is wasn't till around 6000 years ago that the practice of farming reached the shores of Britain (1). Since then, foraging and hunting have slowly diminished in the UK, as ways of reaping greater harvests and utilising animals better have replaced the old practices.
Why then, return to foraging again? Having outlined a few possible reasons above, I wanted to un-pack this a little further, exploring the multi-layered benefits of eating foraged foods. The World Health Organisation's (WHO) latest report on 'Obesity and Overweight (January 2015), states the current day dilemma of cheap, high energy foods that are low in nutrition (though high in sugar, salt and fats), and the combination of diet with a sedentary lifestyle, that results in numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity (2). These are modern day issues, that to our hunt-gatherer ancestors were pretty much alien.
For us living in a comfortable, 21st century lifestyle there are elements of our ancestor's way of life that could be of benefit to us; namely fulfilling activity and more natural, nutritious foods.
The Paleo Diet
Ignoring the word diet for a moment (or simply seeing it as a way to describe a way of eating), the paleo diet has been described as a way to optimise health, minimise the risk of chronic disease and help to lose weight (3). A modern adaption of a hunter-gatherer diet, the paleo diet (referring to the Stone Age, and the early use of stone tools about 2- 2.5 million years ago) seeks to work in unison with what humans consumed up until farming.
Avoiding processed and refined foods, increasing protein, lowering carbohydrates and increasing vegetable and fruit intake are some of the principles. Incorporating foraged foods fits naturally into this; accessing a wide range of vitamin and mineral sources from wild foods which naturally have a lower carbohydrate base (trying digging up wild, edible roots and you'll know why) and natural oils. Protein would mainly come from meat and fish, though some lower amounts from plants too.
Combine this, with refreshing time outside, in the natural environment, with movement and activity that makes you feel good, well, it's not rocket science... these things can have a positive effect on our health and well-being.
If you'd like a taste of what this could feel and taste like, all within a mixture of both a timeless, natural setting, with modern comforts, then why not try a Wild Yoga Retreat at CostisLost House;
Wild Yoga Retreat ~ 12th - 15th June (3 Nts) ~ £485pp
Costislost House is an idyllic rural retreat in north cornwall with its own rustic charm. A stunning house set in beautiful countryside, perfect peace and tranquility to practice yoga, meditation and be pampered. Running yoga weekend breaks and active yoga breaks. Ashtanga yoga is taught be Denise Christian who taught alongside Hamish Hendry in London before moving to Cornwall. Jane is our naturopathic nutritionist and chef and is on hand for nutritional advice and inspiration to guide you to optimum health. Also on offer; massage, relexology and on our active weeks other sports and activities such as surfing, cycling, kayaking, foraging and walking.
Find out more about the Wild Yoga Retreats; the yoga, the wild food foraging, eco-steering, nutritious, healthy food based on paleolithic principles (full board included), and optional treatments (holistic massage, aromatherapy and much more) - www.paleoyoga.co.uk
- (1) Mears, R. & Hillman, G. (2007) Wild Food, BBC: Hodder & Houghton
- (2) WHO (2015), Obesity and Overweight, Fact Sheet no. 311, www.who.int
- (3) Cordain, L. (2015) The Paleo Diet, www.thepaleodiet.com
Find out more at the #mindfulwildforager