Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants!
Another group, the Hunzas, living in the high mountains in northern Pakistan, raise their crops in nutrient packed glacial soils and return all organic matter to the land, wasting nothing. In 1964 a group of doctors from the West visited the Hunza valley, discovering that the previous fantastic claims of British explorers who visited the area in the early 1900s were true! Men in their eighties and nineties were fathering children and regularly participating in strenuous village sports. Equipped with ECG and EEG equipment, these doctors detected no sign of the cardiovascular diseases so common in their own countries. Additionally, there was no evidence of cancer.
In terms of longevity and vitality, the healthiest peoples of the world have something in common; they eat lots of nutritious plants grown in healthy, living soils. The Okinawans, who are the longest lived people on earth, attaining close to a one hundred and twenty year lifespan, incorporate forty seven wild edible plants into their diet. They have practiced a form of organic gardening and soil management for thousands of years, returning all plant and animal waste to the earth, ensuring that the crops they raise are full of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and phytonutrients.
It is known that wild edible plants contain more nutrients than most cultivated crops. Is this because of some inherent characteristics of the plants themselves, or the fact that they grow in "wild," more nutrient rich, natural soils? The answer is both. Just as oranges contain high amounts of vitamin C, and carrots vitamin A, different plants need and store a vast variety of different chemical compounds. The soil minerals required to produce these compounds must first be present in the soil, in order to be available to the plants. Additionally, there are minerals needed by plants that while actually in the soil, may be in a chemical form not available to them; that is, the plants cannot assimilate, or take up these minerals, until they have been changed into a bio-available form by soil organisms.
In Anatolia, a geographic region within Turkey, the native people are among the healthiest in the world, also attaining incredible lifespans. They too, incorporate many wild edibles in their diet; up to one hundred twenty seven different plants. Fortunately, this region has been well studied, revealing that the health of the people is directly tied to their consumption of plants, both wild and cultivated fruits, nuts, and grains grown in nutrient rich, healthy soils.
Healthy soils, those unpolluted with herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic chemical fertilizers, are teeming with life. One gram of natural soil, about enough to cover a nickel in the palm of your hand, contains up to a billion organisms; bacteria, fungi, protozoa, actinomycetes, viruses, rotifers, microarthropods, nematodes, and many others, all living and dying, processing and providing soil nutrients for plants.
There are some kinds of bacteria and fungi, called mychorrhiza, that develop relationships with specific plants, and in exchange for substances exuded by the plant roots, will deliver mineral nutrients to those roots for uptake by the plant. One kind of mychorrhizzal fungi will send microscopic threads, or hyphae, the length of a football field to find, dissolve and deliver nutrients to its host plant. Another kind of fungal hyphae actually produces snares to protect its host, by capturing predatory nematodes that would otherwise harm or kill the plant.
All said, the natural world with its myriad organic, living components evolved over billions of years to work in ecological balance and harmony through a vast number of interactions, interrelationships, and interdependencies. Humans, too, evolved along with this process as a part of the natural world, to need the sustenence best provided by healthy plants grown on healthy soils.
Foraging for wild plants growing in clean, natural, nutrient rich soils, and creating an organic garden in your own backyard, with both cultivated fruits and vegetables and wild plants around the perimeter, can provide wholesome, vitamin packed foods for you and your family.
Sow Thistle in flower. Boiled, the tender
young leaves are edible.
Serviceberries, aka Juneberries are a tasty treat if you can find them before the birds!
Cattails are one of the three most under utilized food sources in the world. Can you name the other two?
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