We can easily go to the supermarket and get whatever we want. Fruit punnets full of berries and bags of gourmet salad leaves are immediately and effortlessly available at our local supermarket.
You may ask: “Why should anyone learn to forage then? Surely everything can be bought at the supermarket?”
We don’t even need to buy ingredients anymore. We just pick up the phone; order a meal through a one-touch delivery service that miraculously brings ready-cooked meals right to your door.
That’s when you realise we take food for granted these days.
Have we lost our connection with food? Does it really matter?
Why are we disconnected from our food?
We seldom think of where our food comes from or how it got to our kitchen in the first place. Certainly, we don’t really ask ourselves what it takes to produce all the ingredients going to our meals.
Even cooking is no longer appealing. Who wants to spend hours in the kitchen after a really busy day? In many cases, there is no personal involvement in our nutrition whatsoever.
Consequently, we are trusting big corporations and anonymous producers to feed our bodies and therefore creating an inability to nourish, heal and care for ourselves.
I am sure you agree that this is a worrying trend that is leading to terrible consequences for our own health and wellbeing.
What’s wrong with large-scale farming?
Our current food system is leaving us detached from our natural landscape. Many of us have no idea how things are grown and where they come from.
Most of the produce is grown on large scale farms in the name of convenience, originating terrible consequences for the environment.
We are putting too much pressure on precious natural resources:
Improper farming practice
Land clearing, soil degradation and deforestation are some of the dramatic consequences of large scale farming.
Fruit and vegetables may be genetically modified and sprayed with pesticides that can harm us and kill the bees and other natural pollinators that we need to help us grow more food.
Water usage and pollution are also major problems in some parts of the planet.
Most of the food consumed in the UK and Ireland is grown abroad and flown in from different parts of the world, generating large amounts of carbon footprint in the process.
Our groceries come packaged in polystyrene and wrapped in plastic, which generates so much waste. This is a problem that has escalated so quickly in the past decades.
And finally, food products that you buy at the supermarket may have labels on them saying where they come from, who grew them and what’s in them. But… do you really trust them?
Think of horse meat scandal, turkey twizzlers, mad cow disease, fake free-range eggs, or e. coli breakouts and you’ll know what I mean.
How to avoid supermarket food?
Many of us look at different ways to source our food. Don’t underestimate how effective small steps and good intentions can be, as long as we change for the better. It will pay off in the long run.
You do not need to aspire to be self-sufficient. It’s all about turning a bit more conscious with the planet and slowly move towards a more sustainable future for everyone.
Start growing your own
It’s not as hard as you think. Prepare some raised beds in your back garden or rent an allotment in your local area.
You might be floors away from the ground, but you can still grow some tomatoes in the balcony or a selection of herbs in the windowsill if struggling for space.
Nothing compares to the taste of home-grown fruit and veg or the satisfaction you can get from it. You’ll appreciate the time and effort that are required to grow food and so you will never waste food anymore.
Local shops and farmer’s markets
There are many ways to support businesses in your area.
Farmer’s markets give you the opportunity to talk to local producers and ask them questions about the food they are selling, such as how the produce is grown and where it comes from.
The money goes straight to the local economy and you get to support local farmers.
Foraging for wild food
Wild food gathering is one of the best routes for a sustainable use of our natural resources. I can’t think of something more positive for the environment than learning how to source your food from the wild.
Foragers make use of local ingredients and appreciate their culinary and medicinal values. Unlike farming, instead of trying to control and change our environment, we work with it.
The first step towards a sustainable future is to preserve what we have and make the best of what it’s there.
Foraging reconnects people with the landscape because we get to know the plants growing around us and understand the valuable resource that they are.
Why is foraging so important?
I am not suggesting that foraging alone can feed us all, but I still think it’s the best way to understand how and why plants grow where they grow and how they can be used efficiently.
Through sustainable foraging we subvert the notion that food is a commodity. It’s not just a product with a barcode and a price that we can purchase at the supermarket.
We get to appreciate that food comes from the landscape. It’s an actual plant that we can find, gather, process, cook and eat.
Foraging is an act of rebellion against a large-scale system that profits from the environment while destroying it.
Eating wild food on a regular basis will help to mitigate the impact of those practices on the environment and facilitate a deepening attachment to the landscape that will make you really care for it.
Supermarkets are very convenient, fully stocked with exotic food produce from all over the world, well sanitised, nicely packaged and ready to consume.
But we have lost touch with the landscape and start to hanker after a return to simpler times.
There is a world out there where food is still growing wild. Flavourful cherries that are only available in season, imperfect-looking apples free from pesticides and kilos of juicy soft plums at no cost.
A lot of fruit goes to waste in the cities: apples, cherries and plums are left to fall on the ground and rot at the same time we buy them in the supermarket. It’s such a shame to produce more food when we are not using our local resources.
Have you ever thought where food really comes from?