The importance of gathering?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 19, 2010 at 12:05 PM

This question occured to me reading this question on Dr Davis http://paleohacks.com/questions/3501/dr-davis-vs-paleo-that-is-how-often-should-we-eat-meat my thoughts were not really an answer to that so I am asking it as a new question. Gathering of food sometimes seems to be seen as the less glamourous side of hunting and gathering. The following are the random unreferenced thoughts that came to me:

Judging the avaliability of edible plant foods in a wild environment from a "civilised" western perspective is unlikely to be accurate. Few edible plants advertise their presence and it often takes detailed knowledge gained over lifetimes of accumulated culture to fully exploit. Small numbers of people ranging wide areas allows the exploitation of sparsly scattered plant resources. Modern day bushcraft enthusiasts struggle to equal modern hunter-gatherer groups in these skills even after years of study.

Wilderness areas in developed countries are often limited to areas to unproductive for agriculture and even these areas are rarely pristine due to loss of key species, such as top predetors or buffalo. Example; maybe what is now productive american farmland may, as wilderness, have produced more wild plant foods.

Closer to the equator, where most of our evolution took place, generally there is more plant food. While our ancestors reached europe 45,000 years ago most modern europeans, maybe 90%, descend from later immigrants and early farmers migrating from the middle east. There is alot of debate amoung genetists about this but estimates are that between 1/3 to 2/3 of europeans descend from farmers not ice age hunters.

Gathering also includes insects, grubs, snails, aquatic and marine shell fish, eggs ect. These are not quite the same as a steak and leave little traces for archeologists.

A lot of anti-plant thinking seems to be going on lately. As far as hunting and gathering go I think that we forget or devalue either of them at our peril. Maybe a little more balance is in order? What do others think?



on April 19, 2010
at 02:01 PM

I made a nettle omelette for my lunch yesterday.



on April 19, 2010
at 01:09 PM

Agreed, in terms of what's paleo, I think a lot of plant matter may likely have been consumed (albeit to top up fat stores than to run your metabolism on carbohydrates). That said I think it's a really interesting, close-run area, as to whether plants versus straight animal fat is *optimal*. Kurt Harris offers a great example comparing the physiological effects of getting your SFA from cream or getting it indirectly from orange juice (insulin, glycation etc). On the other hand, (some) plants offers a lot of nutrients, that's why I think it's so subtle which plants are a net good/bad.

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on April 19, 2010
at 01:33 PM

There are a few "paleos" on message boards that I've seen that eat ONLY GROUND MEAT. ONLY. And if you question it, well Vilhjalmur Stefansson lived off of meat, so any meat will do. Not only do I find that unappetizing and psychologically questionable, but it's just not a paleo diet...or a hunter-gatherer diet. People who at mostly meat ate lots of different kinds of meat. Paleolithic people weren't limited, they were opportunistic.

Eat a random diet. See some chicken hearts? Buy em. Wild nettles? Taste mighty good sauteed in lard with a side of scallops. Don't just buy a shipment of ground meat and only eat that! Not going to win you any dates either...

I'm not exactly the most outdoorsy person in the universe, but when I lived in Sweden, which was a nearly arctic unfamiliar environment, I stuffed my pantry and freezer with mushrooms (though not many since experience really seems important there), nettles, wild onions, red currants, sea buckthorn, wild strawberries, rosehips, aronia, sloes, hazelnuts, blueberries, lingonberries, and other assorted goodies.



on April 19, 2010
at 02:01 PM

I made a nettle omelette for my lunch yesterday.


on April 19, 2010
at 05:59 PM

I am of the opinion that Grok ate as much meat as he could. That is, he hunted every time he ran out of meat. Obviously, sometimes he didn't make a kill, but i suspect he went out bright and early the next morning to rectify that. I doubt a huge cache of aubergines kept him home from the hunt.

As for plants, as the OP pointed out, "gathering" doesn't nessessarily mean plants.

If Ms Grok was heading out to gather, pregnant, with her nursing 2 year old on her hip, I would bet you that she was NOT looking for parsley. She was looking for PROTEIN and FAT. She needs it, her fetus needs it, and growing Toddler Grok needs it.

I'm not saying that she would turn down a nice patch of swiss chard, but I'll wager that she spent the majority of her time gathering (and eating and feeding Toddler Grok) nuts, grubs, larvae, insects, eggs, edible roots, berries, and any small animals - snakes, lizards, tortoise, crayfish, rodents, etc that she could surprise.


on April 19, 2010
at 06:37 PM

You should give gathering a try; this time of year, if you have access to any green space that doesn't get sprayed with pesticides, there are going to be all sorts of young dandelions growing. Pull off the leaves (figure that they'll shrink to about 20% of uncooked volume during cooking), boil, and serve with butter.


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