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  • Simon and Ellery

Free Superfoods for Everyone

Every year we hear about a new “superfood” which is going to cure us of all our ailments. All we have to do is pay large sums of money to have some shipped to our door from an exotic location where this stuff grows. But only those with the deepest of pockets can afford to indulge in the latest health food hype. What about the rest of us? Can we not also partake in superfoods, without the super price?

I say we most certainly can! We have the opportunity to indulge in unlimited amounts of real superfoods which are free for everyone! It gets better. The effort required to grow them is zero, they are located right outside our doors, and they happen to be far more nutritious than anything we can find at the store!

What I am talking about here is the true superfood / super health connection which we can all personally engage with on a daily basis. Leave out the corporate middle man, third world exploitation, long distance shipping and high fashion price tags associated with pop culture “superfoods”.

Sounds too good to be true… but our human settlements are absolutely abounding with these free superfood plants; here to heal us if we so choose. We can simply go out and pick them. There are over a dozen highly nutritious plants, prolifically growing all around us right now, without any human input, in even the harshest environments we could never hope to garden; cracks in sidewalks and city streets.

For ignoble reasons these plants have had a negative stigma attached to them in recent times and they are called “weeds”, with an air of distain. We all know people who spend vast amounts of time, energy and money in trying to keep these plants from growing near their living quarters, to no avail. The weeds always win!

Dandelion, Thistle, Burdock, and Clover are just a few of the names of these potent plant allies presenting themselves to us with amazing abundance and nutrition in our greatest time of need. Real superfoods from right outside our front doors, freely and abundantly available all year long. Nature has chosen these plants for us to use as we shift our current, false world paradigm of scarcity and dis-ease to one of pure abundance and radiant health for all beings.

Right now the “superfood” industry is a top performing market selling all sorts of different products from all over the world to rich western culture people who want the best food/medicines the world has to offer. Mostly the products being sold are a mixture of a number of different exotic plants which have been processed down to a powdered mixture or capsule form, making it easy and convenient for people to take on the go as they go about their way too busy lives. But this processing into a form which both stores for long periods of time and is convenient to take on the go, greatly reduces the potency of the plants in the mixture and greatly increases the embedded energy required to bring this product to market.

Not only is there a high embedded energy cost involved in the processing and packaging of these “super” products, but there is also a high chance of third world exploitation involved in the growing, harvesting, and shipping of the plants being used. One great trick of the elite marketers for these “super” formulas is getting people to think that superfoods only grow in distant, exotic lands where they have no hope of ever getting the real version of the plant other then purchasing a particular processed product from said company.

With this trick, it means that these companies have to buy large quantities of these super plants which do grow in relatively exotic locations and are there to serve the local population. So now the local population is conned into growing and selling these plants using poor practices handed down to them from those on high purchasing the plants. The local land is destroyed and monocultures are planted displacing native plant polycultures and eroding local stability. Now the locals are indebted to the large companies and are basically forced to work these plantations on their land because it is all they have now with their land having been destroyed. All so a company can sell an exotic product to people who want an easy convenient fix of something they perceive to be super healthy.

Of course non of this is sustainable and the whole thing is part of the system which is wrong with the world. People getting rich at the expense of others and at the expense of the earth. Sure the plants which are being touted as “superfoods” are really quite amazing, and have many great benefits to offer the local communities of people around which these plants grow, but it’s not right to steal these plants and sell them around the world, leaving the local people with not.

Superfoods are a real thing and many people benefit greatly from their consumption with the idea of “let food be thy medicine”, but there is a better way to go about getting that “super” factor from plants which could fall under that category. Getting plants in their fresh, whole form from a source as close to home as possible is the ideal way to get the most “super” goodness out of a plant. So buying powdered capsules off a shelf in a store of plants grown across the planet, processed and shipped to a local health store doesn’t seem like the ideal way to get the most out of that plant. The ideal situation would be to open the front door and pick some delicious plants from right there and eat them almost immediately. Now the life force of that plant is at its peek, the digestive enzymes are still alive, the nutrient content is fully present, and there is zero embedded energy in getting that super goodness in.

As it turns out, Mother Nature, in her great wisdom set up just this perfect situation which sees to it that everyone has the opportunity to take part in the superb superfood lifestyle. It would seem as though each distinct geographical area where people live has just the right mix of plants growing there to support those who live in this area. The issue with this is how humans have destroyed so much of the land around which they live that many native plants are disappearing and there are vast areas where almost no native plants grow any longer. But never fear, for the weeds are here!

Where human disturbance comes to an area, we can be sure the weeds will be right behind to begin the monumental task of returning the damaged land to the state in which it was found before human intervention, which in most cases is a forest. Living in the city is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Current cities are massive tracts of unfathomable destruction to native lands and with that comes the mighty weeds.

Even with the damage done by human activity, nature comes through with an answer to help humanity along. As western machine culture destroys the local natural landscape, so to does the natural inner landscape of each individual human partaking in that culture of destruction move further down a road of dis-ease. So it seems that the plants nature has chosen to help rehabilitate the disturbed land are also the plants best suited to rehabilitate the dis-eased people living in the area.

So here we are living in cities, surrounded by an abundance of weeds growing in any spot they can, through sheer resilience and determination in some cases. I wonder if some of the plant’s energies of resilience and determination are passed on to those who take these plants in as food/medicine? I think it might… What perfect plants to grow in such dire situations, in the perfect location where people with major dis-ease can easily benefit from them.

Let us investigate some of these weeds to see if they can be put in the “superfood” category to benefit those people around whom they grow.

First we should figure out what constitutes a “superfood”.

Definition given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “A food that is rich in compounds considered beneficial to a person’s health”. Well that’s really quite vague and describes many plants.

A definition from “a food considered exceptionally good for one’s health and for boosting the immune system owing to its naturally high content of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, or omega-3 fatty acids”. Somewhat more clear, but still very all encompassing.

How about one from the Oxford dictionary: “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

They all seem to say about the same thing and it really just seems to be a buzz word used for marketing purposes to make it seem like a particular exotic plant is much more beneficial to take over a more readily available local plant. The term “superfood”, as defined by these dictionaries, basically describes all high quality, whole, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Interesting indeed... But for the sake of things, we will take that definition to a higher level of discrimination and say that it only describes the best of the best.

Dandelion is the perfect plant to start with as everyone knows this plant and can identify it around town. Here is a plant which is so super that we can eat every part of it; root, leaves, stem, and flower and there is a part available to harvest all year long. Every green space (and most which are trying to become green) in every corner of the city (which hasn’t been sprayed) has at least one dandelion in it. It is so rare to not find this plant within 100 meters of any given location in any given city around North America. That’s how resilient and determined to help those people living in the city this plant is. Amazing! But that’s not quite good enough to make it in the “super” category yet.

The dictionary definitions all mentioned (or alluded to) the presence of high quality nutrition and that the density of this nutrition should be relatively high. Dandelion fits the bill one hundred percent for the super category here as well. Eating the entire plant during a sitting gives one some of nearly all the required vitamins and minerals for life. The leaves have high concentrations of vitamin E and A, riboflavin, iron, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, copper, calcium, and sodium.

While the roots are particularly rich in inulin, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and copper. Wow that is a lot of vitamins and minerals to get from a common weed which is so distained by so many people. Those are only the top nutrients; there are more present in smaller amounts, but even those amounts are higher than many foods. When talking nutrition, the dandelion plant is most certainly a “superfood”.

The fresh young leaves make a delicious addition to any salad, sandwich or just about anything you might want some greenery on. They have a delightful combination of sweet and bitter taste which really makes the digestive system sing. They can vary a lot in tastes based on where they are growing, so it pays to find the perfect spot.

The roots make an excellent staple food which can be stored for extended periods of time over the winter by drying, freezing or fermenting. The roots get really sweet in the fall after the frosts begin as the plant stores all of its sugars in the roots for next year’s growth. They make excellent additions to soups and many other dishes when used from frozen or dried in the winter. Bringing in a good crop of dandelion roots in the fall can really increase our nutrition intake over the winter months as the good green stuff isn’t available anymore.

It doesn’t stop there for the mighty dandelion though.

Not only is it highly nutritious, but it is also marvellously medicinal. The ability of the dandelion root to stimulate the liver and gallbladder to increase the flow of bile and thus detoxify and tone the liver, increase digestion and generally help cleanse the system is unparalleled. As a product of living and participating in western machine culture, nearly all of us have lackluster digestive systems and dense, stagnant, underperforming livers to go along with our malnourishment of trace minerals.

What a miracle of Mother Nature to be surrounded by this amazing plant which has all the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive and by the actions it performs in our bodies, stimulates our digestion and helps our livers function at a higher level!

As the root part of the plant has a special affinity for working with the liver, the leaf part of dandelion is divinely created to be the perfect diuretic. Not only do the leaves have the ability to perform diuretic functions in our bodies, but they also have high levels of potassium which keeps the body from being depleted of potassium, which is the case with pharmaceutical diuretics.

Dandelions have been used as spring tonics since before the written word. In Chinese medical literature dandelions are a strong force utilised for its health benefits for many thousands of years. It has been recorded in literature all around the world from ancient times indicating its use from much earlier. Something that has been recorded in texts from all around the world, all with major praise, must certainly be worth something. Ancient peoples didn’t just write things down for fun, it had to be important and the dandelion sure falls under the category of important as far as I can see.

Of course dandelions are only one of the wonderful weeds which grow prolifically around human civilisations. Another equally important plant for humanity is the great burdock plant. Burdock has the potential to provide as a major source of food for many people. The roots can become quite large, producing a significant amount of starch, fibre, inulin, , manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, and iron. Again, such valuable nutrients required by everyone to live healthy lives.

Based on our interpretation of “superfoods”, I would say the burdock falls in that category with the significant levels of vitamins and minerals present in the roots. These roots also become much sweeter and tenderer in the autumn as the energy from the first years growth is stored in the roots for next season’s growth. A large number of these roots can also be collected in the fall to be stored over winter and used in a similar manner as the dandelion roots.

Just like the dandelions, burdock root is also highly valued for its medicinal properties. And like the dandelion, burdock roots have the special ability to help generally detoxify the body and move it back towards a state of health and vitality. Its actions help to clear up chronic skin conditions which are "treated" with the standard regime of strong steroid medications these days. The skin shows what is happening in the body and as the burdock brings the body back into alignment, the skin clears.

Another group of these amazing super weeds makes up the clover family and in particular red clover. Here is a group of plants which has a unique relationship with a certain bacteria which makes it possible to take atmospheric nitrogen (normally not available to plants for growth) and bring it into the ground to the benefit of all the plants growing around. The perfect thing for a plant to do in these disturbed landscapes to help bring fertility back to the land so more plants can grow. Like the other weeds before it, clovers will grow just about anywhere and you are sure to find them all over the city landscape, from lawns, to demolition sites, to sidewalks and parks.

The whole part of the clover plants is edible, but the best part is the flowering tops. They are so nice and sweet, almost like a little honey candy. Clovers have very deep tap roots, which penetrate far into the subsoil bringing up all sorts of trace minerals which we normally don’t get in diets consisting of foods whose roots hardly go a few inches into the softest layers of topsoil. These minerals become concentrated in the flowers and leaves of the plants, where they are then either deposited on the ground surface when the plant dies back in the fall, or transferred to those lucky souls who eat a part of the plant.

The nutrient density of these plants is so high that it takes very little of the actual plant material to gain a significant amount of nutrients. Some of those top nutrients available in clovers are: magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, A, and most B, niacin, iron, and manganese. Simply astounding the nutrient makeup! This high quality nutrition greatly helps to build and maintain bone density, increases mother’s milk nutritional quality, and mineralise the body which leads to faster and more complete healing.

The clover plants have long been revered for both their nutritional benefits, but also for their medicinal properties. Like the dandelion and burdock, clovers shift our bodies towards a more balanced state of health and well being. Clovers are some of the top plants for alkalising the body, one of the main reasons for the superior general health effecting properties. The red clover has a unique affinity for the lymphatic system of our bodies and helps this system to function better. The lymphatic system is one of our primary systems for dealing with waste materials which accumulate in our bodies. It helps move it all through. This system becomes stagnant and doesn’t function properly with a sedentary lifestyle and here is the clover to help us out and get that lymph moving better. There is strong evidence which indicates certain chemical substances in the clover plant demonstrate cancer prevention and tumour shrinking capabilities. So many benefits and all growing around each of our living quarters!

There seems to be a general trend with many of these super weeds of having the ability to help shift the overall body toward a state of balance and health. This could be attributed to the high vitamin and mineral content or the alkalising effect brought on through using these plants; or, I imagine it is a vastly complex array of different factors which lead to this amazing outcome. Is it coincidence, divine intervention, or something else which has it seen to that the most nutritious and alkalising plants grow and thrive where the landscapes (and people living there) are most nutrient poor and acidic? I wonder…?

Let’s take all these super weeds, which we have surely been able to add to the “superfood” marketing tagline and elevate them to a whole new level. That level being one of unprecedented ease of access and unequalled simplicity in cultivation. Anyone living in the city can go outside right now and walk to the nearest space where plants are growing and find some of these super weeds. If circumstances allow it, anyone can go outside and disturb the ground in an area and watch as these plants grow up there with no further effort required. If we want some particular of these plants to grow in the disturbed space, simply gather the seeds from the plant somewhere else and scatter them on the disturbed space. That’s all it takes to growing these plants in our yards. Literally nothing. They are there already. But if we want, with little effort we could see significant increases in diversity and yield.

The level of excellence demonstrated by these weed plants is incomparable to any of the commonly marketed “superfood” products coming from foreign places. When we get right down to the things which really matter like the care of people, the care of the earth, and the forethought for the well being of future generations, these weeds represent the most immediate and directly accessible gateway to a road of health and well being for all beings. All we have to do it reach out and pick them.

After discovering all the amazing ways these weeds can help all human beings on this planet, it seems to me that there is something deeper going on here. There appears to be a symbiotic relationship which has formed over countless generations between people and these weeds. The weeds thrive in the environment which we humans create through our disturbance to the landscapes which we inhabit. We create roads, yards, parks, gardens and countless other clearing activities. As we engage in clearing activities, the perfect situation is created which allows for these weeds to grow. I can imagine our ancestors have been disturbing the land around which they live since almost the beginning of human time.

Simply by the act of creating living spaces, we encourage these plants to grow around us, and these plants just so happen to be some of the most beneficial plants for us to consume on a regular basis. Our ancestors regularly consumed these plants. So I wonder if our physical human bodies have not evolved over time to function at a higher level when these plants are ingested regularly? To me it would seem like an entirely possible scenario given the countless adaptations demonstrated by animals in nature based on the local foods they eat. Interesting indeed.

If there is a symbiotic relationship which has developed between humans and these weeds over many thousands of years, and I believe there is, then it would make sense that a major reason humanity is suffering from such a high level of dis-ease these days is because of our disavowal of this relationship. The weeds continue to hold up their end of the partnership in their constantly heroic efforts of growing in the most seemingly adverse conditions which we humans create around our settlement areas, but we have turned a blind eye to their extended helping hands.

Eating wild plants, and weeds in particular has become somehow base, or lower class. It is seen as something we don’t need to do anymore because we now have all these “luxury” foods available to us all the time and they are conveniently packaged for us to purchase from the store. But of course the food system which the store is a part of is inherently flawed and leads to malnutrition, land degradation and human exploitation. But it’s so damn convenient…

As people begin to realise how poor the quality of the regular food sold at the store is, we seek out foods which are “super” in the nutritional healing value they bring to our bodies. Being part of the machine culture, we are lead astray by highly educated marketing geniuses who have us believe that these products are exotic and that we need to pay high prices for them to be shipped from god knows where for us to experience a higher form of nutrition and good health that comes with it. It doesn’t need to be this way though.

To bring about real, lasting change to our physical, mental and spiritual health, as well as the well being of the planet and all the beings who inhabit our great Mother, we must re-establish the relationship which our great ancestors had forged with the local wild plants growing all around us. This is where the magic really happens. As we begin to shift our habits of going to the store to buy food of questionable quality, grown under less than ideal circumstances, from who knows where, to stepping out our front doors and choosing to indulge in those superfoods which grow right around our homes, we start to re-kindle that relationship with the beautifully bountiful natural world and remove our energies from the machine culture of destruction and dis-ease.

It really doesn’t take much to begin the journey of re-engaging with the wild weed superfoods, off which our ancestors thrived for countless generations. Small and slow solutions are the best ways to affect lasting change. Simply going outside and walking around the nearest space where plants are growing and having a look at the diversity present and wondering what those plants are and how they might be of benefit to our health is the perfect start. Bringing in a mindset of curiosity and wonderment about the world, the plants and how we fit into this grand system sets a beautiful foundation for a journey of reintegration into the abundance provided for us to live healthy and happy, quality lives, the way nature indented.

Cultivating a childlike mindset of curiosity, instead of the godlike all-knowingness which we are lead to believe we have, leads to an openness of mind and heart. With this openness we can delve deeper into understanding who these plants around us are and what they are trying to share with us. We can begin to identify the different types of plants we find around with the help of knowledgeable people and the abundance of high quality books available to us on the subjects of wild foods and plant identification.

Once we learn to positively identify a particular plant, we can dive deeper and learn what others have to say about how this herb is here to help us. Be it the nutrients this plant has hidden inside its leaves, roots, seeds, or berries, or/and the medicinal actions which it preforms in our bodies. The case seems to be that any particular wild weed plant which we can identify around us to have certain beneficial properties, will be both nutrient rich as well as medicinal. The weeds are amazing that way! The curiosity is sparked, the awe has set in and the journey is begun.

The deeper we are able to cultivate relationships with the plants growing around us, the more “super” factor we can coax out of them. It starts with curiosity, moves on to identification of certain plants, and from there to taking the plants internally through tasting them. From here the relationship building can take on a whole new level of connection by spending time with any particular plant on a regular basis. Sitting with it and talking with it as we might have with our imaginary friends as children and creating that space and peace of mind to be open to communication from the plant. Plants communicate on a level of reality which is much more subtle than we are used to engaging with, in our fast paced lives of constant activity and distraction.

It takes practice to cultivate the stillness of mind to really deeply communicate with the plant world, but even with no practice and an open mind and heart we can simply go outside, sit next to a plant, look closely at it, touch it, smell it, introduce ourselves, ask it questions and see what happens. The plant may even communicate with us. Listen to the voice in our heads, and the feeling in our hearts, it’s not just our imaginations. Chances are it will seem strange at first and uncomfortable to be engaging in this kind of behaviour, but it may also be fun and somehow deeply fulfilling to make this time for ourselves to practice something which really helps us connect with a world we are yearning to be more a part of.

To know a plant intimately is to watch it grow year after year, enjoy its fruits daily throughout its growing season, spend time communing with it, store some harvest for future use, take it internally on a regular basis and observe the effects it has. We can experiment by carrying a part of the plant around with us in a pouch to have its energies with us constantly and see what kind of subtle changes are brought about. We can spend entire days simply ingesting this single plant to get a very deep understanding of the way it affects us.

With all of these different ways of connecting with the plants around our living spaces, the “super” factor of these plants is dramatically increased. These activities lead to a level of intimacy which can not be cultivated with the exotic plants marketed as “superfoods”, simply because those plants do not grow around us all the time. We can not watch a processed, powdered mixture, jammed into capsules over the seasons grow, mature, and die back for winter year after year. We can not sit quietly with the plants in the capsule and ask them deep questions. We can not pluck delicious ripe, tender, young parts off capsules and taste the full life force present in a growing plant. There is nothing like spending time getting to know the plants which grow right outside the front door.

So here we sit at this monumental time in human history, where everything is coming to a head all at once and humanity is crying out for something, anything. Will we sit back and lazily give our divinely gifted light energy to the machine culture of scarcity and dis-ease, or will we stand up, grasp mother nature’s helping hand, extended through the super weeds surrounding us all the time and channel that energy into bringing forth a new world paradigm of absolute abundance of health and well being for all?

The weeds are right here, right now, all around us, all the time. Next time we step out the front door, let’s have a look at what is actually growing around our homes. Chances are these are the most relevant superfoods for us to engage with at this point in our lives. Let’s get to know them, try them out and see how they make us feel. It has been said that all the best things in life are free and when it comes to food and medicine, our great mother has seen to it that these fundamental aspects of life can also be free, for those who choose to engage. Choose life!

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