What effect, freshness?
Wild foods are going to be less degraded than foods bought in a shop that have been picked and shipped and sitting on a shelf for 3, 5, or 7 days. Plants are 70 – 90% water, and they continue to respire after picking; after picking they don’t instantly “die”, but they do get dehydrated. None other than The Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment, acknowledges that food transported long distances is not likely to be as nutritious as food grown and consumed locally. Similarly they have found that if fruits are picked before they are ripe, they may still change colour because of enzymatic activity, but they will not attain nutritional levels as high as fruit picked when it’s ripe.
Can wild plants get the upper hand due to where they grow?
Wild plants will only thrive in spots where all the nourishment, water, and light they need are available to them, naturally. They are self-determined, vigorous, autonomous. The individual plants that are available to me to pick are only the survivors, the best of their gene pool, the ones who have seen off other predators through their flavour compounds, which I will most likely experience as pleasantly bitter, or powerful, or as astringency.
They may vary slightly genetically from specimens a mile down the road, which will be from different seed, on different soils, growing at a different aspect, as part of a different micro-community. The greater diversity in genotypes and ecological factors of wild food adds to the education of my gut’s micro-biome, from where 80% of the immune system stems. I’m stimulating my own system to protect me better, by grazing opportunistically. If the taste of each micro-harvest is slightly different but too subtle in itself for my palate, then the experience of it is still able to make a singular impression in my brain, and my memory, through the contextual details. My brain and senses have been exercised in finding and identifying and gathering these foodstuffs, with a tangible reward by return.
So on top of great flavour and possible nutritional benefits trapped in the compounds of the plants themselves, wild foods will make me feel I’m tasting them each time for the first time. They are stimulating, for parts like my guts and brain, in a way that supplied foods are not.
Yes it’s literally a gut-feel, but the evidence that I have managed to find only strengthens the idea. It all makes perfect sense.
Please get in touch with us on twitter @thebotanistgin if you have anything to add; would love to hear from you about what you know, or your opinion!
* This data from Molecular Diversity Preservation International / Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute mdpi.com/1422-0067/17/8/1258/pdf
If you want to find out more about phenolic compounds, this is interesting: