The Wild Relatives at Our Tables: The Unknown History of Food

The National Herald Archive

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Do you know the origin of each mouthful of food found at your table?

New Years is the time when we think about changes in our lives, one of which could be our environmental awareness. Imagine viewing our planet from the realm of the stars – you will stand in awe as you take in the glorious complexity of Mother Earth and you will feel overwhelmed by the importance of the environment’s health for yourself. People in cities often do not understand how plants or fruit trees are taken from the forest and ‘domesticated’, then cultivated in the field, and finally transported to super market and then to our table.

A great example of a domesticated plant is Brassica oleracea, a plant species from which many cultivars were created: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi – and many others. Brassica oleracea is the wild crop relative of all the above. This means that all the above cultivars do not exist in nature, but we created them based on Brassica oleracea DNA. We developed techniques where all these cultivars can offer us valuable nutrients in winter time. For example, broccoli is rich in vitamin C, cauliflower in potassium, and cabbage is an ideal boost against cold and flu! A rich and diverse in plants species diet can offer you health. But don’t forget during each bite that nature offered us this variety, hence we should respect that. Biodiversity, conservation of each plant species is important for the balance of nature, the “wild relatives deposit” in agriculture, and the healthy variety in our table!

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.