If you were to ask the average person how many species of dogs there are, they would probably say hundreds. They would probably list golden retriever, the Great Dane, a Terrier, or a Chihuahua among many others. They would be mistaken. There is actually only one species of dog, the Canis lupus familiaris, which is the domesticated form of the Grey wolf.
The overly domestic Chihuahua has lost all of the favorable characteristics and physiology of its progenitor the Grey wolf for living and thriving in the wild. The Chihuahua is small and puny. It lacks the wild aggressiveness and strength of the wolf. Other domestic dogs like the Tamaskan or German Sheppard can still have the prized traits of the wolf like the big teeth, thick fur coat, and erect ears for better hearing. Dogs most similar to the Canis lupus could be thought of as an ‘heirloom’ animal, a term I will define shortly.
In the same way that a Chihuahua is a domesticated breed of a Grey Wolf, the common cabbage is a domesticated breed of a plant species called the Brassica Oleracea. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens and brussel sprouts are all one plant, one species of Brassica Oleracea. When you go hiking, you don’t ever come across lush patches of broccoli, kale, or lettuce in the supermarket form you know them as. If you are lucky, you might find the original wild cabbage, called the Brassica Oleracea. If you ate the original brassica in the wild, you would know immediately because it would burn the lips, taste like poison, and there wouldn’t be much food to eat.
Just like the sharp teeth and aggressiveness of the wolf which fends off potential predators, undomesticated plants have similar defense systems to save them from predators. The Brassica Oleracea is loaded with toxic goitrogens and other powerful chemicals which fend off creatures that want to eat the leaves, like us. So what humans did besides disabling the toxins by cooking the wild plants, was breed and domesticate the toxins out of the plants while choosing characteristics like massive edible bulbous organs on the plants so that they have more food on them.What was lost with all of domestication of the wild plant varieties was the rich nutrition and medicines like the alkaloids and phenols, which give the wild plants their bitterness. In the same way that the Chihuahua lacks the wild aggressiveness of its progenitor the Grey wolf, the iceberg lettuce in the supermarket lacks the aggressiveness and ability to defend itself out in the wild. All of the beneficial medical and defense compounds have been weeded out of it so it’s just a big glob of water. The iceberg lettuce has no compounds that protect it from insects, animals, disease and other problems. Thus, the over domesticated varieties in conventional agriculture require prodigious amounts of husbandry in the forms pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, and other barriers for protection. Continuing with the analogy, instead of the owning the overly domesticated Chihuahua, you have the option of owning the durable, lasting, and strong breed heirloom Tamaskan dog. You don’t have to plant the original wild Cucurbitaceae in the melon family or go so far down the domesticated line to the grocery store Kirby cucumber; you can plant the fun, hardy, and nutritious heirloom lemon cucumber.
Or, you can simply forage your local Trader Joes! Over the weekend I stopped by the local T-Joes and foraged the wild food they had to offer. My absolute favorite product of theirs is the frozen Wild Blueberries from Eastern Canada. Berries are some of the very best fruits to store in the freezer with a plastic bag after you get blue bounty from the farmers market in mid-July.
Domesticated berries of all sorts are some of the best domestic foods to eat as they have strayed from their progenitors less than almost any other conventional food. They are still close the size of the wild products and did not become fructose bombs. Trader Joes Wild Blueberries are very small and delicious. When I pour them in my hand my hand instantly becomes stained with the rich purple antioxidant pigment. They taste divine!
The other food I grabbed was Wild Rice from California. I don’t have much experience with this food but I hear it goes great with chicken stock. Maybe a Wild Rice and chicken casserole will be in the works. Who knows.