Eating In Season

Seasonal Fiddlehead Greens

There is little doubt that eating certain fiddlehead greens can significantly increase ones chances of cancer. In fact, science says they cause cancer. On the surface that would be a sobering thought but is it?

Eating? Toxic?

Toxicity can be a matter of degrees

This may sound a bit picky, but what is “eating?” And for this discussion, what is “toxic?” In broad terms there isn’t much issue: Eating is consuming food and toxic can make you sick or kill you. Eat water hemlock and you will die in a couple of hours. That’s fairly straight forward. What about eating a pound of onions a day? It may take a few weeks or months but they can kill you, too. So are they toxic? Are they deadly?

But, back to fiddleheads. Phrases like “fiddlehead greens can significantly increase ones chances of cancer” are surprisingly unqualified. That is because science, that wonderful tool, is reductionist. It does not and cannot have a Gestalt view.

What if I ate just a few fiddleheads in a few meals just in spring, when they are in season? Can I expect cancer from them 20 or 30 years down the road? What if I can them, and eat a whole lot of them throughout the year for 20 or 30 years? Might that be the cause of cancer in the time to come? Research has shown that you can get cancer by drinking the local water where fiddleheads grow. But the again, we drink water everyday, not just a few times every spring.

A Pack A Day

One cigarette does little damage

Perhaps some plants cause disease when they are eaten extra-seasonally, or to excess, or over a long period of time. A few fiddlehead every spring might actually be good for you, like a little wine, some greenery after a long winter. Preserving them and eating them all year might be akin to smoking, damage by excess or prolonged consumption. One cigarette a month is probably not going to kill you, but a pack a day can.

Simple Carbs

We used to call them “empty calories.”

It might be that man lives best when he eats seasonally, which brings me to carbohydrates. Simple carbs used to be a seasonal part of man’s diet, a fruit tree in the fall is a good example. He would eat until stuffed and the excess went to fat for winter use when the days were lean. Now most of us eat simple carbs every day, if not every meal. The

Almost as empty…

government even recommends it! But what if simple carbs are like fiddlehead greens or even cigarettes. Now and then, in season, no harm but daily deadly? Might that be what’s behind our obesity epidemic and our diabetes epidemic, the proliferation of simple carbs to the exclusion of other food?

Most of us no longer eat seasonally, and maybe that is catching up with us.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Branden March 9, 2012, 10:46 pm

    Great article here. I never really thought in terms of seasonal eating, but it rings out in my mind as making good sense. It’s a shame that we have been indoctrinated into eating “food” instead of eating food. Also South Florida doesn’t do much for a sense of seasons. /furrowed brows/

  • db January 29, 2013, 9:21 am

    Sounds very “Paleo” to me 🙂

  • Janie January 29, 2013, 9:47 am

    Good article. I believe in eating seasonally and locally. But I never thought of it in this way. Thanks for a great article.

  • Leah August 24, 2013, 5:53 pm

    I would like to start by stating that I do forage for food in addition to gardening and my ultimate goal, is to turn my yard (when I finally have one) into one giant “forage garden”.

    The concept of eating seasonally is great and it makes sense. It is also not practical for many people for one if not both of the following reasons.
    Eating seasonally is vastly easier to do when living in a warm climate. Not all veggies and fruits, wild or cultivated are in season all the time, but there’s always something. Here in Minnesota the non-growing season lasts 6 or 7 months. Granted I’m fairly new to foraging but I’m guessing there aren’t many wild edibles that I can harvest and stash in the basement that will still be edible in January or February. For that matter, there aren’t many cultivated storage vegetables that last that long.

    Additionally, modern living means that most Americans don’t burn enough calories to spend fall and winter living on starchy storage vegetables and meat (fatty or not). For most people, daily living no longer requires demanding physical labor. We are no longer required to raise or forage and store all the food we may need during the winter months. The majority of Americans no longer require additional fat to keep warm during winter, nor do we require it for energy in times when food is scarce.

    Therefore, I more reluctantly than most folks, rely on anemic, psuedo-fresh veggies from the grocery store to get me through the winter months.

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