Old Ways Were The Best Ways

Hard Life – Long Life

When Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Botany Bay on January 16 th and 18th 1788 with the first fleet  of 11 ships and approximately 1350 people  he found it unsuitable for settlement so 26th January 1788 they sailed further around to Camp Cove, known as Cardi to the Cardigal people. Captain Phillip was under instruction to establish a British Colony in Australia but they were poorly prepared for the poor soils they found to establish their farms, they had to trade food with the Aboriginals to survive. The second fleet known as the ‘death fleet’ arrived in 1790 with badly needed food and supplies. 278 of the convicts and crew died on this voyage compared to only 48 on the first fleet. The new fleet arrived with the occupants very ill, many near death, so they weren’t much use to the settlement..http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/european-discovery-and-colonisation

With four men to every woman many problems and conflicts arose within the settlement, it remained like this for  many years.

Tough Times Make Tough People

Food was scarce and work often took the menfolk a long way from home, often not returning for months. This was a common occurrence up until the second world war. Women were often left with a lot of kids to feed and keep safe, ten or twelve children were common with some families having more. My maternal grandmother often told me about the hardships of this period where growing your own food was not only necessary, but it was essential to their survival. Chooks,a few pigs for slaughtering and a milking cow were necessities for survival. There was no technology so everything had to be done the hard way, no gas or power, all heating /cooking required wood, lighting from lamps and candles. Hunting and foraging skills were also necessary, everyone trapped some rabbits and sought out wild foods.

Foraging Was Part Of Daily Life

As the seasons rolled around usually the mother and children would head off into the bushland to forage for edible plants. There is no shortage of edible plants in summer but winter requires a bit more skill. My grandmother’s generation were skilled foragers but my mother’s generation stopped foraging  as towns grew from villages and suppliedmore fruit, vegetables and meats. Foraging is making a comeback with skilled people leading the way. The skill of preserving was also a highly prized art, handed down from mother to daughter and in some cases son. Preserving enabled them to use all of the summer vegetables as preserves and then add them back into winter meals when these seasonal vegetables were not around. Before we move to far from the edible herbs we should mention that quite a few of them are much more nutritious than store bought herbs because they are grown naturally and not grown for taste, or with the market in mind. Our taste buds developed to seek out sweet tastes which worked for us in our ancestors days because sweet meant ripe and often sour/bitter meant poisonous. Today we are surrounded by sweet and we don’t eat enough bitter herbs…http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2016-05-12/edible-weeds-and-how-you-can-use-them/7406004  

The other taste we developed for fat now works against us also, once food technologists discovered how to blend food (proteins) for colour and taste they became invaluable to food manufacturers in cost cutting and deception.  By blending proteins food can resemble expensive crab meat, by using cheap extender proteins that look and taste like crab, but significantly reduce the cost. In the early part of the 20th century a lot of the meat consumed was game meat that was trapped or hunted and it contained a lot less saturated fat. When Professor Loren Cordain published his findings on our ancestral diet and how it has evolved he was amazed to find herbivores from Africa (100) and Canada (100) contained 15% fat and the American Heart Foundation was telling people to limit it to 10% of their total diet. Cordon found the bog difference was the composition of fat in the ancestral diet, there was a lot more monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and omega 3 fats in the wild animals. This protected against heart disease rather than promote it. 20th century Australians would have had the same beneficial fat content in wild game. Today the farmed animals have a totally different fat composition because of yarding and diet. They contain a lot more bad fat…http://www.scienceschool.usyd.edu.au/history/2009/media/lectures/4-brand-miller-chapter.pdf

Microbiome Has Changed

Because we have so dramatically changed our eating habits we have also changed the composition of our microbiome. Primitive hunter gatherers have a totally different microbe profile in their guts to ours. We are the losers. Processed food and antibiotic overuse has drastically altered our microbe content. Healthy bacteria that protected us from many of the diseases that we are now getting are not in our digestive system anymore. The 20th century diet our foraging ancestors ate would certainly have fed this healthy bacteria. We outsmart ourselves so often, the rewards we get for eating poorly, taste and convenience, end up costing us a lot in disease. 

Modern Day Foragers

Currently scientists are researching isolated pockets of people that enjoy a phenomenal lifespan both in years lived and in years free of disease. Sardinia, Acciaroli (both in Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California),Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rico) and Ikaria in Greece are all foragers living a simple life and eating a simple diet. What do they have in common, almost everything and they currently live longer than anyone else on this planet. Hunting and foraging is part of everyday life, most of the hunting is fishing and the vegetables are grown in backyards and shared with friends and neighbours. This is how our Australian 20th century ancestors lived before towns were established with modern stores. I look at my ancestors that lived this way and I see a sprinkling of ages from 89 to 102 years with quite a few above 95 years.

Foraging is healthy if you know what you are doing but you should never guess. If you don’t know find out or leave it for the experts. Foraging is coming back and there are established groups that go foraging.

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Posted in Lifestyle Medicine.

My health qualifications:
Psychology, Homoeopathy(Never Used),Herbal Medicine, Nutrition(HSA)
Swedish and Remedial Massage 1983,Homoeopathy 1993(Never Used), Herbal Medicine, Nutritional Science 1981, Naturopathy 1991(HSA)
Bachelor of Naturopathy 2003 (NIHS)
Master of Clinical Science - Lifestyle Medicine 2013 Southern Cross University (SCU).
Association Membership
Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA)
Australian Register Of Naturopaths And Herbalists (ARONAH)
Founding Member of Australasian Society Of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM)


  1. Such an interesting article, thank you. I can correctly identify a hairs worth and I do harvest. Dandelion Elderberry rosehips and stinging nettle. I find it amazing interesting and rewarding. Thanks for a great article.

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