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JAMA Revisited
August 1, 2017

Medical News: London Letter

JAMA. 2017;318(5):486. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.8599

As stated in a previous letter, attention is being directed to the value of wild foods which are almost entirely neglected. The inhabitants of rural districts are being shown what extensive supplies of natural food lie at their doors and around their dwellings, and are being taught so to utilize them that the ordinary products of the farm, garden or allotment may be made available, at a remunerative price to the grower, for the sustenance of the population of the larger towns and cities. Following the recent publication of a practical guide to “The Wild Foods of Great Britain,” which indicates over 260 different articles of diet only awaiting collection of those who have learned to distinguish them, and provides recipes for their treatment in order to render them palatable and nutritious, it has been decided to send to the villages and smaller towns lecturers and demonstrators, equipped with traveling kitchens or using the school kitchens and appliances already possessed by the various education committees. They will point out to the people the wild foods immediately available in their own localities, and show them how to prepare them for home consumption. The amount of available wild food that has been wasted in England in past years is incalculable. In continental countries, and to a lesser extent in Scotland, these natural sources of supply have never been neglected; while in most parts of the kingdom some one or other wild product of the countryside has always been used by its inhabitants. The instructors to be sent out by the county councils will find that in one place snails, in another the edible frog, in others hedgehogs, in some nettles, or whortleberries, or avrons, or the edible fungus called blewits, and on the coast dulse and laver and samphire, are already commonly eaten. Basing their instruction on the fact that some one or other of the natural foods of the country are already eaten by the inhabitants of the locality they are visiting, it will not be difficult for them to demonstrate that there are others of the seventy-odd food-producing plants, edible fungi, and fresh-water fish equally worth gathering and eating. The plan to be adopted is for the lecturers and demonstrators in wild food collection and cookery to visit the smaller centers either with a caravan fitted as a traveling kitchen or with one of the traveling kitchens already possessed by different county councils, and after they have examined the natural resources of the locality and determined its available food supply at the moment, to deliver a brief lecture in the schoolroom, parish hall, or on the village green, and to call for volunteers from the inhabitants—schoolchildren, teachers and others—to form a collection of them on the following morning. This collection will be brought to the traveling kitchen or to that of the schoolhouse, and the demonstrator will then give practical instruction to the villagers in the different methods of preparing them for food.

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