When we first started in late July of 2009 I initially signed on as Camp Cook as I had always had an appreciation for good food and thought it would be a fun endeavor. Little did I know that several years later, inspired by the work we were doing in the Sacred Rok kitchen, I would embark on a journey into nutrition.
In 2014 I started a graduate degree program in Traditional Nutrition and after two years of study and one thesis later I was holding my degree with an emphasis on Type II Diabetes Prevention in Native Populations through Whole and Traditional Foods.
Some of you may be wondering what Traditional Foods are. Well, simply put they are deeply nourishing foods, which are unprocessed, naturally raised, largely raw, unrefined and prepared in their traditional and appropriate ways. These foods represent the natural diet of humankind and nourished the natural growth and evolution of the human species for thousands of years prior to the industrialization of food. They are foods in their original form, are whole and nutrient-dense and are really quite simple like meat and poultry, eggs, whole grains, fish, beans and legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, dairy, fats.
As Sacred Rok delves deeper into the understanding of what it means to be nurtured by nature we look to our food more and more. Motivated to put my studies into practical use I've been delving into the wild edibles of the Sierra Nevada and have created a few recipes based on the local flora. One delicious ingredient that the Sacred Rok youth love to collect is Wild Onion. This Allium literally is food medicine as it is high in anti-cancer sulfur compounds; high in quercetin, a flavonoid beneficial in upper respiratory health; high in Vitamin A & C; rich in potassium, calcium, manganese, and selenium; can be used for bacterial diseases or as a preventative method when you first feel a cold coming on; and is even good for overall cholesterol.
The leaves can be eaten as a snack by rolling them into balls and sprinkling with salt but a new favorite of mine is a Wild Onoin Kimchi. Kimchi, for those who may not know, is a traditional fermented Korean dish made from vegetables like cabbage, green onions, carrots, radish, garlic, ginger and spices. It is made by a traditional fermentation process involving a salt brine and takes place inside tightly sealed glass jars or ceramic pots. The fermentation process takes anywhere from several days to several months. During this time the flavors, textures and health benefits of kimchi dramatically change and improve; like the production of beneficial lactobacilli bacteria which is really good for the health of our gut and as a result the health of our immune system. Additionally, the lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi also helps your body break down toxins like pesticides.
But, the health benefits of Kimchi don't stop there. Beyond the pro-bacteria properties, Kimchi also has anticancer properties; anti-constipation properties; brain health promotion; immune health promotion; colorectal health promotion; antioxidative and anti-aging properties; anti-obesity effects; skin health promotion and aids in the treatment of leaky gut.
Our modern diets are largely processed, consist of highly refined ingredients and man-made chemicals and are virtually void of any real nutritional value. As more and more youth are diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders it is becoming increasingly important to look to their diets for the answers. Sensitivities to additives and processed sugars, allergies to processed dairy, wheat and gluten have all been found to be huge contributors to behavioral problems and illness.
Our ancestors knew the secrets to wellness and it was through sustaining oneself on the natural foods found in nature. While we all may not be able to go into the mountains and woods for our food supply we can make an effort to plant gardens, join a CSA, and stick to the parameters of the grocery stores opting for organics and local produce as much as we can. In making an effort to eat whole foods we are returning to health and providing a brighter future for the youth of this earth.
Happy Eating from your Sacred Rok COO and Nutritionist,