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Fukuoka's diet philosophy and wild food  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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I've read a bit about Fukuoka's diet in "One Straw Revolution" and how his philosophy included the importance of seasonal food and wild foods. My question is this: Did Fukuoka and his students eat only foods grown on Fukuoka's farm or was food purchased and do you have any sense of the percentage of food purchased (if any) and where it was purchased (neighbors, grocery store, other)? Also, do you have any idea of how much wild food was a part of the annual diet on the farm and if it was harvested only on the farm or foraged from other wild areas?

These probably seem like trivial and nit-picky questions, but I'm very interested in wild food and also in Fukuoka's philosophy as it relates to food.

Thank you.
 
Author
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These are not picky questions at all, Tyler, and I am glad to answer them. About 95% of the food we ate while living in the orchard was grown there or in the fields. The food that came in from the outside usually came in trade with neighbors and that was usually fish. More than half of the students who stayed for a long time were vegetarian, though. We foraged for wild herbs like bracken fern, lambsquarter, nettles and shepard's purse, and vegetables like wild yams, bamboo shoots, mushrooms and berries, and ocassionally went to the ocean for sea vegetables. Fukuoka-san gave us about $30 a month to buy the things that were impracticle to produce on a small scale, mainly soy sauce and cooking oil. We made our own tofu and miso and lots of pickles. The climate was mild enough that we had food in all seasons, but we still dried, pickled, and root-cellared a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Besides the fermented and pickled food we ate only what was in season. The natural diet really tunes you in to what is going on around you. The whole point of living in that semi-wild manner was to help the students to become a part of the place they lived. It also helped you to live life in the present moment.

Here in Ashland, Oregon, a community of 20,000 people, we produce only 5% of what we eat. The main agricultural products are pears, apples, wine and cheese which are mainly exported. We have many organic and permaculture-style farms so the farmer's market and CSA groups thrive. Even in Eugene and Corvallis where the farmland is among the richest in the world they only produce about 5% of what they consume. They grow a lot of produce there, but it is mainly shipped out for cash which is then used to buy the same foods which are shipped in from somewhere else. It's all very weird. The main challenge seems to be the beans and grains. For some reason people seem to believe that beans and grains are impractical to produce on a small scale. If Corvallis, say, grew the beans and grains they needed locally the percentage of locally grown food consumed would jump to about 25%
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Thank you, Larry.

 
pollinator
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Larry, I am very grateful for all your work.

You really had an experience. Fukuoka is one of my biggest inspirations. Also because I had a similar path to his (I was also working in a microbiology lab years ago).

We are beginning to grow here grains and beans, as you said. It's second and I still have to grow mostly green manures and mulches but I don't till the soil. I am happy with the already quite fertile soil. I don't import nothing, I just gather fallen leaves and branches and throw into the veg garden.

I have also one question (if I could): did Fukuoka started everything by sowing directly and letting seedlings grow espontaneously, for example with Broccoli, tomatoes, etc? I assume, since there was no tillage, the seedlings would grow whenever they felt it ws easier to sprout, and that you did not bother with transplants.

Second question: did you use milk? which origin: cows, goats or from cereals?
Thank you for your time with us, Larry.

 
larry korn
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Many of the details of how Fukuoka-san seeded his plants are given in The Natural Way of Farming. Mainly he mixed the seeds of many different vegetables together and scattered them around in the spaces between the orchard trees. Then he cut down the ground cover and let the clippings fall to act as a mulch. He did come back to tend the seedlings from time to time during the first summer. Then they got on by themselves and reseeded and naturalized, coming up year after year.

The important thing was knowing when to scatter the seeds. For the summer crop he sowed the seeds into the winter weeds just as they were getting ready to die back. That way the vegetables got a head start on the spring and summer weeds. He used a similar strategy in the rice fields, sowing the barley while the rice was still maturing in the field. By the time the rice was harvested and the straw returned to the field the barley was so thick that it held back the winter weeds.

This system worked well at his farm in Japan where there were reliable rains throughout the summer. He put some of the seeds in clay pellets. He grew seedlings and transplanted certain vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. These, he said, were particularly weak because of intensive breeding over the centuries. The reason he mixed the seeds together was because he didn't want to direct the project by his deciding where he thought one or the other vegetable would do well. He wanted nature to show him. Again, he is trying to get human decision making out of the picture.

I don't remember drinking milk at any time while I lived in the orchard. Dairy products are not part of the traditional diet in Japan. Cattle were nearly unknown in traditional times and they are extremely rare even today. In Hokkaido some horses and cows graze on pastures, but in the rest of Japan what cows there are are kept in barns and never allowed to graze. This is partly due to geography...Japan is mountainous with the valley bottomlands abruptly changing to woodlands and then forests so there is little room for grazing, and partly due to the cultural prohibition against killing cows dating all the way back to India. After WWII the Americans introduced dairy products to Japan and the average height of the Japanese people grew by 4" in a single generation (!).
 
pollinator
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in my reading of F's books I was also drawn to the fact that there seemed to be a lot of pickled food, which I have always been told was NOT good for you, but F's teachings seem to lean toward those foods as beeing nutritious.

kinda left me wondering and wanting to learn more about the picked foods.

the Back to Eden books I had read really shunned pickled foods as "indigestible"..so I have a big curiosity about them.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I wonder if there's a difference between "pickled" and "fermented" but the words are often used interchangeably? I think Mollison has written a lot about fermented foods, which are supposed to be good for you. Maybe the "pickled" foods of Fukuoka were fermented?

 
gardener
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Salt pickles and vinegar pickles are both in traditional Japanese food. One uses salinity, the other acidity to select for non-pathogenic bacteria. 'Wild Fermentation' is a zealous paper introduction to a variety of techniques, focused on salt fermentation. Pickling is how to maintain harvest without refrigeration or the fuel use or technology of canning--very practical.
 
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Brenda Groth wrote:in my reading of F's books I was also drawn to the fact that there seemed to be a lot of pickled food, which I have always been told was NOT good for you ... the Back to Eden books I had read really shunned pickled foods as "indigestible"..so I have a big curiosity about them.

The actual quote is ...
"Pickles Pickles are indigestible, they resist the action of the gastric juice as would pebbles, and cause great irritation and chronic diseases. They are hardened by the action of the acetic acid, and sometimes the addition of alcohol. They arrest the action of the saliva and cause gastric catarrh. Acetic acid is an active poison. Stuffed olives, green olives, brandied fruits, etc., are in the same class. Salads in which vinegar is used is far from wholesome and must always be excluded from the sick or invalid diet, in all cases. Lemon should be substituted for vinegar in all cases."

- Jethro Kloss, Back To Eden

It seems to be that he is referring to commercial or American style pickles using acid and alcohol.

In Japan, generally, and on local farms, specifically, Fukuoka would have been referring to natural fermented salt and/or rice bran pickles which are actually good for or cures for indigenstion. Ume (pickle sour plum with shiso leaves), daikon, greens, ginger ... there are many varieties of each one. For example, ume has highly alkalinising effect and is used for gastrointestinal ailments: stomach ache. Its pickle juice, ume su, makes.an alternative to vinegar.

Cheap copies will use vinegars or acids to fake the effect but real ones are just as nature intended. Different entirely to what Kloss was referring.

I guess the closest you would get to a nature diet for Iyo would be a loose version of macrobiotics in which these pickles play a central part as condiments. It's also practical ... storage without refrigeration.
 
larry korn
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Good discussion. Pickling and fermenting are an indispensible part of the country Japanese diet. They are great techniques for preserving food among other things. In the process of miso fermentation, for example, the proteins of the soybeans are broken down into amino acids so they are easier to digest. The macrobiotic diet is basically the country Japanese diet. Many of the vegetable pickles were simply vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, daikon or beets, layered with salt and lightly pressed. That's it! Tofu is simply soy "milk" (cooked soybeans which are crushed and then strained through cheese cloth) pressed with the addition of brine. Instead of prepared brine you can also simply use seawater.

It seems that everyone has a diet scheme these days with science or pseudo-science to back it up (science and pseudo-science were the same thing to Fukuoka, by the way). Helen and Scott Nearing (Living the Good Life) ate only raw foods. They lived to be 100. The macrobiotics cook almost everything. The Weston Price people are way into protein. Juicers juice. Vegans do their thing and all swear by their system. So who is right? Heck if I know. I just stick to fresh organic foods, grown locally and in season, and eaten in moderation. The ideal, according to Fukuoka, is to live in a place where many foods are available at your doorstep. Instead of following a systematic plan which was created by our idea of what is good for us, we would walk through the yard or rummage in the root cellar and our hands would reach out for what the body needed. This is the ideal, anyway. Again, it's taking human decision making and decisions made by following the intellectual idea of what is right, out of the picture.
 
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Not sure what Kloss was on about - vinegar is a traditional food in Europe and a well known aid to digestion. It's also a fermented food. There is a difference between pasteurised and raw vinegar. Most commercial pickles are pasteurised, perhaps Kloss was observing effects from that.
 
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I think there is much more to it than if we think that this or that is healthier. The diet of natural in season herbs and veggies has much more importance than that to me. I think Fukuoka Senpai ( I hope this isn't the incorrect honorific, but i think of this great man as an elder student in the school of nature) understood it best. By eating a diet of what is growing naturally you begin to attune yourself with the cycles of nature becoming part of it. I live in a city so I can't just scavenge a bunch of herbs from places, not knowing if they have been sprayed or not. However as a child I took many survival hikes and camp outs, eating respectfully fom the land. Never have a felt so in tune with nature as then, and never so lost fom her imbrace as now.
 
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Brenda Groth wrote:in my reading of F's books I was also drawn to the fact that there seemed to be a lot of pickled food, which I have always been told was NOT good for you, but F's teachings seem to lean toward those foods as beeing nutritious.

kinda left me wondering and wanting to learn more about the picked foods.

the Back to Eden books I had read really shunned pickled foods as "indigestible"..so I have a big curiosity about them.


East and Southeast Asians in general have included a lot of pickled and fermented foods in their traditional diets. In ancient times, they did not have refrigerators or freezers, and this is a necessary and handy practice in places with hot and humid climates which are typically subtropical or tropical or blessed with long, cold winters, as many parts of Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, etc. are. I don't know what Kloss is talking about, but IMO it is not right to assume that things pickled in alcohol or vinegar are only Western or bad for your health. When I was growing up, we sometimes ate cooked chicken pickled/preserved in strong wine with rice for lunch or dinner. This is common in some Chinese cuisine. I'm also a fan of eating kimchi with rice for breakfast or lunch. Avoid being around other people, though, when you do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimchi
 
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My guess is that the better extrapolation from Jethro Kloss' ideas is that the foods made by the big food processors are bad for you. Both the pickles and the white flour he talks about avoiding are/were the products of system that isn't at all interested in the health of the people who consume what they sell. AND, in my opinion they are worse now than they were then.

And the unreliability of our food sources is to me a big reason I am interested in permaculture.
 
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I read the one straw revolution. And I wonder how this should work, I learned that you make a furrow to put your seeds in and then cover and tamp down. Now Fukuoka plants cover crops and he throws the seeds in between - how do they grow if they are not covered with earth?
That is a bit off topic.
Back to the topic: there are a lot of wild plants around us, but unfortunately we cannot use them, because they are declared as weeds, and in order to "protect" our bush they are sprayed on with poisons. I would love to use that stuff.
 
Denise Lehtinen
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larry korn wrote:

This system worked well at his farm in Japan where there were reliable rains throughout the summer. He put some of the seeds in clay pellets. He grew seedlings and transplanted certain vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. These, he said, were particularly weak because of intensive breeding over the centuries.


Could it be that his system didn't work well for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant because these plants are really perennials?
 
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Larry, could outline the method used by Fukuoka to produce miso? I guess it was the same ancient japanese method; my problem is that I don't know where to find information about it.
 
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I enjoyed back to eden very much, but here in the midwest people have been eating pickles since the pioneer days. When the ground is frozen eating pickles gave people needed vitamins!

Then again, have you ever READ the ingredients of a jar of pickles? I suspect that commercial pickles and what my great-grandparents ate are very different!

Though, honestly, I like them all, home made and store bought. I never COULD make bread-and-butter pickles like Gr-gr-gr-Aunt Irene! And she lived to be 98.
 
pollinator
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I am reading the natural way of farming. It seems that either Japanese people eat far less or that Fukuoka exaggerated somewhat.
He says that his students live on a diet of rice barley and veggies of 1500 kcal per day, while working hard all day. Frankly, I would starve on this diet.
Do Japanese traditionally eat meat? Fish is a luxury these days but we can raise or buy a lamb cheapl, grown not further than some meters from us.
 
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I can find purslane and dandelion and mulberries, peaches and pecans right here in Dallas near downtown, actually. I resist foraging here, principally because I have enough from out at the farm most of the time. But also because those things also grow more or less where my dog pees every day. But still, if I had nothing else, I could pick quite a bit right here in town, and so could other folks. I do pick a ton of mulberries here in the neighborhood on my lunch hour during the early summer every year.
 
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I knew someone who spent some time in Japan but you have given more perspective on many facets of Japanese culture, cuisine, nutrition, etc. in this thread than he was able to impart in 5 years of friendship. Thanks for the great discussion.
 
pollinator
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Brenda Groth wrote:in my reading of F's books I was also drawn to the fact that there seemed to be a lot of pickled food, which I have always been told was NOT good for you, but F's teachings seem to lean toward those foods as beeing nutritious.


I have read the next posts about pasteurized or raw, and that vinegar is fermented.
I have a personal recent experience.

I had some intestine difficulties (cannot eat starch), and with a new try with some roots and gluten-free grains, I was ill 2 weeks...
I do did not like acidic taste...
I have ...had no vinegar.
I do eat saurkrut "because it is good for me"...
I do not even put lemon and eat salads with olive oil only.

Those days, I had some little burning in my stomach.
I had to resist a longing for oranges (from the garden!)
"Wait you are better! Too acid"
I bought plenty of local tomatoes to cook with my meet (usually I avoid tomato sauce!)
So I wandered why, as my instinct is good.

And I discovered that this acidity came from a LACK of acidity of my stomach, and that I should use cider vinegar.
I also let myself go to the desired oranges, appart from taking vinegar into water before all meals.

Not only my digestion was instantly better, but also my elbow tendons went better!

Excess of acidic taste would sure be bad, but I had a lack of acid... Raw cider vinegar is surely good, and I guess some other traditional vinegar are also good.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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if I interpret my understanding of diets and F's point of view about science...

Avoid all what is industrial and way too transformed.
Eat everything that is edible and growing around your place.
So your diet will vary according to the season and what is available.
Transform and keep with the easiest and most basic methods such as fermenting, vinegar, drying...

And do not put your nose too much into science, or reading too much will damage your health because of all the questions you cannot answer (or cannot choose between the answers!)
 
larry korn
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Well said!
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