Ancient cultures sure knew a thing or two about preserving their food. They might not have dried, pickled or cured the tastiest treats by today’s standards, but their clever ways of storing sustenance ensured their survival through very lean times…
North American tribes were the first ones to eat pemmican, a mixture of dried meat and tallow. It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, as it is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein.
In Nigeria and several other western African countries, cassava tubers are peeled, washed and grated to produce a mash. The mash is placed in a porous bag and allowed to ferment for a couple of days, while weights are placed on the bag to expel the water. It is then sieved and roasted, resulting in a dry granular foodstuff called garri, that can be stored for long periods.
The Kenyan Turkana people preserved milk by turning it into milk powder, which is done by sun-drying the clotted fermented milk on flat rocks or hides.
Turkish horsemen of Central Asia used to preserve meat by placing slabs of it in pockets on the sides of their saddles, where it would be squashed by their legs as they rode. This pressed meat was the forerunner of today’s pastirma, a term which literally means ‘being pressed’ in Turkish, and is the origin of the Italian pastrami.
Plus in Andhra Pradesh, India, tamarind or lemon juice are used as preservative for chutneys, pickles and food that is packed for long journeys.
It’s somewhat ironic that nowadays most of us have a modern food preserving device called a refrigerator, yet we’re throwing out more food than ever! The theme for this year’s World Environment Day on 5 June is Think.Eat.Save. Think.Eat.Save is a campaign that inspires you to reduce your foodprint by limiting food loss and waste. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from malnutrition.
Given this enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, Think.Eat.Save encourages you to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices you make and empowers you to make informed decisions.
While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people (growing to 9 billion by 2050), FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.
In fact, the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.
Making informed food decisions means, for example, that you can purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that don’t use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.
So THINK before you EAT and help SAVE our environment! Here are some of the simple things that you can do:
1. Buying locally produced food that’s in season.
2. Instigate meat free days.
3. Stocktake your fridge and cupboard before you shop.
4. Be creative with leftovers – making up tasty soups and hot pots.
5. Use whole foods, not processed foods.
6. Go travelling (with a carbon neutral company)… and learn of other cultures’ sustainable food practise on Intrepid’s Real Food Adventures
For some inspirational adventures in sustainable eating from your armchair, we can recommend exploring the offerings of the marvellous Mirra and Daniel of The Perennial Plate:
The coconut is in a sense a source of life in Sri Lanka. To learn all about what it has to offer, see Coconut: Nose to Tail.
In China, the Hani people who farm the rice terraces of Yuanyang have practiced sustainable farming for centuries, giving them food security and preserving the beauty of their region. Watch their story in Where the Water Settles.
For more on World Environment Day and to find great tips for greening your daily routine and reducing food waste please click here!
Have you got any other good food tips that you’d add to the list?
Photo: Getty Images, Hemera.