Millions of years of co-existence on the same planet has resulted in plants, people, and animals developing a strong symbiotic connection. Plants do not mind if people and animals eat their fruits because such practice benefits the plant by spreading its seeds and thus promoting future generations. In fact plants are “interested” in someone eating their fruit, but only when it is ripe.
The ultimate goal of all plants is to continue their species and provide adequate living conditions for themselves. That is why so many fruits in the world have a round shape, so that they can roll away and start a new life. Plants have learned to make their fruit colorful, palatable, fragrant, and nutritious, to ensure that its consumers not only eat one fruit but continue to return for more. This strategy works very well and all fruit gets eaten. Have you ever noticed how thoroughly birds clean cherry trees or how squirrels keep working on an oak tree until there are no more acorns left? What happens next? The “eaters” digest their food and have bowel movements far away from the mother plant and the seeds are covered with nice “organic fertilizer.” The seeds get a perfect start. Inside the fruit, the seeds are wisely protected from being digested with hardy shells and inhibitors. Note that the plant keeps its fruit extremely un-tasteful, colorless, and without attractive fragrance all the way until the seeds are ripe, so that nobody wastes them before the seeds have matured.
The following example illustrates how much the continuation of their species means to plants. In a recent study in Russia, biologists discovered that “When a tree is foreseeing its death, the tree gathers its entire energy and deposits this energy into producing seeds for the very last time. For example, an oak tree broken by the storm or a cedar tree with its bark removed from its trunk, in a farewell effort before they die forever, give their record crops of acorns or nuts.” (Soloukhin, Vladimir. Razryv Trava. In Russian. Moscow: Molodaya Gvardia, 2001.)
…Plants “allow” humans and animals to eat ALL of their fruits, but only PART of their leaves, because plants need to have leaves for their own use – which is manufacturing chlorophyll. However, plants depend on moving creatures for many different reasons, like pollination, fertilizing the soil, and hanging around to help eat the ripe fruit. For this reason, plants accumulate a lot of highly nutritious elements in their leaves, but mix these nourishing ingredients with either bitterness or very small amounts of alkaloids (poisons).
That is how animals are forced to rotate their menu and that is why all wild animals are browsers. They eat a small amount of one thing, then move on to many other plants during the course of the day. The body is capable of easily detoxifying small amounts of a great many things, but it is much more difficult for the human system to get rid of a large amount of one type of poison. This is why it is crucial for us to learn to rotate the greens in our diet. Chimpanzees also rotate the green plants they eat. They go through approximately 117 different plants in one year. (Goodall, Jane. The Chimpanzees of Gombe. Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of HarvardUniversity Press. 1986.)
We humans need to learn to alternate our variety of greens as much as possible instead of eating only iceberg lettuce, spinach and romaine. Unfortunately, I was able to locate only about 40 types of various greens, including edible weeds that are available in my state of Oregon. I hope that our farmers will learn to grow a larger variety of green leafy vegetables to increase our green sources. The greens available in grocery stores were mostly bred from the dandelion and mustard families. Despite their names and appearances, cultivated greens have similar nutritional content. To meet our nutritional needs, it is essential that we learn to include greens from a number of totally different plant families into our daily diets.
The following is a list of greens that my family has been rotating in our diets.
Beet greens (tops)
Cactus, napal leaves
Goji leaves (wolfberry)
Kale (3 types)
Lettuce (all types red and green)
Pumpkin or squash leaves
Romaine lettuce green and red leaf (no Iceberg or light colored leaf)
Parsley (2 types)