Planning a Year Living on Wild Foods

For most of our history, humans have lived off the land through the hunting and gathering of wild foods. Today, foraged food can be a valuable and tasty addition to our diet. But what would it be like to live only off foraged food? Could the wild foods available in the 21st century provide a balanced diet? With these questions in mind, in this blog I begin to explore how the macronutrients needed for one person for an entire year could be obtained. There is a personal dimension to this research, as I plan to gift myself 2024 as a year off, living off the land.

(Photo Nicola Strange)

How many nutrients do I need?

I am basing this enquiry on my own nutritional needs. According to online calculators, to maintain my current weight, I need the following each day:

Carbs 203g
Fat 60g
Protein 113g
Fibre 25g
Table 1: Daily macros

Over a year, this adds up to:

Carbs 74kg
Fat 22kg
Protein 41kg
Fibre 9kg
Table 2: Yearly macros

So how could I gather this from the wild foods available to me?

Easily obtained sources of macronutrients are sweet chestnuts, acorns and whichever other nuts I can beat the squirrels to. Of course, we have to bear in mind nut harvests vary in size each year.

Dried sweet chestnuts and acorns generally contain the following macros:

  100g dry sweet chestnuts 100g dry acorns
Carbs 37g 54g
Fat 1g 31g
Protein 4g 8g
Fibre 7g 0g
Table 3: Macros in sweet chestnuts and acorns

Note the word ‘generally’- acorns are known to vary in the proportions of nutrients they contain. To keep this research simple however, I am working with the most commonly presented quantities.

I also have access to deer and rabbit, culled from my field. One hundred grams of venison steak provides around 25 grams of protein, whilst rabbit would offer a similar amount of protein and 5 grams of fat.

If I had the following daily intake of acorns, sweet chestnuts, venison and rabbit:

I would gain the following macros:

If you compare this to my daily requirements (table 1), I would be nearly there for my macro needs.

A day’s portion of sweet chestnuts and acorns (Photo Nicola Strange)

For a year, I would need the following quantities:

Sweet chestnuts Acorns Venison Rabbit
110kg 55kg 73kg 36kg
c. 20,000 UK nuts c. 27,000 nuts c. 7 roe deer c. 60 rabbits
Table 4: A year’s food
Roe deer: Seven needed through the year (Photo Jason Ingamells)

This Autumn, which has been a great year for nuts, I have only collected around 10kg each of acorns and sweet chestnuts. This looked like quite a lot but now I’ve done the maths it is obviously only enough for a couple of months! Let’s hope next Autumn, is just as good…

Of course, there are a range of plants and fungi which will provide extra macros. Roots, such as burdock and silverweed, will be a welcome variation to the carb part of my diet. However, in clay-dominated Bristol, these are difficult obtain in large quantities.

My next blog will look at micronutrients and which key foodstuffs will provide most of my requirements.

A handful of beautiful micronutrients! (Photo Nicola Strange)

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