Between exquisitely crafted smoothie bowls, glowing unicorn lattes and glamorous multi-tiered cakes adorned with fresh flowers, it's hard to separate superfoods from the cutting-edge cuisine of modern health these days. Yet, surprisingly, each of these superfood ingredients has been used by cultures all around the world for quite literally thousands of years! So what did past civilizations do with these valuable ingredients? Here's a hint: it definitely didn't involve a Vitamix.
From the Camu Berries of the Amazon to the Goji Berries of the Himalayas, most superfoods were deemed as medicinal plants, and used as a part of intricate healing practices and sacred rituals. Medicinal mushrooms were often used as a part of Chinese medicine and Cacao beans were deemed so divine that the plant was actually named “food of the Gods,” and often collected as a prized spoil of war. Ancient cultures had very deep connections with the plants that grew around them, and passed down valuable information from generation to generation on the most healing berries, seeds, leaves and roots used to treat a myriad of symptoms – from fertility to fever.
However careful the wellness practice may have been, this was not of time of haute cuisine. Most of the superfoods we know and love today were initially used in primitive drinks and elixirs. Berries, which were not of a snacking variety, would often be steeped in tea, cooked like a broth or mashed into a pulpy juice. Nuts, seeds and roots were often dried out in the sun. They were then pummeled into a powder using a mortar and pestle, stored for long periods of time, and often added to unleavened breads and stews. Porridge was a go-to style of dish, and many superfoods like Maca and Chia were traditionally used in this manner. Also easy to make in a pot, soups were very popular as well, often including superfood additions like seaweed, ginger and turmeric.
As you may imagine, many of these original healing meals were rather bland and bitter – even salt was once an expensive and difficult-to-come-by commodity. But their effects on good health and vigor afforded superfoods a lasting place in the ancient medicine cabinet, and today, we continue to reap those rewards. Now, we just get to have a little more fun in the kitchen!