Secrets of Green Cultures Part IV: Food Preservation

incaRefrigerators consume about a sixth of household energy. Earth Day celebrations across the globe will include a hodgepodge of nutritious, environmentally friendly prepared foods for all to enjoy. However, many modern cultures continue to treat food with great irresponsibility– unnecessary waste, genetically modified organisms, manipulated animal handling and much more. Past cultures considered food a privilege, using all parts of the plant or animal while treating it with the utmost respect. What was truly unique was the ability specific peoples had of preserving their food without the comfort of electricity. Here are some secret examples of how these groups were able to keep food safe and fresh without refrigeration.


Various tribes realized that they could store and preserve food rather than hunt and move on to the next food abundant area. Food dehydration was one of the essential practices used to maintain a food stable. There is evidence as early as 12,000 BC in areas of the Middle East as well as Asia that shows fire pits with exhaust vents at the top. Fruits, vegetables and animal products were dried when heated air rose upward creating the essential low humidity needed to dehydrate. Food was then stored and able to feed the tribe throughout the year allowing the animal habitat to re-populate rather than be over-hunted enabling tribes to remain in one location. Interestingly, the North American indians created pemmican, large amounts of fat added to dried deer and buffalo meat which considerably decreased oxygen degeneration. Today, personal food dehydration is being embraced much more as a green means to saving electricity as well as foregoing the many preservatives added to store-bought dried foods.

Geographical Preservation

Many of the secrets of ancient food preservation depended upon the geographical location of each culture. One example is the Incas who lived in the Andes mountains. In this high altitude they were able to store their potatoes and other foods which could be frozen. The reduced atmospheric pressure dissipated the water crystals in the food much faster than if the Incas tried this at sea level thus allowing an optimal food preservation system. As modern culture advanced, this method was developed into freeze-dried foods using a vacuum process to turn the water crystals into vapor which could easily be removed and reconstituted later on. This process maintained the nutritional value of the food while avoiding high carbon footprint methods such as refrigerated transport.

The Napoleon Complex

canningIn 1800, Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could devise a way to preserve food for his mobile army. Nicolas Appert won the award by applying heat to glass jars containing food thus killing off harmful bacteria before sealing. He was considered the father of making “the seasons stand still” allowing subsequent cultures to follow suit by advancing to metal containers which started the canning industry. Currently, green advancements in jarring and canning food by reusing glass and metal are on the rise. People are tired of eating food laden with chemicals and preservatives bought in supermarkets and have instead begun growing and preserving their own food at home.

There are hundreds of food preservation techniques taken from our ancient ancestors as well as new innovation. Salt, sub-terrain storage, and many other applications can be used by individuals that want to embrace more green-friendly ways saving electricity, food and money. Earth Day is the perfect start for your own food preservation changes.

Next up: Secrets of Green Cultures Part V: Ancient Healing


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