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13 Jan

Peculiar Primal: 10 Perfectly Primal Foods You Probably Haven’t Eaten

If you’ve been living the Primal lifestyle for a while, you know that there are tons of natural, healthy foods available. But, what if there was more out there? Primal-approved foods that you haven’t tried?

The following is a playful list of 10 off-the-beaten-path Primal foods – some you’ll want to try and some you’ll probably prefer to pass on:

Blood

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What’s red and red and red all over?

Although we’ve come to believe that blood is food only for the vampire set, it is actually a popular cooking ingredient in Finland, Poland and other Baltic regions. While they’re certainly not drinking the blood straight from the…uhh…source, blood is often combined with other spices and fillings to add flavor to make blood sausages and blood pudding (which, if you’re traveling to the British Isles or other parts of Europe, is often sold as black pudding). In Thailand, blood is used as a dressing in a salad and meat based dish known as laap, and in Columbia, it is sometimes used as a seasoning or base for rice dishes. In the U.S., blood is significantly more difficult to get a hold of and its consumption is banned in many religions. As such, there aren’t a ton of nutritional data or recipes that we can share, but it’s always nice to know you have options!

Buffalo

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Buffalo… it’s what could be for dinner.

While Jessica Simpson’s assertion that “buffalo wings are made of buffalo” may have been proven untrue by her then-husband, the ex-Mrs. Lachey may have been on to something: Buffalo is perfectly primal. When compared to beef, for example, buffalo is a great source of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, since it isn’t mass-farmed, you can bet that buffalo on your plate was grass-fed and is generally free of the antibiotics and hormones often used in commercial farming.

Cactus

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Don’t get prickly, this isn’t a single serving size!

Feeling prickly? Then you might be interested in giving cactus, or nopales, a try. Native to Mexico, nopale leaf pads are typically harvested between the spring and the end of summer. But why eat them? Essentially, it’s like adding a new green to your vegetable repertoire – a green that, per cup, clocks in at just under 14 calories. When shopping for nopale, you’ll want to select leaves – or pads, as they are often called – that are thin and no longer than about 8 inches. To prepare, use a small paring knife to remove the spines (you might want to wear gloves for this part!). Then wash thoroughly in cool water and discard any blemished or broken parts. For truly primal preparation, grill the pads over charcoals until slightly brown and then toss with a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lime.

Caviar

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There’s roe need to avoid this delicacy.

Considered a delicacy, caviar is not only fancy, but also an excellent addition to the Primal eating plan. Made of fish roe (eggs) and salt, caviar is an excellent source of omega-3s – containing 1 gram per spoonful! – and a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and several B vitamins and is an excellent source of several important amino acids. Beyond throwing it on a couple of toast points (which is far from primal and sort of boring!) the new way to enjoy caviar is on a ceramic serving spoon, topped with crumbled, hard-boiled egg, chopped onion or a dab of sour cream.

Eel

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This one is actually reely tasty.

Ok, so you’ve maybe had eel as part of a sashimi platter, but there are so many other ways that you can prepare and eat eel. Provided you’re not squeamish, the best way to cook eel is from fresh, meaning… uhh… alive. Yes, you can buy live eel at many farmers’ markets or good fish mongers. From there you’ll need to behead it and skin it (both of which, we’re told, is a tricky prospect but one that can be accomplished with a cleaver and a good, sharp paring knife). Once this task has been accomplished, leave the bone attached to the belly and either pan fry or braise it with soy sauce and cook it over a medium grill until flakey.

Emu

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Appetizing…huh?

Did you know Emu’s have a whole month in America dedicated to them? Well, they do, and it’s July. So what did they do to deserve a whole month or recognition? For starters, emu is higher in protein, Vitamin C and iron than beef. In addition, emu oil is touted as one of the best moisturizers on the markets, containing anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. But let’s get back to the meat for a minute: Emu is available in ground patties, breakfast sausage or in a variety of filets or steaks. Essentially, whatever you would want to do with beef or chicken, you can do with emu! So roll on July – we’ve got something to celebrate!

Escargot

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Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

Think you’ve never had escargot before? How about abalone, caracoles, queen conch, tsalingaria, ass’s ear shell, sea-ear, ormer or paua? Essentially, they’re all just fancy names for the same thing: Snail. Now, before you say eww, consider this: Snails are an excellent source of protein and an excellent source of several essential fatty acids, including linoleic acids and linolenic acids. The process of preparing the snails for cooking can be quite arduous (5 days of starving, 5 days of washing, lots of work!) but the good news is that you can usually purchase them “ready to go” at good supermarkets. Snails are delicious in vegetable-based soups, in a tomato sauce, as a stuffing in zucchini, or can even work well as a tapenade with almonds. And, of course, there’s always simple shucking them a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman…just be sure to heed her advice when she warns “they’re slippery little suckers!”

Fiddlehead Ferns

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And you thought they were just for floral arrangements.

A staple of floral arrangements, very few people know that fiddlehead ferns, are actually quite tasty. Popular in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – where one town bills itself as the Fiddlehead Capital of the World – fiddleheads are low in carbs and calories, but high in iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins A and C. To cook, first remove all of the yellow and brown parts and then boil the sprouts, changing the water about half way through to reduce toxins. It should be noted that fiddlehead ferns have come under fire in recent years on account of being linked to several cases of food poisoning. To avoid a night praying to the porcelain gods, be sure that the fiddlehead ferns are cooked thoroughly.

Frog Legs

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Nice stems!

Another one with an “eww” factor, frogs legs are exceptionally tender and almost sweet – and is said to taste “just like chicken!” Joking aside, frog legs are an excellent source of protein and are a good source of iron, as well as vitamins B1 and B2. In terms of preparation, it really depends where in the world you want to take your culinary cues from. In France, the legs are usually sautéed in butter, garlic and parsely; in China, they’re often stewed with light herbs and spices; and here in the U.S., we prefer ‘em fried. However you choose to serve them, they’re sure to spice up your recipe repertoire.

Grasshoppers and other Insects

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Please don’t let this bug you.

A staple on food carts in Asian countries, grasshoppers are essentially used as a crunchy carrier for spices or dipping sauces. However, grasshoppers can also make a great addition in gumbos, stews and as a filling for enchiladas, or covered in chocolate or honey and served as dessert. Over the course of our research, we ran across the Eat-a-Bug cookbook, which includes recipes such as chocolate cricket torte, three bee salad and others – it’d be a welcome addition to any chef’s library, or a really great way to bug them (pun intended!)

Have any perfectly Primal foods that are uncommon to the average Joe’s palate? Hit us up with a comment!

Heo2035, mandj98, lcrf, ulterior epicure, Tambako the Jaguar, Max-B, sean dreilinger, bhamsandwich, zeno4ever Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

A Day in the Life of Modern Grok: An MDA Reader Gets Primal

Insects: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Eat with Your Hands

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have had blood pudding but I think i will stick to the buffalo out of all of these. I absolutely love Buffalo. In fact.. my next 1/4 freezer stock is going to be a buffalo hind. I might like to try me some emu too!

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on January 13th, 2009
  2. I’ve had emu, it’s a tough meat. I’d suggest a slow cooker.

    And a question. What does caviar taste like? Has anybody had it? Is one bite an explosion of joy on the tongue worth the price of iPod?

    Alvin wrote on January 13th, 2009
    • Caviar is salty, leaky and delicious but it is an acquired taste. It goes quite well with a nice piece of dark bread with some good butter but is equally as good on a scooped out hard boiled egg. The flavor and taste can vary depending on the type, red vs black, and fish source, salmon vs beluga. You will either love it, hate it, or grow to like it so give it a try and see what you think. I suggest starting with red as its cheaper ($7-10 per ounce) and not as pungent thus easier on your wallet and taste buds. If you like then try working your way up to black.

      Mike wrote on November 6th, 2009
    • Hit up your local sushi joint and have some tobiko; flying fish roe. Tastes sweet.

      Kenny wrote on May 8th, 2012
  3. I definitely enjoy some caviar, escargot, and eel (particularly if someone else is paying!). One of the great things about the Primal diet is that it encourages followers to try different things, anywhere from putting new spices on a piece of chicken to tasting frog legs. Thanks for the ideas MDA!

    Jane wrote on January 13th, 2009
  4. Glad you put in blood and eel, too delicious. In Colombia we have blood sausages made out of rice and they are exquisite. You know what I am really curious to try? The Masai ‘shake’ of blood and raw milk. At first it grossed me out but now it sounds rather appetizing. Also, is buffalo expensive? I’m a poor college student with the intent of being as primal as I can be.

    JE Gonzalez wrote on January 13th, 2009
    • We first started eating Bison several years ago when my wife was on Weight Watchers points. Bison was fewer points per ounce than beef, so we ended up buying a quarter. Since we have relatives in the midwest US who visit periodically, and we can get it through them, we were able to save a lot of money over lower quality beef at the grocery store.

      Not too many “poor college students” have the cash up front to fill a freezer (chest style, NOT frost-free!) with a quarter or half bison. If you buy it from the grocery store, you will typically pay a significant premium over CAFO beef. It might be similar in cost to grass fed beef.

      PhilmontScott wrote on May 16th, 2012
  5. ive had blood soup (chocolate meat is what they call it) when i grew up and found out what it was, i stopped eating.. lol.. ive also had frog legs which btw tastes like chicken ;)

    anna wrote on January 13th, 2009
  6. Son of Grok,
    I totally agree with you, buffalo is great, i’ve had that before and i also loved it, it IS good for you!

    Frog Legs is a big dish that likes to be cooked in Louisiana, many people like it down south, i just never knew it “B” that good for you.

    Donna wrote on January 13th, 2009
  7. Anna, I’d love to see a recipe for blood soup. That’s dinner party fun at its best!

    Gordon B. wrote on January 13th, 2009
  8. And a question. What does caviar taste like? Has anybody had it? Is one bite an explosion of joy on the tongue worth the price of iPod?

    There are cheaper forms of caviar. Caviar is salty.

    P.S. is bison actually sold under the name ‘buffalo’ in the States?

    Robert M. wrote on January 13th, 2009
  9. I can get bison in the local supermarket. However when I read the label I see “corn fed”. I don’t buy it.

    I’ve heard the better forms (taste) of Caviar are getting rare. While I’m not against eating it, make sure you are getting something that is not going to make the fish endangered.

    Henry Miller wrote on January 13th, 2009
  10. OOooh I don’t know about that. I love the buffalo and I believe that’s all I’ve tried. And I suppose I like my steaks a little bloody, and who’s to say I won’t like frog legs. Ferns are delicious.

    Okay, I have tried more than I thought, at first glance they can be a little alarming, but overall another great list!

    -BEE

    BEE wrote on January 13th, 2009
  11. My grandparents used to make blood sausages (among other tasty things) after butchering the anual pig. I remember the tubs full of pig blood and the huge sausage machine. I still love a good fried blood sausage, especially with mashed potatoes and fermented milk.

    Caynreth wrote on January 13th, 2009
  12. LOL gordon dya really want the recipe cuz i really have it! :D … all this talk about blood is making my tummy turn.. lol

    anna wrote on January 13th, 2009
  13. When I was traveling through the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam we killed a snake in the jungle and drank its blood (mixed with 75% alcohol rice wine to kill what might be in it). The blood and the heart, which I didn’t have the guts to swallow, were both considered extreme delicacies by the Vietnamese that tremendously help one’s health.
    Hopefully I made Grok’s wife proud…

    Reagan wrote on January 13th, 2009
  14. I’ve seen a few posts about saving $$$ yet still eating healthy, but I haven’t seen anything about finding cheap nuts. Does anyone have any tips on where to stock up on nuts?

    Todd wrote on January 13th, 2009
  15. I can also recommend blood sausage, it’s available at basically every butchers shop in Germany and I’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately. sometimes they come with whole peppercorns, usually there’s a lot of bacon (not sure that’s the best word here) in them. very tasty if the butcher knows his business. and I just love (smoked) eel!

    Vasco wrote on January 13th, 2009
  16. Wow, Ive had all these except Emu and fiddleheads! In fact I had insecs a month ago in Ecuador, eel a couple weeks ago at my house, and cactus like 3 days ago! I like wierd food, as my friends say…

    Alvin: I get the roe (masago) from oriental grocery stores, and I love it. There are def grades of caviar, but its one of those things where a little goes a long way, flavor-wise.

    Todd: I hit up my local health food store bulk section, thats the cheapest I can get them.

    Tara wrote on January 13th, 2009
  17. Looks like the French are a few steps ahead of us when it comes to primal eating ;-). I’ve had blood before in the form of blood pudding or black pudding as we call it over here. I didn’t have high hopes but it turned out to be surprisingly tasty.

    Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips wrote on January 13th, 2009
  18. Buffalo has become a regular part of my diet. I think it tastes better and it is better for you. I may be experimenting with elk next.

    primalman wrote on January 13th, 2009
  19. Just a clarification, most grocery store (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods) buffalo is finished on corn these days. There are farmers who grass-finish buffalo (and American Bison in particular), but I don’t think much of that meat makes it to mass-market channels

    Kim wrote on January 13th, 2009
  20. 9 for 10. Haven’t had the fiddleheads. Frog legs are better than chicken, and properly done grasshoppers are a great substitute for potato chips.

    Caviar is over rated. I prefer salmon roe, which, when I cheat with a bit of rice and have sushi, ikura has been my favorite for 25 years.

    http://japanesefood.about.com/library/pictures/blnigiri_ikura.htm

    Richard Nikoley wrote on January 13th, 2009
  21. Fiddlehead ferns aren’t for those on a small budget. A measily six-ounce bag sells for $3.99 in my local supermarket. Luscious greens like kale and collard cost $1 a pound and are tastier and more versatile.

    Nopales, on the other hand, are tasty, cheap, and available in glass jars in almost any major supermarket. Read the label before you buy, for the only major brand without carcenogic preservative sodium benzoate is La Costena.

    Sonagi wrote on January 13th, 2009
  22. can get bison in the local supermarket. However when I read the label I see “corn fed”. I don’t buy it.

    The ground bison packages in my supermarket aren’t labeled “corn-fed” but probably come from grain-fed animals, for the fat content is almost as high as that of hamburger.

    Sonagi wrote on January 13th, 2009
  23. Post it, Anna! Post that recipe right on the comments board. I’ll make it!

    Gordon B. wrote on January 13th, 2009
  24. Eaten them all. I get grass-fed bison from 2 miles away from my house and its GOOOOOOOD.

    Zen Fritta wrote on January 13th, 2009
  25. Yeah, you have to be careful buying “grass fed” bison. I found a nearby farm that sold grass fed bison, but after a little more questioning I found out the farmer supplemented with “some grain” because he was overgrazing his land. Trying to raise too many bison to maximize profits and hoping most consumers wouldn’t ask the important and telling questions.

    Rodney wrote on January 13th, 2009
  26. Asia and Africa take meat eating to amazing levels. I have had crocodile (incredibly good, like chicken), ostrich (tons of it–amazingly tasty lean read meat), eland, etc. What you get in the streets of Beijjng and Shanghai are mind-numbing, including scorpions, worms and worse. Kangaroo meat in Ozland is standard.

    Rambodoc wrote on January 13th, 2009
  27. In my area, buffalo meat is all 100% grain fed–as the wrapper boastfully proclaims.

    will wrote on January 13th, 2009
  28. Does anyone know where to find the macronutrient content of different bugs? On the TV show “Man vs Wild,” Bear Grylls is always talking about how different bugs contain a lot of protein. Just wondering if that is true or not.

    Mike Carlson wrote on January 13th, 2009
  29. Yay for fiddleheads! We Canadians welcome fiddlehead season every year with much excitement/special menus at restaurants. If you like the taste of asparagus, you’ll love fiddleheads. I’m somewhat proud to say I’ve also had buffalo, caviar, emu, frog’s legs, eel, and cactus. Anyone know where I can get some insects in blood sauce ;)?

    Rachel wrote on January 13th, 2009
  30. “If you like the taste of asparagus, you’ll love fiddleheads.”

    Yea, OK, Rachel, but do fiddleheads make your pee stink?

    Richard Nikoley wrote on January 13th, 2009
  31. I’m gonna put some caviar on my eel and wash it all down with some tasty blood shots…. what can I say, I like to live dangerously!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R - Go Healthy Go Fit wrote on January 14th, 2009
  32. Snails are yummie. Have you ever tried Zucchini flowers? they are delicious.
    M

    Mindful Mimi wrote on January 14th, 2009
  33. After you eat buffalo, beef tastes really bland. Escargot are just an excuse to eat butter and garlic! Yum!

    Ellen wrote on January 14th, 2009
  34. BEE,
    Oh you should try frog legs, i’ve eaten them all my life from time to time, VERY GOOD, I really believe you’d like it!

    primalman,
    IF you’ve never had Elk, you don’t know what you’re missing. I encourage you to give it a try, i absolutely love the taste of Elk, it’s awesome! Buffalo has an incredible good taste, but i have to say i’m also a fan of Elk!

    Donna wrote on January 14th, 2009
  35. I have some blood sausage in the freezer I got at Usinger’s in Milwaukee when visiting the grand parents-in-law. Haven’t tried it yet. After I finish the open sausages I will take it out.

    I’ve always liked the taste of my own blood. After I’ve gotten jacked in the mouth or cut my finger, etc., it always tasted good. Weird or primal? Either way I’m guessing I’ll like the sausage.

    Have had buffalo, emu, elk, deer, etc. All good. Have had roe only on sushi and eel there also. Wait I did have a main course of eel in Venice. It was decent.

    Joe Matasic wrote on January 14th, 2009
  36. err.. here ya go.. :)

    1 k. of pork belly, cut into 1″ x 2″ pieces
    350 g. of pork liver
    4 c. of pig’s blood
    3 chili peppers
    1 head of garlic, crushed and minced
    1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
    3 onions, halved and sliced thinly
    1 liter of broth
    1 bay leaf
    salt
    pepper (optional)
    1 tbsp. of cooking oil

    Refrigerate the pig’s blood until needed.

    Heat a heavy casserole. Pour in the cooking oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant. Add the pork pieces and cook over high heat until the edges of the pork start to brown. Add the onions, chili peppers, bay leaf and broth and continue cooking until the onions are transparent. Season with salt and pepper, if using. Pour in just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the pork is very tender. Add more water, a little at a time, if the liquid dries up before the pork is cooked.

    Meanwhile, minced the liver. Season with a little salt.

    When the pork is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, take the pig’s blood out of the refrigerator. Transfer to a clean bowl. With you hands, mash solid masses to a pulp. Pour the mashed blood and the liquid into the casserole. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the minced liver and cook for another minute or two. Add more salt/spices as necessary.

    its supposed to be served with rice but thats not very primal.. lol

    anna wrote on January 14th, 2009
    • wow- have to find a good source for pig’s blood so I can try this out. What is the recipe called?

      Mady wrote on January 20th, 2010
  37. All fish roe is good. In Wales, my ancestral home, seaweed is eaten, usually incorporated into bread; and samphier, a form of seaweed is fairly popular in the swankier restuarants in the UK and foragers. When I lived in France I ate the usual frog’s legs and snails, but also had ‘rix de veau’ – calf’s pancreas. And very good it was too. Now I live in the East End of London, the traditional dish of jellied eels is available, but less so than in recent years with the advent of KFC, McD etc on every corner. The jelly is the eels’ own. Our farmers’ market sells raw buffalo milk – very foody for our part of London!
    Good post, guys!

    Huw wrote on January 14th, 2009
  38. Forgot to mention ox tongue. Also in France. Served in our staff canteen. Started eating it not knowing what it was, and had the peculiar feeling I was eating my own tongue. Spongy consistency. Asked what it was, and it all made sense! When killer whales attack a bigger whale, don’t they start eating the tongue while it is incapacitated?

    Huw wrote on January 14th, 2009
  39. Regarding caviar, the type pictured above is most likely salmon roe and is nowhere near the price point of the caviar which most likely comes to mind upon hearing the word. The crazy-expensive fish eggs are dark gray in color (and much bigger than the tiny black masago found at sushi joints) and come from the Beluga sturgeon, found predominantly in the Caspian Sea. I can’t say if it would be “worth it” to a particular person, but it does have a very unique, incredibly delicious flavor.

    Maria wrote on January 14th, 2009
  40. Richard, to be honest, I haven’t noticed. If they did, would that make a difference to you :)?

    Rachel wrote on January 14th, 2009

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