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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. 9 out of 10 for me. Fiddlehead ferns the exception.
    Caviar is delicious. It is too expensive and now also has moral issues to deal with. The Belluga is threatend and caviar now has a HUGE black market. I’m with Richard on the salmon roe, I can eat it right out of the tub it comes in. In case you’re looking for a good source….here’s a link to one of my favorites. They sell amazing uni (sea urchin roe) also.
    http://www.catalinaop.com

    Marc

    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on January 14th, 2009
  2. Rachel:

    Nope. Might even make me want to try them all the more. :)

    Richard Nikoley wrote on January 14th, 2009
  3. Anna, thanks for the recipe. I’m cooking it this weekend. It actually looks pretty tasty!

    Gordon B. wrote on January 14th, 2009
  4. Well, I would have probably been a convert to MDA and PB and a whole lotta other acronyms a long time ago, if not in regular intervals there are articles that rub me against the grain, all in the name of defeating the infamous “conventional wisdom/CW”.

    3rd place/ Caviar: A wild female sturgeon is not ready to produce eggs until they are 25 to 28 years old and 6 feet long. Do sturgeons die when the eggs are reaped? Yep, almost all wild caviar is harvested from dead fish. Sturgeons are caught when migrating upstream upstream to lay their eggs, slit open and the eggs removed. And I don’t see sturgeon meat/flesh on your primal menu. What’s “primal” about this?

    2nd place / Blood sausage – man oh man, you gotta be joking. If you ever make it to Scotland, have a scottish breakfast, with fried eggs and fried blood pudding – this will clog your coronaries just from the smell.

    1st place / Frog Legs (today’s winner)
    Most of wild frogs on your menu come from Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. The farmed (hmmmm – very primal) come from Taiwan, China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Frog legs are immensely wasteful to produce, you need a dozen legs for a decent meal, and you throw away 70% of the animal – it’s like eating only the wings of a chicken. The not so hidden consequence of your “primal” frog leg snack: Frogs hunt their own body weight’s worth of insects every day, vectors responsible for diseases like encephalitis or malaria that are thriving in 3rd world countries like Bangladesh, where the natural frog population is dwindling leaving a vital gap in the food chain, and where the use of really nasty insecticides like DDT is back.

    I read somewhere on MDA “Common Stumbling Blocks” that short-term memory fog lifts within a three-week window after converting to your diet. Well, good luck, enjoy your peculiar primal food, and hopefully you are past the 3-week window soon.

    Mike wrote on January 14th, 2009
  5. Hey, Mike. This post wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously.

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 14th, 2009
  6. Mark, its just not gonna happen! LOLing!!!

    Heatherly wrote on January 14th, 2009
  7. Lighten up Mike! If you’ve got access to the internet, chances are you are not living as “environmentally benign” as to decry non-sustainable crops such as frog legs, caviar (and many many other things). Which are likely suggestions for foods that are a little “out of the box”, not a social commentary. Good points on sustainability, but no need to be so snarky.

    Don’t see how eggs and blood sausage fried in butter are going to clog arteries? Don’t tell me you buy into the the Lipid Hypothesis? Maybe a giant bowl of fortified cereal grains and some skim milk for a real health advantage!?

    Luckily I’ve got some local grass fed buffalo thawing in the fridge right now, awaiting a bit of a feast on the weekend. Inspired by this list, I went to my local Asian Market and found some things to try: duck eggs, shredded pork skin (100% protein), and a big tub of pork blood. Bon Apetite!

    Tim wrote on January 14th, 2009
  8. Well, Mark, the only thing I would say about the blood thing, is that the Word of God is really clear about it. No eating or drinking it, as it is ‘the life’ of the body. Yahshua shed it for us, and His blood is what cleanses us. Think about it. DNA. The Father’s DNA is within us – the blood. We have no business eating it in anything. I didn’t say it, The Bible said it.
    Blessings!

    Diane Daly wrote on January 14th, 2009
  9. In Mexico where I live insects are widely famous. I like very much grasshopers, and eat them whenever I have a chance; others popular are worms, larvas and snails… we eat them fried.

    Less common, but also used is to eat brain (in tacos), tongue, eyes, etc. Very common in all Mexico is “moronga”, that’s like a blood sausage.

    Bon apetit!

    Victor wrote on January 15th, 2009
  10. Tim,

    Word.

    Mark

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 15th, 2009
  11. Diane:

    “…the Word of God is really clear about it.”

    It’s also clear about women knowing their place, so what are you doing here with your preaching, woman! Get back in the house and be ready to please the next male who comes along, eh?

    Seriously, though, you can’t be serious. Are you aware that you’re in a den of iniquity, lots of people who understand and acknowledge the science of evolution, and by consequence, see such beliefs as you’ve espoused as right up there with long-extinct, pea-brained vegetarian hominids.

    “Word of God.” Jesus, what a laugh.

    Richard Nikoley wrote on January 15th, 2009
  12. Diane,
    I’m guessing you don’t really enjoy a nice grilled medium rare rib eye steak?

    Marc

    Marc Feel Good Eating wrote on January 15th, 2009
  13. For those who care, bible says not to eat blood.

    Margie wrote on January 15th, 2009
  14. I was happy to see both caviar and fiddleheads; we live in Alaska, and my six year old daughter counts the days until she can scavenge for fiddleheads each spring, and will fish for hours to make salmon roe caviar at home. She loves the way the eggs burst in her mouth “like bubbles.”

    Marie wrote on January 21st, 2009
  15. I actually really enjoy eating the blood that drips off the meat when your cooking it in a frying pan as it cooks. Its yummy! Your right it would make a nice sauce too!

    Dr Dan wrote on January 24th, 2009
  16. Unfortunately, as the bison industry grows and it is growing, there are bison “feed lots” springing up that are finishing on corn and grain. Also, several so-called grass-fed bison are not 100% grass fed, be sure to make sure they are “grass-finished”. Talk to the farmer like one person above did and ask “are the bison grass-finished?”.

    Jessie…a bison “rancher” =D

    Jessie wrote on February 14th, 2009
  17. Black pudding (blood sausage) has been a favorite food of mine since I was small – I know what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow now!

    Ruth wrote on October 20th, 2009
  18. Hello, The photo of the cactus that illustrates this article is of my property. My photos have Creative Commons copyright, this means that you can use my photo always it does not alter the photo, have a credit with my name and a link to my page. Request places this credit and link asap or withdraw the photo inmediatly. Thank you.

    Luis wrote on November 14th, 2009
  19. Oh so sparkly. I’m putting this on my holiday check list

    Best Designer Boots wrote on December 9th, 2009
  20. Wow, I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I read the post and comments. Most of those foods are my staples. I’d forgotten there was anything strange about it.

    I’d add kelp and seaweed to the list. They are unbelievably cheap at any Korean grocery. A three dollar bag yields like ten servings.

    I heard fiddlehead are bad for you, so I quit eating them.

    Ten bucks an ounce for salmon roe? Move to LA people, it’s twenty to thirty bucks a pound here.

    Anyone into “moving food?”. A lot of the restaurants in LA serve seafood live. It’s kind of sad to see a fish looking up at you wriggling it’s gills while you eat slices if its flesh, but you get used to it.

    And every paleo should eat blood. It’s not a liquid and it’s not gross at all. It’s just reddish brown cubes with a very mild livery flavor. You can get it at any Filipino or Vietnamese grocery.

    My advice to all is start shopping at the Asian markets for meats and vegetables you’ve never had at ridiculously low prices. I had sauteed cod roe for dinner tonight, cost about three bucks and I couldn’t even finish it.

    Eric wrote on March 17th, 2010
  21. Too funny….2 of these things came home with me BEFORE I read this! Fiddleheads & frog legs! Yum!!

    Tinkers wrote on May 15th, 2010
  22. Mark, I just enjoyed some oven roasted snails drenched in garlic and butter…..Not just 1, but 2 batches! So great, I’m moving to France to live as a Gastropoda herder!

    Luke Enos wrote on June 21st, 2010
  23. I have had frog legs, eel and abalone. My sister ate grasshoppers. She said she going to back some back for me when she comes back home from college.

    Annie wrote on November 14th, 2010
  24. Eaten all except fiddlehead ferns… find some better ones :P

    Gilly wrote on December 6th, 2010
  25. all this and you cant stomach a cupcake? :P

    pixel wrote on December 25th, 2010
  26. So fiddleheads… Price shouldn’t be an issue if you’re cool with stalking the wild ostrich fern. I’ve been admiring at them for years around here, every hike, although I haven’t tried to identify the exact species. I’ll try some this spring and report back.
    http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/qa/fiddlehead-facts.aspx

    Ann Colemana wrote on December 31st, 2010
  27. Mark, the country is spelled “Colombia” and the bloody rice is delicious.

    PeaceCorpsCaveMan wrote on January 12th, 2011
  28. Blood pudding, or Black pudding in the UK, contains oatmeal, so surely that would mean it’s not suitable for the Primal diet?
    Frog legs are delicious!

    musogirl wrote on March 9th, 2011
  29. ColOmbia ;)

    Carolina wrote on October 22nd, 2011
  30. Excellent comments! I just started this way of eating and it is Awesome! It makes complete sense that as humans, we need to eat what we were and are meant to!

    Todd wrote on February 16th, 2012
  31. I live in Europe and we have a few blood products. Let me tell you: eating a sausage made with blood and bits of fat for breakfast makes me feel like a warrior ready to conquer the world. I hear the Masai do it also.

    Daniel wrote on March 13th, 2012
  32. I agree with eating Primal/Paleo but I hope people are doing it sustainably like Eel, please be mindful of the planet and food you eat

    Holly wrote on May 3rd, 2012
  33. I love bison…I make beautiful meatballs outta bison. Tobiko (flying fish roe) is a favorite. I have eaten snails a couple times. Not alot of bang for the buck. I have eaten eel in Japanese cuisine, I love it covered in spicy sauce. The little bones don’t even bother me anymore.

    I want to try fiddleheads, frog leg’s, and emu!

    Tessa wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  34. I can’t believe Emu is on there and not Kangaroo! As an Aussie, we like to eat both animals on our coat of arms. Our Aboriginals were true primals (up to around 200 yrs ago). Kangaroo is in all our supermarkets, as steaks, sausages, kebabs and mince. It is super lean, super rich and Roos only feed on grass as free-range animals. Get into the roo. All you Yanks need to get some imported over there.

    Ben wrote on May 24th, 2012
  35. As for blood, it might not be available in supermarkets, but if one keeps poultry, it’s pretty easy to get hold of. At my grandparents’, fried blood stew used to be a staple when we were slaughtering chickens.

    All you have to do is slaughter the chicken by bleeding it out. This has the added benefit of making the meat a nice whitish color. The way we did it needs two people though. You grab the beast at the base of its wings, and raise its head with the other hand. The other person uses a sharp knife to shave away the feathers from its neck, and cuts the carotid with a clean stroke. The bird bleeds out in about 20 seconds without suffering.

    The blood is then left to congeal, cut up into cubes, and fried over onions and lard. A single chicken’s blood is approximately enough for two people as a snack, or one as a main course.

    Sigmoid wrote on January 17th, 2014

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