[Editor’s note: Full disclosure, I was eating some spicy Doritos when I first picked up this book, which were wild and not in a good way. To write the excellent Feasting Wild, out this month via Greystone Books, geographer and writer Gina Rae La Cerva roamed the planet to chronicle the stories of truly wild foods and the people, largely women, who know, cultivate and protect them. “Today, most people will never eat anything undomesticated or uncultivated,” La Cerva writes in her prologue. “Eating something truly untamed has become incredibly rare.” We’re pleased to publish an excerpt from Feasting Wild below.]
As agriculture became the dominant method for sourcing food, wild plants took on new spiritual value. During spring fertility rites in the Iron Age, human sacrifices were made to the goddess Nerthus to ensure good harvests. The victims first ate a ceremonial meal, which consisted, at least in one case, of more than 63 different varieties of seeds, mostly from species we would today consider weeds.
Wild plants were also increasingly sought out as remedies for the diseases caused by moving toward agriculture in the first place. Ancient Greek and Roman doctors believed that the power of herbs to cure was not inherent in their buds and leaves but lay in their complementary resemblance to human needs and desires — a system called the doctrine of signatures. If a flower resembled an eye, it could treat eye infections. If the petals were triangular or flesh-colored, like the human heart, the plant would remedy chest pains and heartbreaks. This belief became popular again in Europe during the medieval period, and wild plant-based treatments were sought after for both spiritual and corporal ailments.
Wild plants were also eaten in times of distress. In the mid-1300s, the Black Plague lifted souls out of bodies by the millions, killing nearly 60 per cent of Europe’s population. With the population decline, there were fewer farm laborers, and many agricultural fields were abandoned to the weeds. Food became scarce. While the rich ate grand displays of game meat, wild birds, and exotic fruit, the poor survivors surveyed their deteriorated society and cooked pottages of whatever could be found free-growing in nearby fields, hedgerows, and woods: plantain and mallow, dock and nettles; woody roots of wild carrot, parsnips, leeks, skirret, and turnips; the leaves of wild strawberries, the leaves of violets and roses; moss, samphire, succory, colewort, nosesmart, peppergrass, bellflowers, scurvy grass, primrose, cowslip, beach mustard, and arrow grass; buttercup, yarrow, rye-grass, and smooth hawksbeard! One hundred herbs to add to the pudding. The strong, bitter flavors of these wild plants seemed to define the lives of those who ate them.
Initially, the church did not discourage foraging and the use of herbs. Many monasteries had extensive medicinal gardens, and the monks produced numerous herbal manuscripts. Most of these were based on texts first created in classical antiquity, such as the De Materia Medica, a five-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine written in the first century by the Greek physician Dioscorides. Over the course of centuries, these books were copied and recopied by hand, modified bit by bit — ever-evolving manuscripts with new stories and quips inserted, slowly accumulating into the considerable tomes that existed by the Middle Ages. One of the most comprehensive was the Leechbook of Bald, a medical text written in the ninth century that laid out herbal cures for numerous afflictions, ranging from headaches to aching feet.
But until the printing press was developed in the fifteenth century, these handmade books remained rare, and inaccessible to the ordinary person. Most herbal knowledge was therefore kept alive as folk medicine, handed down from mother to daughter, a kind of inheritance that might do her more good in staying healthy than any other sort of wealth a poor old country woman could offer.
Perhaps the most widespread use of wild plants was for contraception. Many species of the parsley family, such as wild carrot, contain estrogen-like molecules, and consuming them can prevent or terminate unwanted pregnancies. But a woman in control of her own body was a dangerous thing, and the church, along with male medical professionals, began to limit the unsupervised use and trade of gathered plants. The wise women who continued to practice their art were considered witches. Between 1450 and 1750 in Europe and North America, an estimated thirty-five thousand to one hundred thousand people, most of them women, were accused of wildcrafting and put to death.
The loss of common knowledge about wild edibles accelerated during the colonial period. Prior to European contact, the Americas were home to nearly 100 million Indigenous people, who between them spoke some one thousand to two thousand languages. The number of different plants they relied upon was enormous. Across North America, it is estimated that pre-contact people used over twenty-six hundred different species, nearly half exclusively for medicine. Less than one hundred of these plants were cultivated. The rest grew wild.
Kids can make art to brighten Red Deer seniors’ lodges – Red Deer Advocate
The Red Deer Public Library is calling on young artists to help brighten seniors’ lodges.
The library is calling for “mini-artists” to drop off their paper creations — whether it’s flowers, drawings, letters or cards — into bins outside two participating Red Deer seniors’ lodges this week.
They are Timberstone Mews (42 Timberstone Way) and Harmony Care (200 Inglewood Dr.).
Staff from the lodges will “proudly display the creations,” bringing joy to residents and staff.
They are also planning to make some social media posts featuring art that is on display at the lodges.
A virtual Art in the Garden festival is happening on the North Shore this weekend – North Shore News
The North Shore’s annual Art in the Garden event is gearing up to go digital this weekend.
The event has been re-imagined as a livestreamed art and music demonstration this Saturday and Sunday evening, while encouraging community members to share pictures of their own green spaces online.
Last month, North Van Arts made the decision to suspend the 21st annual Art in the Garden festival due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of practising physical distancing during an event which melds visual arts with some of the North Shore’s most extraordinary gardens.
The decision was made to offer an online version of Art in the Garden in order to keep the spirt of the long-running festival intact, according to Nancy Cottingham Powell, executive director of North Van Arts.
“Art in the Garden is the longest running North Shore garden tour and we didn’t want to just cancel this event that inspires gardeners, artists and nature lovers,” stated Powell, in a press release.
As part of its new online event, for the month of May the arts and culture organization reached out to visual artists and musicians who had participated in past festivals and asked them to create short videos outlining their work, inspiration and methodology.
The six artist videos were released weekly on North Van Arts’ social media channels and website.
This weekend, local painters Nicola Morgan and Pierre Leichner are set to take over the organization’s Instagram account as they livestream the creation of original artwork over live music performed by North Shore musicians Ava Maria Safai and Paul Silveria.
Viewers can tune in on May 30 and 31 at 7 p.m. each night.
North Van Arts is also encouraging people on the North Shore to comment and share pictures of their gardens and green spaces this weekend, as well as their own nature-inspired art, by using the hashtag #ArtintheGarden.
“These extraordinary times have forced us to look at how we connect with our community. Art in the Garden Online is an opportunity for us to support our members and local artists in a unique way,” stated Powell.
Art from isolation: the fourth instalment of with.draw.all – St. Albert TODAY
NHL Rumors: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Sharks, Awards, More – The Hockey Writers
Toronto-based duo create custom puzzles to support local businesses – Eat North
3 new coronavirus cases confirmed in New Brunswick connected to health-care professional – Globalnews.ca
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