Thursday, March 24, 2011
I was asked to contribute something to The Middle Kingdom of Weeds Festival, which I was naturally enthusiastic about.
'A place of simple feeding' is a line from Jean-Luc Nancy's book 'The Birth to Presence' (1993), which I gobbled up as the title for this work. I made a simple video as a poem-recipe celebrating autumn's hawthorn (crataegus) berries, using a recipe appropriated from UK forager and BBC presenter, Ray Mears.
In Australia hawthorns are considered pesky weeds, but this passage from Alfred W Crosby's 'Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900' (1986), puts this limited attitude into some perspective:
"The weeds, like skin transplants placed over broad areas of abraded and burned flesh, aided in healing the wounds that the invaders tore in the earth... The colonizing Europeans who cursed their colonising plants were wretched ingrates." p170
Are we all 'in abandonment', as Bossuet spoke of the West, or are we in varying degrees of naturalising our wounds and settling in?
Aboriginal bush foods, cultivated garden produce, some wild meat, and weeds and wild herbs altogether constitute the mainstay of our relocalised diet. Autumn, for us, is a time to ferment and preserve the bounties of the warm months, to use as medicinal foods throughout the winter, as our ancestors once did.
Hawthorn berries have been used continuously in both Eastern and Western medicine traditions for thousands of years. There are around 200 species, although that figure is a little ambiguous. All species, as far as I'm aware, can be used for human consumption, and are especially good for treating heart pathologies such as high blood pressure and hypertension.