From the Monte to the Kitchen

Thursday July 20, 2017

by Antonia Barreau, Global Environments Summer Academy 2012 alum

 

Hi, I’m Antonia Barreau, an ethnobotanist and a wild food gatherer. I like to understand the relationships between plants and people living in forest ecosystems. I dedicate myself to investigating and documenting traditional knowledge of the local flora and fungi. Currently I work on projects associated with family gardens and gathering, with food sovereignty as a core concept. Originally from Santiago, I have lived for some time in Pucón with Tomas and our children Nahuel and Kai, with whom we share long walks collecting what the season offers us.

 

Our project

In the monte, as the forest in the south of Chile is called locally, live numerous plants and fungi that have been part of the local cuisine for centuries. Today, however, only a few of these edible species are known and consumed. [The project] ‘From the Monte to the Kitchen’ will explore and highlight the value the cultural and natural heritage present in the Mapuche and peasant cuisine of the temperate forest landscapes of Chile. This will be accomplished by researching and documenting the traditional use of edible species in the Andean Araucanía and innovating recipes with little-explored species. As culture is constantly adapting and changing, indigenous and peasant cuisine can be revisited and innovated upon without losing the origin, history, seasonality and diversity of products. We also seek to bring people closer to the native flora and forests of the region by recognizing their contribution to local food sovereignty. In this way, we contribute to their care and conservation for future generations since knowing is valuing and caring.

Understanding that the gathering of wild foods is seasonal, we will keep pace with the annual harvesting schedule of the different species. Thus, we are spending a year researching, gathering and cooking with our native wild edibles.

We invite you to join us on this culinary journey From the Monte to the Kitchen!

Del Monte a la Cocina is funded by the National Fund for Cultural Development and Arts, FONDART Regional, 2017 Call, Line Gastronomy and Culinary Art.

 

10 Good Reasons to Gather wild edibles

It is only in the past few years that the consumption of wild foods and home cooking based on foraging have come into vogue. There are still not many people, however, who gather these delicious and organic foods that nature–in this case, the forest—gives us. Here we share ten good reasons why you should go out to gather and get a good walk at the same time. Here we are not talking about harvesting for profit, but a kind of foraging that brings us closer to our natural environment and to the idea of eating wild foods.

  1. They are free. The collection of local flora can provide you with very nutritious foods, most of the time organic and at zero cost. How much do you spend buying a kilo of myrtle berries?

  2. It is healthy. Taking a walk in nature is healthy, both physically and spiritually. There is increasing evidence that greater contact with nature can help alleviate mood swings, depression, and anxiety, or simply clear the mind so we can think clearly.
  3. They are powerful foods. Many wild foods provide us with many nutrients and also have medicinal properties. Did you know that maqui and michay are some of the foods with the highest concentration of antioxidants that have been found anywhere in the world? And that the Chilean hazelnut, besides giving you lots of energy, gives you lots of Vitamin E and can help you fight cholesterol?
  4. To know something is to value it. By learning to recognize and make use of native plants, we also learn to value what nature so generously gives us and that we must safeguard for future generations. The more people know, care for and use the local flora, the more respect there will be for them and for the forest in general. In addition, you can teach others what you know by extending conservation to the rest of your community.
  5. It is an entertaining, educational and enriching activity for children. Going out to gather with children is an incredible opportunity to relax and play in a natural environment. The collection itself helps them in their cognitive and sensorial development as well as in their gross and fine motor development. In addition, going out to collect, without a doubt, helps strengthen family ties.
  6. Cooperate in the conservation of these plants. As you know these edible plants better and know their conservation status, you can make better decisions about how much, how, when and where to collect to ensure their reproduction. Likewise, by collecting them yourself, you can be assured that they were harvested in an ethical and sustainable manner.
  7. Discover new flavors. As you gather and dare to prepare this edible flora in different ways, you will discover very interesting and truly local flavors. Maybe some will become a family recipe!
  8. You diversify your diet. When was the last time you tried a new food? You will also increase the number of foods you consume, diversifying your family basket.
  9. You go outdoors and outside your routine. If you need a purpose for walking outside, what could be better than to go find ingredients for your lunch!
  10. You connect with ancient times and continue a gathering tradition. By collecting and consuming these foods we can understand how our ancestors lived and ate, whether our grandparents, our great grandparents, or even a distant human ancestor thousands of years ago. Harvesting, and knowledge of plants in general, are endangered occupations or bodies of knowledge, but they are not yet dead. We can contribute to the transmission of this knowledge between generations!

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