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How Black Foragers Find Freedom in Nature | Lifestyle

When Alexis Nicole Nelson was a kindergarten child, she counted honeysuckle trees among her most dear friends.

She named the tree Priscilla after her great aunt.

“I wasn’t particularly good at climbing trees,” she told me as she walked through the woods near her house in Columbus, Ohio. “But this tree grew in this curved way, so I was completely in control of just running around, sitting on the branches and having a light meal with some honeysuckle flowers.”

You might expect her 1.7 million TikTok followers to have such an adorable origin story from Nelson, known as the Black Forager. A 29-year-old woman, an urban adventurer who roams from Central Park to areas close to her home, makes short, vibrant videos about her edible discoveries in the woods. She collects unripe black walnuts for a version of the spiced Italian liqueur nocino and praises the strengths of milkweed, a favorite of monarch butterflies and the basis of Nelson’s air-fried fritter recipes. .. And it all started with her tendency to see the tree as a relative.

Although there are no clear statistics, foragers informally report an increase in practice during the pandemic.

Regarding the Philadelphia local community, Patrick Harley, a professor and dean of the Faculty of Environment at Ursinus College, said:

Nelson represents part of an increasingly visible community. Many young blacks did not go to the woods to “shop”, but through books and the internet they learned about lesser-known fruits such as service berries, common cold remedies, and burdock.

They want to captivate guests with herbalists, grandchildren looking for southern roots, shoppers cutting food budgets, the only black kid who went to 4-H camp that day, or berries in the backyard. Whether home cooks or not, they are often fighting the conflicting history of disconnection from the land — and now that nature is not always a sanctuary.

According to Justin Robinson, the idea that blacks don’t do it outdoors has evolved over time and centuries of disposition. An ethnobotanist, peasant, and cultural historian in Durham, North Carolina, he rejects the term “foraging” and its practices as new to African Americans and the general public. He believes this word separates the world into disturbing cultivated vs. wild binaries that do not reflect reality.

“That’s what we do,” he said. “It’s life!”

Robinson links his love for the land and his work with the warm childhood he spent following his two farmer’s grandfathers and the adult years he unknowingly spent trying to duplicate one of the gardens. But he knows that black history is also a series of serious land-related bursts, beginning with slavery and forced agricultural labor in indigenous and deprived territories. increase. The small distribution of slave masters turned slaves into naturalists, both from necessity and opportunity.

There are many references to beating honey and finding food in Slave Narratives. In an interview with the Works Progress Administration in 1937, Charles Grandy of Norfolk, Virginia, talked about his escape during the Civil War and how he ate wild fruits for days. Stockcropping and land loss-due to physical and legal violence-followed. By the early 20th century, more blacks in the southern countryside had migrated to cities across the country. Some have vowed not to look back or look at the land again.

As Robinson said, black history is a combination of “food and country.” And Larry Golston holds back some of its rural heritage.

Every May, Galston looks at the barn, a short distance from his home in Toccoa, Georgia. He’s looking for something specific — and in its natural form, toxic: Phytolacca americana, Pokeweed native to the south and Appalachia. Gholston, a 68-year-old retiree and community historian, is working on the preservation of Pokeweed, a dish made from pokeweed. For the past three decades, he has carefully selected small, soft leaves for the Memorial Day Poke Salit Festival.

He is trying to convey knowledge to young people, including his 35-year-old son Seth Gholston, who DJs the event while his father is cooking. Seth makes it easy to find plants that are 10 feet high.

The festival aims to “maintain our heritage,” Goalston said. “Many blacks will tell you,’I don’t eat that mess, man.’ It has implications for poverty and the countryside.”

Pokeweed leaves, berries, and roots are toxic to varying degrees, but many rural Americans once soaked the leaves in a coraled green-like pocket salit (probably a derivative of a “salad”), boiled, and boiled. I fried it. Chewy foods can send the eater to the hospital if the toxins are not neutralized. Few people now know how to cook properly, and few dare to do it. The exception is Goalston, who has perfected the technique by drawing from the family tradition.

“My mom washed it and cooked it,” he explained. “Some relatives will provide it for Sunday meals. Others will consider it a kind of spring tonic. Older older people make wine with berries. People took the stems and fried them like okra. “

His focus on black independence is in line with a new generation of black explorers. When I met Nelson at Jeffrey Park, where Columbus real estate turned into a public resource, I thought about his ingenuity. Nelson is a master of the forest. She’s the walk-through talk of a plant factoid and a ridiculous ginger, encouraging fans with a cheeky yet serious prayer to the forager, “Don’t die!” And her trademark smile with a gap.

What you don’t see in her video is how well she looks at the tree before touching it, how gently she picks the leaves, and how often she takes nothing.

When I picked up a black walnut from a fallen tree branch, two deer sprinted in front of me. It’s never painful to track and see what they’re looking at, she said. However, I noticed that the animals were devouring behind a huge mansion backing up in the forest. Given the movie “Get Out” and the early warning of a white man and a character not alone in the woods, I asked how comfortable she felt.

“I like dressing up and doing full make-up. Who doesn’t want to rush through the woods and feel like a female fairy? But some of them are definitely very accessible. It’s about what looks like, “she said. Even in the chilly Midwestern fall, Parker is off the list of her approved foraging apparel and is being replaced with a stable cardigan.

Imagine yourself as a tree spirit in a peasant dress with bold lips and loudly, but you cannot completely prevent unnecessary attention. Nelson said she was stopped quite often by random whites and rangers.

This is a common complaint of blacks exploring in nature. A widely reported incident in 2020 (a black man was attacked during a hike in Indiana after being mistakenly accused of black bird watching for threatening a white woman in Central Park) was faced by foragers. This is an extreme example of everyday encounters.

Robinson said he once parked his car to see the colic weed stands across the freeway. A few minutes later, law enforcement agencies arrived to investigate the theft.

“I don’t know if it’s configured, but I was literally in the open field,” he said. “I don’t think anyone but the Bible thief is digging a hole in the field to hide their goods.” After a brief conversation, he went home.

Fushcia-Ann Hoover, the hydrologist who published “A Black Girl’s Guide to Foraging,” decided to forage in her well-known Annapolis, Maryland, and take her sister’s adorable Shih Tzu. She quoted a black camper being attacked by a white man outdoors.

“If it’s so dangerous or dangerous, maybe it’s just easier to say,” Oh, that’s not what we do, “she said. “So you don’t feel lost.”

Similarly, Lady Danni Morinich, a 57-year-old former advertising salesperson in Philadelphia (her title comes from a small Scottish parcel that a friend gave her as a humorous gift), tea, tincture, We are in the business of selling other products. With foraged herbs. She doesn’t romanticize the fact that she’s often the only black man at wild food exchanges, or the consequences of bringing a folding knife into the field. .. Because you can be killed by a black man while walking. “

As I chased Nelson along the winding road, her eyes sprinted around the ground, down to the canopy and down again. She pointed out the early papaya fruit that glows green 20 feet above us. She said it was one of the few that she was willing to trample on poisonous ivy.

Others are forest chicken and morels. She laments the lack of a mycological Spider-Man sensation to find the latter. But her knowledge is deeply ingrained. She can identify the plant by the shape of the leaves, whether the fruit is crowned or not, and the smell of the roots.

At another fork in the road, we stopped at a sloping tree. For mushrooms, the sick tree is to clear the soil. Nelson picked some medium-sized brownish peach tree wood ear mushrooms. I joked that the shade would be the perfect neutral lipstick for us — two black women scouting the wilderness. She crumpled one of them and held it next to her face. Folded that way, it resembled the human ear and was badly sliced, Van Gogh style.

“When I do, my partner hates it,” she said with a laugh. He was also not keen on sampling candied mushrooms in simple syrup.

Cooking for others is the main motivation for Maryland scientist Hoover. She used Nelson’s Magnolia Flower Experiment to fortify water seasoned with stir-fry (ginger-like taste) and lemon wild sorrel. She even figured out how to immerse the acorns, a necessary part of the flour-making process, in the toilet tank.

Her family and friends may be willing to look at the “Fushcia Project”, but for her, black freedom is a bigger and more ongoing project.

“It’s powerful to name things around you and know what they can or can’t be used for,” she said. “Especially as a black man in this country, I have an increasingly independent feeling.

“Some of us are such rebels who can know and accept things because of the way we are told they shouldn’t.”

How Black Foragers Find Freedom in Nature | Lifestyle

Source link How Black Foragers Find Freedom in Nature | Lifestyle

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