The Permaculture Student

A resilient, abundant future starts with permaculture education.

Natives, Invasives, Names, & Choices

Matt Powers1 Comment

Are you eating Natives?

While some rush to protect wild plants from humans even approaching them or interacting with them in a natural context, most plants need interaction to thrive. We've already removed the majority of biodiversity and put in means to prevent easy reconnection (fences, roads, suburbs, pollution, desertification, extinction, etc.) Many plants if not grazed or browsed upon will not thrive. Animals are needed, and we too are animals and part of nature. We are at fault for removing, displacing, or poisoning these ecosystems, so we must clean them up and restore them.

In order for native plants to be valued, they must be part of our lives - we not only protect what we love, but what we include in our daily lives. A superb example of this concept is found in Sean Sherman and his work as the Sioux Chef to reimagine and revive native american cuisine - he is an inspiration. Sean is Oglala Lakota and a chef that recognized the connection between diabetes in the native american community and food - using the traditional ingredients of his culture's diet, Sean is helping heal his community. On top of that, he is preserving and protecting native plants through their recognition as food and having value in his own community as well as by the great many people and communities in contact with his work. 

"Blossom Moon Second course: Smoked Turkey Cranberry Pemmican Soup • Wild Rice Cake • Fiddlehead Fern • Popcorn Shoot • Sorrel • Cranberry Wojapi Broth" by Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef. http://sioux-chef.com

"Blossom Moon Second course: Smoked Turkey Cranberry Pemmican Soup • Wild Rice Cake • Fiddlehead Fern • Popcorn Shoot • Sorrel • Cranberry Wojapi Broth" by Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef. http://sioux-chef.com

Pascal Baudar is doing similar things: connecting communities with their local "terroir" - the local territory's flavor! 

"Raw Country Elderberry Wine" by Pascal Baudar 2017. https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar

"Raw Country Elderberry Wine" by Pascal Baudar 2017. https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar

What's Invasive?

Many people lament the plight of our Native Plants being overrun by Invasives - they will pour huge amounts of emotion, resources, and chemical into the defense of this concept of purity being tainted. It is essential anthropogenic in its conception: foreign invaders are moving in and taking over! The real problem with this idea is that - in terms of biodiversity - everything at one point was invasive. I recall Toby Hemenway talking about how Douglas Fir trees were invasive less than 2,000 years ago, and that makes sense - how does Darwinian or even Syntropic Evolution work? Every adaptation would be labeled "invasive" right? Making the concept itself anti-nature at its core. 

Are you eating Invasives?

Pascal Baudar teaches foraging all over the world. He was raised in Belgium and lives now in Los Angeles. He even teaches students how to eat invasives and natives in such a way to promote native habitat and biodiversity. His work is often controversial in the No-Touch world of native plant enthusiasts and ecologists who believe in only non-action and observation as ways to interact with nature (which assumes that humans are not part of that system which is ludicrous as well as climate change requires non-action rather than action).

In reality, there are no Invasives: All are Invasives. The same goes with Nature & Humanity: Humans are part of nature, not separate. The global landscape has been affected and shaped by human activities long before the industrial age exponentially increased it though it was long recognized hundreds and thousands of years ago that human activity (agriculture) was destroying landscapes. What we need to do is flip our behavior upside down and start living syntropically.

The concept of eating invasives extends outward and embraces this idea that you consume your problems turning them into food, making the problem a solution. How can we Eat the Invasives in our own lives, systems, and designs?

"Weeds and insects Dandelion salted, rinsed (to remove some bitterness) and steamed. Foraged and pickled mustard seeds (black mustard, mediteranean mustard, etc...). Sesame oil and soy sauce for dressing. Roasted grasshoppers (Chapulines) - Shaved aged Parmesan." by Pascal Baudar. https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar

"Weeds and insects

Dandelion salted, rinsed (to remove some bitterness) and steamed. Foraged and pickled mustard seeds (black mustard, mediteranean mustard, etc...). Sesame oil and soy sauce for dressing. Roasted grasshoppers (Chapulines) - Shaved aged Parmesan." by Pascal Baudar. https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar

Names Have Power

When we give something a name like Invasive or Native, we automatically create division and build in value-judgements wherein nature there is only fluid change over time and no good/bad roles to be had. Instead of honoring and respecting these plants as individuals, whether wanted or unwanted, we fail to recognize that they indicate soil conditions, climate change, disturbance, pollution, and more. Looking holistically, we can readily see that the local climates are changing dramatically all over the world and native plants are suffering. Invasive or destructive insects, fungi, bacteria, or plants are an epidemic in forests across the globe. They are drawing those natives (which are often in a monoculture of evergreens for timber) down to the soil to restart the system (often earlier in succession, so we get pioneer species that show up: weeds and invasives). All these ecosystems are rebooting - we have to prevent this if we are to survive as a species. 

What Patterns will you Choose to Adopt?

The hour is later than we can grasp, but there's still time to blunt or prevent the environmental disaster that looms in the near future. It is now that we must intentionally adopt new patterns to become what we need to be to change what must be changed. Eating invasives and natives, planting natives in our systems, partnering with nature and using whatever plants work regardless of origin to reverse desertification and sequester carbon are all critical steps to take now in our own systems, cities, and towns. Whatever dislocation exists in our communities and between peoples and governments, banks, and/or corporations must be addressed soon to make widespread change. The good news is people are waking up - looking for change. The time is here to open their minds to the greater patterns that play around us continually in the natural world. Now is the time for garden, food forests, soil building, composting, mycoremediation, phytoremediation, restoration, regeneration, and much much more. The time is now, and the regenerative field is a wide open space just waiting for hard-working, ethical, and informed individuals to take charge. 

You can use my courses and books to learn more about how to live regeneratively and see with the eyes of nature: http://www.thepermaculturestudent.com/course-signup/ 

You can learn to forage with Pascal Baudar by following his work here: https://www.facebook.com/pascal.baudar

If you would like to learn more about Native American culture, cuisine, ethnobotany, and more, check out Sean Sherman's work: http://sioux-chef.com