Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.
Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.
Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.
After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!
On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”
To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).
Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!