Billebaude n ° 12


MAY 2018

An ancestral practice, rediscovered today as a way of imagining another relationship to food, gathering also engages other relationships with wild nature. It deeply questions the classifications and practices resulting from our agricultural civilization and, beyond that, the modalities of our relations with the living. Because bringing back the attention of the picker and the forgotten knowledge of "good herbs" to ours means remembering that wild spaces are also nourishing territories, the use and knowledge of which we share with other species. In this issue, you will find forgotten knowledge, methods and recipes to rediscover the virtues of wild plants.


Billebaude Collection

96 pages, 230 x 300 mm
Public price TTC France:

François Sommer Foundation

Anne de Malleray
Director of collection
Tel: 01 53 01 92 40

Facebook page Billebaude




We advance in single file on the rugged forest path, concentrated on the descent. Some, more alert, spot a first bush of wild raspberries. We all begin to scan the landscape from the height of the shrubs. As the eye searches for them, it is as if the pink of the raspberries becomes more vivid, almost vibrant, against the green background of the summer undergrowth. Suddenly caught in the “picking fever”, we only see the fruits. Wild harvesting is unique in that it sharpens the senses. The gaze must practice discriminating between tones and shapes in the undifferentiated green of the undergrowth or the meadow.

You also have to learn to identify plants by smell, by crumpling a leaf in your hands, and to distinguish between the deadly velvety smoothness of foxglove and the roughness of edible comfrey. In this issue, we explore the gathering not as a folklore, with its characters, its decoctions and its anecdotes, but as a practice likely to open ways to make us sensitive to the living through immersion in places and forms. attention and knowledge that it involves. As I picked the raspberries in these mountain pastures, I thought of the fox or the bird that might come and feed in the same place and of the joy they too would have in finding them. Gathering food in uncultivated nature, by chance of quest and encounter, is a way of feeling one alive among others in an inhabited nature.

If at home picking is no longer vital, unlike other places in the world as reported by the stories of picking in the Gilé reserve, in Mozambique, or tracking truffles in the Kalahari desert, it is today. hui invested by those, more and more numerous, who seek to reappropriate their food and to reconnect with naturalistic knowledge. Of course, harvesting sometimes takes on an extractive dimension for pharmaceutical, cosmetic or food production. This is not to forget it, but to explore how this ancestral practice potentially has the power to remind us that we depend on the living to nourish us and heal us. This issue therefore invites you to rediscover forgotten tastes, knowledge and the place of wild plants in our human history. "Recognition of the brutal nettle, the invasive goosefoot, the rusty patience, the raspy pig. [...] Better than the lily and the rose, they have ensured the survival of men ", writes the ethnobotanist Pierre Lieutaghi, who works to rehabilitate “weeds. They are qualified as such in contrast to agricultural plants, cultivated and selected by humans. The practice of gathering opens up a whole range of possible relationships with plants, blurring the line between wild and cultivated spaces, whether they are the “sons of guaranà” tamed by the Sateré-Mawé in the Amazon rainforest or, more close, the wild alliary that two Breton farmers introduce into their vegetable garden.

In a context of a biodiversity crisis, harvesting, in its variants such as scientific collection, herbalism or the marketing of nourishing plants, draws a picture of the evolution of our relationships with living organisms, our medicine and our scientific culture. As the anthropologist Anna L. Tsing tells us, we can no longer pretend to pick in a bucolic nature and preserved from our impacts. By following matsutake pickers in the industrial forests of Oregon, a human and non-human ecosystem victim of the overexploitation of resources, she calls for the invention of collaborative forms of survival with the living in the ruins of capitalism. For this we need to revive the "arts of observation", which involve forms of attention comparable to those involved in gathering. Art historian Estelle Zhong Mengual describes how painter Frederic Church hijacks classical painting techniques to "To paint plants as faces", thus mobilizing forms of attention resulting from millennia of selective picking. Gathering in this context can become a way of paying attention to the landscape.





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