Ethnobiologist, archaeologist or herbalist, they share the same passion for wild plants. Emilie Darnaud went to meet them.
“Licking aphid of aphids with buttes-Chaumont, I love!” François Couplan has his mouth a linden leaf covered with sugary mini friezettes. The strongest is that, in less than an hour, the ethnobotanist is likely to convince many viewers to do the same. Helped by two other stakeholders, the Karine Gilles herbalist and the “experimental” archaeologist Kim Pasche.
Indeed, since the human has sedentized, passing from a model of hunter-picker to that of farmer, he has moved away from a large part of the 80,000 edible vegetable species of the planet . And this evolution has been accentuated by social norms, industrialization and consumer society, as François Couplan explains, while nibbling a raw nettle, “which can also eat cooked: I do it in brandade”.
As a founder of the practical ethnobotanical college, his role is also to warn: “We must be aware that there is a potential hazard to harvest plants.” And to teach his students, who follow a three-year curriculum, to recognize fifty plants, in France, able to kill on the ground.
Slippers with herbs cooked on the embers
Kim Pasche trainees, trapper living six months a year in the Yukon, Canada, and six months in Switzerland, near Yverdon, his native country, have just a few days to learn – lack of luck, under the rain. Benevolent, he prepares a fire by rubbing two flint and relativises the notion of comfort, without totally rejecting modernity, its pans and its waxes. Tempered, the participants (which would have liked to hear) seem unconvinced in front of their shells with herbs cooked on the embers and cutlery. “Little by little everyone finds his marks”, ensures a sweet voiceover in Gatherers by Nature , documentary of Emilie Darnaud.
At Saint-Sauveur-de-Peyre, in Lozère, Karine Gilles also organizes botanical outings in the beautiful season, but only as an annex activity. She who has been interested in the wild plants simply to feed, for lack of money, manages today to live, thanks essentially to the sale of her herbal teas and other derivatives of leaves and flowers she picking, Dry, distilled and condition alone, before selling them locally under the Loz’Herb brand.
“I always pick up a third of what I see,” says Karine Gilles, while she picks the queen-des-mea “in an infrequent place”. But – question that the documentary does not treat – what would happen if all consumers converted to picking and went to the assault of the paths and hills?