picking for food, a practice to rediscover


“Licking aphid poo at Buttes-Chaumont, I love it! “ François Couplan brings to his mouth a linden leaf covered with sweet mini-droplets. The strongest thing is that, in less than an hour, the ethnobotanist risks convincing many viewers to do the same. Helped in this by two other speakers, the herbalist Karine Gilles and the “experimental” archaeologist Kim Pasche.

Indeed, since humans became sedentary, moving from a hunter-gatherer model to that of a farmer, they have moved away from a large part of the 80,000 edible plant species on the planet. And this evolution has been accentuated by social norms, industrialization and the consumer society, as François Couplan explains, while nibbling a raw nettle, “Which can also be eaten cooked: I make it in brandade”.

As the founder of the Practical College of Ethnobotany, his role is also to warn: “You have to be aware that there is a potential danger in harvesting plants. “ And to teach his students, who follow a three-year course, to recognize the fifty or so plants in France capable of killing in the field.

Herb turnovers cooked on the embers

Trainees of Kim Pasche, a trapper living six months a year in the Yukon, Canada, and six months in Switzerland, near Yverdon, his homeland, have just a few days to learn – bad luck, in the rain . Benevolent, he prepares a fire by rubbing two flints and relativizes the notion of comfort, without totally rejecting modernity, its pots and oilskins. Soaked, the participants (which we would have liked to hear) seem unconvinced in front of their herbal slippers cooked on the embers and covered with ash. “Little by little, everyone is finding their marks”, ensures a soft voice over in Gatherers by nature, documentary by Emilie Darnaud.

In Saint-Sauveur-de-Peyre, in Lozère, Karine Gilles also organizes botanical outings to the beautiful season, but only as a side activity. She who was initially interested in wild plants simply to feed herself, for lack of money, now manages to live on them, thanks mainly to the sale of her herbal teas and other derivatives of the leaves and flowers that she picks, dries, distils and packages on its own, before selling them locally under the Loz’herbes brand.

“I always collect a third of what I see”, says Karine Gilles, as she picks meadowsweet “In a little frequented place”. But – a question that the documentary does not deal with – what would happen if all consumers converted to picking and set off to storm the roads and hills?

Gatherers by nature, by Emilie Darnaud (Fr., 2020, 52 min), in replay 60 days; tracking Vegetables in the city, by Aurélien Francisco Barros (Fr., 2020, 52 min). Ushuaïa TV in replay 30 days.