When it comes to gathering wild food, I recommend starting slow. Choose one thing you're interested in, one thing that may be growing nearby that you've generally taken for granted-maybe it's nettles or acorns, or maybe you live near a prolific bay laurel tree dropping peppernuts every fall. Once you begin to notice and access the natural rhythms of this food you've chosen, learn everything about it-its growth cycles, what kind of soil it likes, how much water it needs, and so on. Then search for stories that feature your ingredient and Native artists and teachers in your area. Learn all the names of your ingredient in Indigenous languages. Discover how local Native people tend this ingredient, if they use fire or seed mounds or dip nets or specialized tools. Is this ingredient part of other foodways in other parts of the world? How are the preparations different or the same? Are there Native elders in your community that could benefit from your labor first? Once you have done all that and you have these well-earned ingredients, then it's time to use this book.
Chími Nu'am: Native California Foodways For The Contemporary Kitchen, written by Sara Calvosa Olson
Tomorrow night! If you’re in the area of Kenyon College, I’ll be running a free hands-on creative workshop about foraging & nature comics. I think there’s still a few spots open! You can sign up here: https://www.thegund.org/events/foraging-comics-with-mel-gillman
Analysis of data from dozens of foraging societies around the world shows that women hunt in at least 79% of these societies, opposing the widespread belief that men exclusively hunt and women exclusively gather. Abigail Anderson of Seattle Pacific University, US, and colleagues presented these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on June 28, 2023.
A common belief holds that, among foraging populations, men have typically hunted animals while women gathered plant products for food. However, mounting archaeological evidence from across human history and prehistory is challenging this paradigm; for instance, women in many societies have been found buried alongside big-game hunting tools.
Some researchers have suggested that women's role as hunters was confined to the past, with more recent foraging societies following the paradigm of men as hunters and women as gatherers. To investigate that possibility, Anderson and colleagues analyzed data from the past 100 years on 63 foraging societies around the world, including societies in North and South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and the Oceanic region.
They found that women hunt in 79% of the analyzed societies, regardless of their status as mothers. More than 70% of female hunting appears to be intentional—as opposed to opportunistic killing of animals encountered while performing other activities, and intentional hunting by women appears to target game of all sizes, most often large game.
The analysis also revealed that women are actively involved in teaching hunting practices and that they often employ a greater variety of weapon choice and hunting strategies than men.
These findings suggest that, in many foraging societies, women are skilled hunters and play an instrumental role in the practice, adding to the evidence opposing long-held perceptions about gender roles in foraging societies. The authors note that these stereotypes have influenced previous archaeological studies, with, for instance, some researchers reluctant to interpret objects buried with women as hunting tools. They call for reevaluation of such evidence and caution against misapplying the idea of men as hunters and women as gatherers in future research.
The authors add, "Evidence from around the world shows that women participate in subsistence hunting in the majority of cultures."
Found today while gathering acorns (swamp white oak). How adorable is this? I love her little feet, and the way she pivots around her proboscis, fascinated by how far her head rotates… Curculio sp. (if anyone can ID to species, please add!)
Interesting looking seeds of the week: Common Mallow - Malva neglecta.
Malva neglecta can be found in several continents, it's commonly known as common mallow or cheese weed. Its leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, they can be used similarly to spinach, added to soups, stews, or sautéed as a side dish. The flowers of Malva neglecta can also be added to salads for a colorful touch or used as an edible garnish.
In addition to its culinary uses, Malva neglecta has been used in traditional medicine for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, particularly for skin and digestive system ailments.
The seed pods of Malva neglecta, sometimes referred to as "cheeses," due to their shape resembling a small wheel of cheese, can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a mild, pleasant flavor and can be added to salads or used as a snack. In some regions, they are pickled or used as a caper substitute. But, I decided to go a little further and break the seed pods once dried to investigate possible culinary uses for the seeds.
They're super interesting looking, like little barrels with ridges, I didn't collect that many last year but I've enough to start a couple of experiments. Of course, I'm in the progress of sprouting some but I have the feeling that one of the best use will be to grind the dried seeds and make an interesting flour.
A little excerpt from my new foraging zine that a lot of people seem to be resonating with. My favorite part of any foraging book is always getting to talk about why I find the practice so meaningful 🌸💕
ETA: I wrote up a guide on clues that a foraging book was written by AI here!
[Original Tweet source here.]
Okay, yeah. This is a very, very, very bad idea. I understand that there is a certain flavor of techbro who has ABSOLUTELY zero problem with this because "AI is the future, bro", and we're supposed to be reading their articles on how to use AI for side hustles and all that.
I get that ID apps have played into people's tendency to want quick and easy answers to everything (I'm not totally opposed to apps, but please read about how an app does not a Master Naturalist make.) But nature identification is serious stuff, ESPECIALLY when you are trying to identify whether something is safe to eat, handle, etc. You have to be absolutely, completely, 100000% sure of your ID, and then you ALSO have to absolutely verify that it is safely handled and consumed by humans.
As a foraging instructor, I cannot emphasize this enough. My classes, which are intended for a general audience, are very heavy on identification skills for this very reason. I have had (a small subsection of) students complain that I wasn't just spending 2-3 hours listing off bunches of edible plants and fungi, and honestly? They can complain all they want. I am doing MY due diligence to make very sure that the people who take my classes are prepared to go out and start identifying species and then figure out their edibility or lack thereof.
Because it isn't enough to be able to say "Oh, that's a dandelion, and I think this might be an oyster mushroom." It's also not enough to say "Well, such-and-such app says this is Queen Anne's lace and not poison hemlock." You HAVE to have incredibly keen observational skills. You HAVE to be patient enough to take thorough observations and run them through multiple forms of verification (field guides, websites, apps, other foragers/naturalists) to make sure you have a rock-solid identification. And then you ALSO have to be willing to read through multiple sources (NOT just Wikipedia) to determine whether that species is safely consumed by humans, and if so if it needs to be prepared in a particular way or if there are inedible/toxic parts that need to be removed.
AND--this phenomenon of AI-generated crapola emphasizes the fact that in addition to all of the above, you HAVE to have critical thinking skills when it comes to assessing your sources. Just because something is printed on a page doesn't mean it's true. You need to look at the quality of the information being presented. You need to look at the author's sources. You need to compare what this person is saying to other books and resources out there, and make sure there's a consensus.
You also need to look at the author themselves and make absolutely sure they are a real person. Find their website. Find their bio. Find their social media. Find any other manners in which they interact with the world, ESPECIALLY outside of the internet. Contact them. Ask questions. Don't be a jerk about it, because we're just people, but do at least make sure that a book you're interested in buying is by a real person. I guarantee you those of us who are serious about teaching this stuff and who are internet-savvy are going to make it very easy to find who we are (within reason), what we're doing, and why.
Because the OP in that Tweet is absolutely right--people are going to get seriously ill or dead if they try using AI-generated field guides. We have such a wealth of information, both on paper/pixels and in the brains of active, experienced foragers, that we can easily learn from the mistakes of people in the past who got poisoned, and avoid their fate. But it does mean that you MUST have the will and ability to be impeccably thorough in your research--and when in doubt, throw it out.
My inbox is always open. I'm easier caught via email than here, but I will answer. You can always ask me stuff about foraging, about nature identification, etc. And if there's a foraging instructor/author/etc. with a website, chances are they're also going to be more than willing to answer questions. I am happy to direct you to online groups on Facebook and elsewhere where you have a whole slew of people to compare notes with. I want people's foraging to be SAFE and FUN. And AI-generated books aren't the way to make that happen.
There is a growing body of physiological, anatomical, ethnographic, and archaeological evidence to suggest that not only did women hunt in our evolutionary past, but they may well have been better suited for such an endurance-dependent activity.
We are both biological anthropologists. I (co-author Cara) specialize in the physiology of humans who live in extreme conditions, using my research to reconstruct how our ancestors may have adapted to different climates. And I (co-author Sarah) study Neanderthal and early modern human health. I also excavate at their archaeological sites.
It’s not uncommon for scientists like us—who attempt to include the contributions of all individuals, regardless of sex and gender, in reconstructions of our evolutionary past—to be accused of rewriting the past to fulfill a politically correct, woke agenda. The actual evidence speaks for itself, though: Gendered labor roles did not exist in the Paleolithic era, which lasted from 3.3 million years ago until 12,000 years ago. The story is written in human bodies, now and in the past.
Our Neanderthal cousins, a group of humans who lived across Western and Central Eurasia approximately 250,000 to 40,000 years ago, formed small, highly nomadic bands. Fossil evidence shows females and males experienced the same bony traumas across their bodies—a signature of a hard life hunting deer, aurochs, and woolly mammoths. Tooth wear that results from using the front teeth as a third hand, likely in tasks like tanning hides, is equally evident across females and males.
This nongendered picture should not be surprising when you imagine small-group living. Everyone needs to contribute to the tasks necessary for group survival—chiefly, producing food and shelter, and raising children. Individual mothers are not solely responsible for their children; in forager communities, the whole group contributes to child care.
You might imagine this unified labor strategy then changed in early modern humans, but archaeological and anatomical evidence shows it did not. Upper Paleolithic modern humans leaving Africa and entering Europe and Asia show very few sexed differences in trauma and repetitive motion wear. One difference is more evidence of “thrower’s elbow” in males than females, though some females shared these pathologies.
And this was also the time when people were innovating with hunting technologies like atlatls (spear throwers), fishing hooks and nets, and bow and arrows—alleviating some of the wear and tear hunting would take on their bodies. A recent archaeological experiment found that using atlatls decreased sex differences in the speed of spears thrown by contemporary men and women.
Even in death, there are no sexed differences in how Neanderthals or modern humans buried their dead or the goods affiliated with their graves. These indicators of differential gendered social status do not arrive until agriculture, with its stratified economic system and monopolizable resources.
All this evidence suggests Paleolithic women and men did not occupy differing roles or social realms.