Sunday, 10 December 2017

Foraging for Berries, Greens, Roots & Seeds: the wild plant foods of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and what we can still gather today.

Introduction to the online Wild Plant Foods of Britain, by Gordon Hillman

Experimental harvesting of wild
einkorn wheat (1980)
Gordon Hillman (1943-2018) was a botanist, archaeobotanist and ethnoarchaeologist who has, for the past 40+ years, been at the forefront of archaeobotanical research on ancient human uses of plants.  He established many of the theoretical methodological and analytical approaches that, through his publications as well as teaching at UCL, have become the global standard in the identification and interpretation of plant remains from archaeological sites.

Central to Gordon Hillman’s approach is the use of ethnographic fieldwork and modelling as well as experimentation, to identify the potential human activities and routines most likely associated with the wild and domesticated species that are commonly found archaeological sites. Among his main interests are how ancient people may have collected and processed those (sometimes poisonous or otherwise inedible) plants to transform them into a palatable foods and/or storable food products. Likewise, Hillman has collaborated with specialists in other fields to understand the nutritional implications and degree to which a species may have contributed to the human diet.

Deshelling acorns (Quercus
rubra), Autumn 2010
Drawing on a lifetime of teaching and learning in the field, laboratory and classroom, here Hillman provides a field guide for the identification, collection, processing and consumption of wild plants that grow in the UK. Entries are classified into root foods, nuts, seed foods, fleshy fruits, greens (leaves, leafy shoots, or shoot-tips), as well as flowers and flower buds.  Each entry discusses the ethnographic, experimental and archaeological evidence as well as Hillman’s own photographs. To protect our more fragile indigenous species and promote the continued diversity and productivity of others, each entry will also indicate the conservation status or sustainability of that plant. [add link]

We intend for each entry to be linked to a downloadable PDF version of record in the near future. 

Please be aware of guidelines on responsible foraging, the potential of plants to be poisonous, and take care with rare or endangered species.

Bear with us – the blog is a work-in-progress, and entries will be uploaded as they are completed.

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