Food from the forest
Many Thai village children know their plants very well. Sometimes it is enough to show them a picture of a plant and they will get it for me in an instant, or show it to me (if it is a tree). I have previously remarked that Thai village children know more about botany than many Swedish senior high school science students. However, general remarks never tells you anything about the abilities of an individual.
Recently I overheard some Swedish children complaining about the poor quality of their canteen food at their Swedish school. Like any old-timer I remarked that ‘hunger is the best spice’. The children agreed but remarked that if there were better alternatives they would take those, and they began naming berries and leaves they would pick in the nearby forest rather than enduring the stressful queues, the echo of screaming children inside the canteen and the food offered due to low price and nutrition rather than joy of eating. I was really impressed by the knowledge of these youngsters (9-12 years), and I began laughing loudly when they told me about a contest: they tried to find out how many Norway spruce shoots (Picea abies) could be stuffed into a mouth. The winner managed to squeeze in 74, the second threw up already at 56. Obviously the heritage of rural cultures is not only confined to books.
Some Swedish children know their plants as well as Thai village children. A striking difference though is that the season for harvesting forest food is much shorter in Sweden than in Thailand. (Jenny Myrdal is 9 years old).
A Swedish midsummer cake made from basic ingredients. This year it was 17 °C on the 22:nd of June (Nyköping, Sweden). It was the coldest May since 1928, and June seems equally cold. Thailand has a ‘neutral year’ and both countries are right now characterized by a lush green.
Text: Eric Danell
Photo: Karin Myrdal