The Edibility Approach, Chemical Ecology and Relationality. Methodological and Ethnobotanical Contributions
This paper combines ethnographic and ethnobotanical fieldwork with the edibility approach (EA), chemical ecology and Ingold’s ontology of dwelling. The EA aims to “push harder onto and through the boundaries between edible plants and the human-animals that eat them to consider the outcomes produced as a result of these interacting materials” (Attala 2017, 130). This approach places ingestion in the light of multispecies entanglement. As proposed by Attala, this is still a philosophically “open” concept, of limited operational use in ethnographic (ethnobotanical) study. Our article argues for an expansion of the EA, based on this combined perspective and giving more attention to cross-species interactions placed in an environmental context. Our cases are about how people live with plants, exemplified by foraging practices of agriculturists in Ukraine, Daghestan and Argentina. The everyday social relations of our interlocutors are more-than-human interactions, and in these relations we pay a close attention to non-cultivated edible plants. We present two modes of writing ethnographies, in which we focus respectively on a single plant taxon or a group of plants, and where both people and plants are protagonists. We argue that incorporating the dwelling perspective and chemical ecology into the EA is one of the potentially fruitful approaches to the analysis of plant – people relations. The use of language and of the tools of ecology in an attempt to present different aspects of co-dwelling of people and plants, although it may seem anchored in Cartesian dualism, in fact allows for a deeper understanding of the relations among protagonists and their co-dwellers in the environment, and hence goes against dualisms. The relations and the ways through which organisms co-create their environment are the very essence of ecology. The close collaboration of anthropologists, ethnobotanists, ecologists and chemical ecologists is postulated in the article.
Auricchio, M.T., and E.M. Bacchi. 2003. Eugenia uniflora L. “‘Brazilian cherry’ leaves: pharmacobotanical, chemical and pharmacological properties.” Revista do Instituto Adolfo Lutz 62, 55–61.
Attala, Luci. 2017. “‘The edibility approach’: using edibility to explore relationships, plant agency, and the porosity of species boundaries.” Advances in Anthropology 7, 125–145.
Attala, Luci. 2019. “‘I am Apple’: relationships of the flesh. Exploring the corporeal entanglements of eating plants in the Amazon.” In Body Matters. Exploring the Materiality of the Human Body, edited by Luci Attala and Louise Steel, Cardiff: UWP, preprint (available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication321997248_I_eat_Apple, accessed 27.07.2020).
Balée, William. 1994. Footprints of the Forest: Ka’apor Ethnobotany—the Historical Ecology of Plant Utilization by an Amazonian People. New York: Columbia University Press.
Balée, William. 2013. Cultural Forests of the Amazon: A Historical Ecology of People and their Landscapes. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Bartolomé, Miguel Alberto. 2009. Parientes de la selva. Los guaraníes mbya de la Argentina. Asunción: CEADUC.
Bartolomé, Leopoldo J. 1982. Colonias y colonizadores en Misiones. Instituto de Investigación. Posadas (Argentina): Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Nacional de Misiones.
Bartolomé, Leopoldo J., and Gabriela Schiavoni, eds. 2008. Desarrollo y estudios rurales en Misiones. Buenos Aires: CICCUS.
Begossi, Alpina, and Natalia Hanazaki, Jorge Tamashiro Y. 2002. “Medicinal Plants in the Atlantic Forest (Brazil): Knowledge, Use and Conservation.” Human Ecology 30 (3), 281–299.
Bohn, Udo, and Gisela Gollub, Christoph Hettwer, Zdenka Neuhäuslová, Thomas Raus, Heinz Schlüter, Herbert Weber, eds. 2004. Map of the Natural Vegetation of Europe. Scale 1 : 2 500 000. Münster: Landwirtschaftsverlag.
Buchholz, Sascha, and Ingo Kowarik. 2019. Urbanisation modulates plant-pollinator interactions in invasive vs. native plant species. Scientific Reports 9 (6375), 1–9.
Bulayeva, Kazima B., and Elizabeth Marchani, Olga L. Kurbatova, Scott W. Watkins, Oleg A. Bulayev, Henry C. Harpending. 2008. “Genetic bottleneck among Daghestan highlanders migrating to lowlands.” Central European Journal of Medicine 3, 396–405.
Caldwell, Melissa L. 2011. Dacha Idylls Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Campanello, Paula I., and Lía Montti, Patricio Mac Donagh, Guillermo Goldstein. 2009. “Reduced impact logging and post-harvesting forest management. Alternative approaches to enhance canopy tree growth and regeneration and to reduce the impact of invasive species.” In Forest Management, edited by S.P. Grossberg, 39–59, New York: Nova Science Publisher.
Cierjacks, Arne, and Ingo Kowarik, Jasmin Joshi, Stefan Hempel, Michael Ristow, Moritz von der Lippe, Ewald Weber. 2013. “Biological Flora of the British Isles: Robinia pseudoacacia.” Journal of Ecology 101, 1623–1640.
Clements, Charles R. 1999. “1492 and the loss of Amazonian crop genetic resources I. The relation between domestication and human population decline.” Economic Botany 53 (2), 188–202.
Da Ponte, Emmanuel, and Marthe Roch, Patrick Leinenkugel, Stefan Dech, Claudia Kuenzer. 2017. “Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest cover loss – Satellite-based change detection and fragmentation analysis between 2003 and 2013.” Applied Geography 79, 37–49.
Daly, Lewis. 2019. “The nature of sweetness: an indigenous fermentation complex in Amazonian Guyana.” In Alcohol and Humans: A Long and Social History, edited by Kimberley Hockings and Robin Dunbar, 130–146, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Daly, Lewis, and Katherine French, Theresa L. Miller, Luiseach Nic Eoin. 2016. “Integrating ontology into ethnobotanical research.” Journal of Ethnobiology 36 (1), 1–9.
Dziągwa-Becker, Magdalena M., and Olga Kalitowska, Wiesław A. Oleszek. 2016. “Influence of selected soil parameters on amino acid profile in Stellaria media.” Polish Journal of Agronomy 27, 32–37.
Etkin, Nina L. 1993. “Ethnopharmacologic perspectives on diet and medicine in Northern Nigeria.” Actes du 2 Colloque Européen d’Ethnopharmacologie et de la 11 Conférence Internationale d’Ethnomédicine, Heidelberg 24–27 mars 1993, 58–62.
Flora del Conosur. Instituto de Botánica Darwinion 2020. http://www.darwin.edu.ar/proyectos/floraargentina/fa.htm (accessed 20.03.2020).
Frohne, Dietrich, and Hans J. Pfänder. 1984. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. London: Wolfe.
Gabriel, Cynthia. 2005. “Healthy Russian Food is Not-for-Profit.” Michigan Discussions in Anthropology special issue Subsistence and Sustenance 15 (1), 183–222.
Galindo-Leal, Carlos, and Gusmão I. de Cãmara. 2003. “Atlantic Forest hotspot status: an overview.” In The Atlantic Forest of South América: Biodiversity Status, Threats, and Outlook, edited by Carlos Galindo-Leal and I. de Cãmara Gusmão, 3–11, Washington DC: Island Press.
Gammerman, Adel F., and Ivan I. Grom. 1976. Dikorastushchie lekarstvennye rasteniia SSSR. Moskva: Izdatelstvo “Medicina”.
Giovanetti, Manuela. 2018. “Foraging choices balanced between resource abundance and handling concerns: how the honeybee, Apis mellifera, select the flowers of Robinia pseudoacacia.” Bulletin of Entomological Research 109, 1–9.
Goodenough, Ward H. 2004. “W poszukiwaniu roboczej teorii kultury.” In Badanie kultury. Elementy teorii antropologicznej. Kontynuacje, edited by Marian Kempny and Ewa Nowicka, 100–116, Warszawa: PWN.
Grivetti, Louis E. 2006. “Edible wild plants as food and as medicine: reflections on thirty years of fieldwork.” In Eating and Healing: Traditional Food as Medicine, edited by Andrea Pieroni, Lisa L. Price, 11–39, New York: Haworth Press.
Haraway, Donna. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Harmatha, Juraj. 2000. “Chemo-Ecological role of spirostanol saponins in the interaction between plants and insects.” In Saponins in Food, Feedstuffs and Medicinal Plants, edited by Wiesław Oleszek and Andrew Marston, 129–141, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Hayati, Attayeb, and Michael Proctor. 1990. Plant distribution in relation to mineral nutrient availability and uptake on a wet-heath site in South-West England. Journal of Ecology 78 (1), 134–151.
Holbraad, Martin, and Morten A. Pedersen, 2014. “The politics of ontology. Editors’ forum. Theorizing the contemporary.” Cultural Anthropology, https://culanth.org/fieldsights/series/the-politics-of-ontology (accessed 21.03.2020).
Huntley, Jimmy C. 1990. “Robinia pseudoacacia L. black locust.” In Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654, edited by Russel M. Burns and Barbara H. Honkala, 755–761, Washington: Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
Ingold, Tim. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London and New York: Routledge.
Ingold, Tim. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement Knowledge and Description. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Ivanov, Vitalij I. 1992. Lekarstvennye sredstva v narodnoj medicine. Moscow: Voennoe izdatelstvo.
Jansen, Suze, and Iris Kleerekooper, Zonne Hofman, Isabelle Kappen, Anna Stary-Weinzinger, Marcel van der Heyden. 2012. “Grayanotoxin poisoning: ‘Mad Honey Disease’ and beyond. Cardiovascular Toxicology 12 (3), 208–213.
Johns, Timothy. 1990. With Bitter Herbs They Shall Eat It: Chemical Ecology and the Origins of Human Diet and Medicine. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Johns, Timothy. 1994. “Ambivalence to the palatability factors in wild food plants.” In Eating on the Wild Side. The Pharmacologic, Ecologic and Social Implications of Using Noncultigens, edited by Nina L. Etkin, 46–61, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Kaliszewska, Iwona. 2018. “Cheese bribe. Viewing social changes through food and mobility in Daghestan, North Caucasus.” Sociological Studies 4 (231) [without pagination] https://doi.org/10.24425/122485.
Kaliszewska, Iwona, and Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska. 2015. “The social context of wild leafy vegetables uses in Shiri, Daghestan.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11 (63) [without pagination] https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-015-0047-x.
Karban, Richard, Kaori Shiojiri, Satomi Ishizaki. 2011. “Plant communication – why should plants emit volatile cues?” Journal of Plant Interactions 6, 81–84.
Kirksey, Eben, ed. 2014. The Multispecies Salon. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Klaser, Cheng Diana M. 2017. “Phytochemistry.” In Ethnobotany: A phytochemical perspective, edited by Barbara M. Schmidt and Diana M. Klaser Cheng, 111–140, New York: Wiley Blackwell.
Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think. Towards an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Kołodziejska-Degórska, Iwona. 2016. “Patients’ webs of relations in the medical landscapes of Central Ukraine.” Anthropology & Medicine 23 (2), 155–171.
Kujawska, Monika. 2018. “Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) beverage. Nutraceutical ingredient or conveyor for the intake of medicinal plants? Evidence from Paraguayan folk medicine.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2018, 17 pages; https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/6849317
Kujawska, Monika and Łukasz Łuczaj. 2015. “Wild edible plants used by the Polish community in Misiones. Argentina.” Human Ecology 43 (6), 855–869.
Kujawska, Monika, and Andrea Pieroni. 2015. “Plants used as food and medicine by Polish migrants in Misiones, Argentina.” Ecology of Food and Nutrition 54, 255–279.
Kuzemko, Anna A., and Thomas Becker, Yakiv P. Didukh, Ioana V. Ardelean, Ute Becker, Monica Beldean, Christian Dolnik, Michael Jeschke, Alireza Naqinezhad, Emin Uğurlu, Aslan Ünal, Kiril Vassilev, Evgeniy I. Vorona, Olena H. Yavorska, Jurgen Dengler. 2014. “Dry grassland vegetation of Central Podilia (Ukraine) – a preliminary overview of its syntaxonomy, ecology and biodiversity.” Tuexenia 34, 391–430.
Lanska, Dagmar, and Pavel Zilak. 1992. Jadalne rośliny dziko rosnące. Warsaw: Delta W-Z.
Leach, Helen. 2003. “Human Domestication Reconsidered.” Current Anthropology 44 (3), 349–368.
Lins Neto Ernani M.F, and Nivaldo Peroni, Alejandro Casas, Fabiola Parra, Xitlali Aguirre, Susana Guillén, Ulysses P. Albuquerque. 2014. “Brazilian and Mexican experiences in the study of incipient domestication.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 10 (33), [without pagination] https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-10-33.
Litvinskaja, Svetlana A., and Ramzan A. Matuzaliev. 2013. Flora Severnogo Kavkaza, Atlas-Opredelitel’. Moscow: Izd. “Fiton XXI”.
Łuczaj, Łukasz. 2010. “Changes in the utilization of wild green vegetables in Poland since the 19th century: a comparison of four ethnobotanical surveys.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 128, 395–404.
Mahato, Shashi. 2000. “Bioactive saponins from some plants used in Indian traditional medicine.” In Saponins in Food, Feedstuffs and Medicinal Plants, edited by Wiesław Oleszek and Andrew Marston, 13–23, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Marder, Michael. 2013. Plant Thinking. A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. New York: Columbia University Press.
Martin, Gary J. 2004. Ethnobotany: a Methods Manual. London, Sterling (Vancuver): Earthscan.
Martínez-Crovetto, Raúl. 1968. “La alimentación entre los indios Guaranies de Misiones (República Argentina).” Etnobiologica 4, 1–24.
Matuzaliev, Ramzan. 2016. “Analiz Raspredelenija Vidov Flory Dagestana.” Botanicheskiy Zhurnal 101 (9), 1056–1074.
McKey, Doyle, and Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Julie Cliff, Roslyn Gleadow. 2010. “Chemical ecology in coupled human and natural systems: people, manioc, multitrophic interactions and global change.” Chemoecology 20, 109–133.
Merritt, C.R. 1986. “The relationship between the rate of entry of ioxynil and effects on photosynthesis in normal and drought stressed Stellaria media.” Annals of Applied Biology 108, 105–114.
Moerman, Daniel E. 1994. “North American food and drug plants.” In Eating on the Wild Side. The Pharmacologic, Ecologic and Social Implications of Using Noncultigens, edited by Nina L. Etkin, 166–181, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Montenegro, Pedro de. 1710. Materia Medica Misionera. Buenos Aires: Biblioteca Nacional.
Noorani, Tehseen, and Julian Brigstocke. 2018. “More-Than-Human participatory research.” In Connected Communities Foundation Series, edited by Keri Facer and Katherine Dunleavy, Bristol: University of Bristol/AHRC Connected Communities Programme.
Osbourn, Anne, and Jonathan Carter, Kalliope Papadopoulou, Kosmas Haralampidis, Miranda Trojanowska, Rachel Melton. 2000. “Oat root saponins and root-infecting fungi.” In Saponins in Food, Feedstuffs and Medicinal Plants, edited by Wiesław Oleszek and Andrew Marston, 121–128, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Pálsson, Gísli. 1996. “Human-environment relations: orientalism, paternalism and communalism.” In Nature and Society. Anthropological Perspectives, edited by Philippe Descola and Gísli Pálsson, 63–81, London and New York: Routledge.
PFAF https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Stellaria+media (accessed 21.03.2020).
Pin, Ana, and Gloria Céspedes, eds. 2009. Plantas medicinales del Jardín Botánico de Asunción. Asunción: Dirección General de Gestión Ambiental Municipalidad de Asunción.
Pirożnikow, Ewa. 2014. “Rola pożywienia zbieranego z natury w życiu Polaków deportowanych do ZSRR w okresie drugiej wojny światowej.” Etnobiologia Polska 4, 135–172.
Popov, Aleksej P. 1969. Lekarstvennye rastenija v narodnoj medicine. Kiev: “Zdorovja”.
Rao, Venket A., and Debbie M. Gurfinkel. 2000. “Dietary saponins and human health.” In Saponins in Food, Feedstuffs and Medicinal Plants, edited by Wiesław Oleszek and Andrew Marston, 255–270, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Reinert, Hugo. 2019. “The midwife and the poet: bioaccumulation and retroactive shock.” Environmental Humanities 11 (1) [without pagination] https://doi.org/10.1215/22011919-7349455.
Schmeda Hirschmann, Guillermo. 1998. “Ethnobotanical observations on Paraguayan Myrtaceae.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 22; 73–79.
Silva, D.H.S., and C.V. Plaza, V. da S. Bolzani, J.A. Cavalheiro, J. Castro-Gamboa. 2006. “Antioxidants from fruits and leaves of Eugenia jambolana, an edible Myrtaceae species from Atlantic Forest.” Planta Medica 72: 187, https://doi.org/10.1055/s-2006-949987.
Somme, Laurent, and Laura Moquet, Muriel Quinet, Maryse Vanderplanck, Denis Michez, Georges Lognay, Anne-Laure Jacquemart. 2016. “Food in a row: urban trees offer valuable floral resources to pollinating insects.” Urban Ecosystems 19, 1149–1161.
Stankov, Stanko, and Hafize Fidan, Tanya Ivanova, Albena Stoyanova, Stanka Damyanova, Mykola Desyk. 2018. “Chemical composition and application of flowers of false acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia L.).” Ukrainian Food Journal 7, 577–588.
Sytnyk, Svitlana, and Viktoriia Lovynska Yuriy, Gritsan. 2016. “The analysis of the taxation structure Robinia pseudoacacia L. Stands in The Forests Whithin of Northern Steppe, Ukraine.” Agriculture & Forestry 62(4), 153–160.
Tava, Aldo, and Marcella Chiari, Wiesław Oleszek. 2000. “Separation of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) saponins as their borate complexes by capillary electrophoresis.” In Saponins in Food, Feedstuffs and Medicinal Plants, edited by Wiesław Oleszek and Andrew Marston, 43–56, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
The Plant List. http://www.theplantlist.org/ (accessed 10.09.2020).
Thomas, Evert, and Ina Vandebroek, Patrick Van Damme. 2007. “What works in the field? A comparison of different interviewing methods in ethnobotany with special reference to the use of photographs.” Economic Botany 61(4), 376–384.
Tsing Lowenhaupt, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. On The Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Turkington, Roy, and Norman C. Kenkel, Gail D. Franko. 1980. “The biology of Canadian weeds. 42. Stellaria media (L.)Vill.” Canadian Journal of Plant Science 60, 981–992.
Tyśkiewicz, Katarzyna, and Marcin Konkol, Rafał Kowalski, Edward Rój, Kazimierz Warmiński, Michał Krzyżaniak, Łukasz Gil, Mariusz Stolarski. 2019. “Characterization of bioactive compounds in the biomass of black locust, poplar and willow.” Trees 33, 1235–1263.
Van der Veen, Marijke. 2014. “The materiality of plants: plant-people entanglements.” World Archeology 46 (5), 799–812.
Whittaker, R.H., and P.O. Feeny. 1971. “Allelochemicals: Chemical interactions between species.” Science 171, 757–770.
Willis, Paul. 2000. The Ethnographic Imagination. Cambridge: Polity.
Witzany, Günther. 2006. “Plant communication from biosemantic perspective: Difference in abiotic and biotic signal perception determine content arrangement of response behaviour.” Plant Signalling and Behaviour 1(4), 169–178.
Copyright (c) 2020 Ethnologia Polona
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.