| The Importance of Saving Edible Plants
by Rina Veltkamp
Moss Mama was created out of the love and desire to help connect people with rare edible plants. I have picked up many books with titles such as The Lost Feast and Eating into Extinction. We live in this weird time in history where we can love something into extinction, but simultaneously forget about something else and have it completely forgotten. There is an alarming loss of traditional knowledge of slow foods. There are so many unique flavours that could change the way we eat. In the years I have spent studying nutrition, the only conclusion I have come to understand is that diversity in our diet is the best thing for our health. We can only do this when we have a selection of an abundance of food to choose from; about 75% of the world’s food comes from just twelve plants and five animal species. Using only twelve plants as our primary food source, we overlook so many others who want to be heard. Across the planet, we only eat around 150 plant species. There are more than 400,000 plant species, and its believed that at least half of these are edible in one form or another. We are also losing knowledge about many of these edible plants at an alarming rate. This is something I am passionate about. I can preserve as much of this knowledge as possible by sharing rare seeds and ways to utilize these plants. I want to create a network of people who are growing these plants and can share this knowledge with other people who are passionate about plants. By doing this, we can slowly help save this knowledge and bring more biodiversity into our diets.
With Moss Mama, one of the projects I have been working on is my seed subscription. Every month I send out a rare edible plant, but I also include a full write-up of the ethnobotany history and uses of this plant. Last month I shared a rare adaptation herb out of Russia. The herb’s name is Maralroot or the Latin name Leuzea carthamoides. This plant is known to help with body building, as well as help sharpen the mind. A powdered form of the root is usually used. There is not much history of culinary use that I can find, but I think this power could work well in smoothies or raw-type desserts. This coming month for my seed subscription, everybody is getting one of my favourite plants which is underrated for what it can do and offers, the Garden Huckleberry (Solanum melanocerasum). This plant and others in the Solanum family, not only produce some of the tastiest berries but also self-pollinate and produce berries in as little as three months from seed. I grow this plant indoors year-round in my hydroponic setup.
Next, let’s talk about what Moss Mama is.
In the other half of Moss Mama, I teach people about my passion; I have an indoor greenhouse in my basement where I grow various rare plants. My workshops are all about working with these plants and the knowledge they hold. I have classes where I give seeds away, and we talk about the plants, and I teach a little about hydroponic growing for anyone interested in learning more about this, as I genuinely believe it’s part of our future and can help families all over the world take control of their own food security. I also love teaching culinary classes built around traditional knowledge, mostly around fermented foods or the rare culinary plants I have collected.
It’s so important to share knowledge about these subjects. Every year we lose another recipe for a starter culture, or a traditional pickle recipe, as the younger generations worldwide are losing interest in these slow food recipes. One that I want to work with and teach about soon is a recipe I found locked away in the far reaches of the Internet. This pickle is called Moungra, which comes from the traditional Cypriot cuisine. This pickle is interesting because it uses a sourdough starter as the base and cultures cauliflower. Traditional spices, such as white and black mustard seeds, are added to the pickle. These are the type of workshops I hope to host soon in my home and online, as it gives access to more people to enjoy this knowledge. Another traditional technique not as far down the internet rabbit hole but also something I see few people doing but could be beneficial is pickling beds like the Nukadoko or Sagohachizuke. I used these in the past when I had them up and running for veggies going off in my fridge or put my vegetables in overnight and used in salads or as a side dish the next day on my dinner plate.
My goal with Moss Mama is to help people connect back to slow foods by growing them or working with them within the kitchen. I would love to have tabletop hydroponic setups within more households growing rare culinary herbs and people being able to use these herbs in traditional recipes, and then passing this knowledge on to friends and family members.
Moss Mama, AKA Rina, is studying Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan. Her main interest is learning about old culinary herbs and fermentation cultures. She loves hosting people and teaching about all her knowledge. She loves playing outdoors, foraging, and collecting plants as much as she can throughout the year, and she always has her nose in a book or is researching some wild plant on the Internet. She is always open to chatting with others and sharing her knowledge. Feel free to contact Rina with any questions or collaboration at (306) 280-9280, email@example.com, mossmama.ca, mossmama5188.etsy.com, or see the display ad on page 13 of the 28.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.