In Praise of Plants
is a project to record celebrations dedicated to food plants around the world.
From the giant leek championships of northern England to the ancient, deeply spiritual ceremonies held across Asia in honour of rice or the Andes in honour of potatoes and maize; from Germany's centuries-old onion festival to Mexico’s ‘Night of the Radishes’, this project arose from a desire to explore the deep relationships communities around the world have developed with the food plants they grow and which have helped to shape or indeed define their identity.
As a means of exploring what each plant means to the people who grow or feel some connection with it, the original aim of the project (begun in pre-COVID days) was to document events in some depth, over time, and by travelling to as many of them as possible (overland or by sea from England), record local people's stories, the cultural and economic background to each plant's use and factors affecting its cultivation or availability today, as well as any threats faced.
Photo: Safa Daneshvar
Potentially vast in scope and with possibilities for development in various ways, this website, which is being added to and expanded as time allows, has been designed in the first instance simply as a calendar to record both by month and by the individual food plants involved, a little information (largely using relevant websites) about celebrations that are held in Europe in their honour.
Though a large number of food plant festivals - some very ancient - now have a distinctly commercial feel and often include other plant produce grown or brought in from elsewhere, as well as an array of merchandise that is completely unrelated to it, many still reflect a deep pride and passion felt by people for the plant that has given its name to the event and that has been grown locally for many generations.
In addition to the deeply worrying environmental changes caused by climate breakdown now affecting so many plants as well as the communities most closely involved with them - and which are only exacerbated by most forms of commercial travel - COVID 19 continues to make the holding of and travel to a number of celebratory events difficult or impossible, and may threaten the future of some.