Foraging


Category:
Knowledge concerning nature
Canton:

Description

The tribes living in Valais 10,000 years ago foraged for wild plants to provide them with food and medicine. They began to cultivate certain species about 7,500 years ago. Foraging has been practised around the globe since time immemorial as a way to gather staple foods and traditional remedies. It was commonplace among families in Valais right up to the middle of the 20th century. The plants collected or harvested were used for their nutritional, medicinal, cosmetic and ornamental properties and even in crafts and games.

This tradition reflects strong links with nature and is abundantly documented but little practised nowadays, with only the country and mountain folk, herbalists and professionals - first and foremost the Valplantes cooperative - sufficiently knowledgeable on foraging for and cultivating the right plants. A growing market has led to the species that are most in demand being farmed, providing a welcome supplementary income for mountain farmers. Harvesting is usually done by hand and is subject to legal restrictions (the Council of States issued its first decree regarding the protection of wild plants in 1936), and the lists of rare plants are continually updated.

Image gallery

  • Foraging for small alpine lovage in Valais for analysis with a view to cultivation (work for a thesis in phytochemistry at the University of Basel)
  • Foraging for arnica in Valais for personal use
  • Part of an edelweiss herbarium by Canon Camille Carron, dated 1879, foraged from the Ferret Lakes and kept at the Botanical Garden in Zurich
  • Saint John’s or Maltese cross made from Saint John’s wort in Saint-Rhémy, Valle d’Aosta © Giuseppina Marguerettaz, 2011
  • Growing roseroot in Valais for use in functional foods
  • Botany course for mountain guides in Valais © Ecole de St-Jean, Val d’Anniviers
  • Foraging for small alpine lovage in Valais for analysis with a view to cultivation (work for a thesis in phytochemistry at the University of Basel)
  • Foraging for arnica in Valais for personal use
  • Part of an edelweiss herbarium by Canon Camille Carron, dated 1879, foraged from the Ferret Lakes and kept at the Botanical Garden in Zurich
  • Saint John’s or Maltese cross made from Saint John’s wort in Saint-Rhémy, Valle d’Aosta © Giuseppina Marguerettaz, 2011
  • Growing roseroot in Valais for use in functional foods
  • Botany course for mountain guides in Valais © Ecole de St-Jean, Val d’Anniviers

Audio

Charles Rey interviews Giuseppina Margerettaz in Aosta (Italy) on 20 November 2011, part I © Charly Rey, Conthey

Charles Rey interviews Giuseppina Margerettaz in Aosta (Italy) on 20 November 2011, part II © Charly Rey, Conthey

Charles Rey interviews Marie-Andrée Folonnier in Vex (Valais) on 21 November 2011, part I © Charly Rey, Conthey

Charles Rey interviews Marie-Andrée Folonnier in Vex (Valais) on 21 November 2011, part II © Charly Rey, Conthey

References and documentation

Publications
  • Henri Armand: Les plantes médicinales autour du Mont-Blanc, sagesses anciennes, promesses d’avenir. In : Nouvelles du Centre d’Etudes Francoprovençales René Willien no. 58. Saint Nicolas, 2008, p. 43-66

  • Alexandre Bourdin : La santé par les plantes. Neuchâtel, 1957

  • Germaine Cousin-Zermatten : Recettes, santé de nos grand’mères. Sierre, 1997

  • Gérard Debuigne, François Couplan : Petit Larousse des plantes qui guérissent. 500 plantes. Paris, 2006

  • Albrecht von Haller : Histoire des plantes Suisses ou Matière médicale et de l'usage économique des plantes. Traduit du Latin par Philippe Rodolphe Vicat. Berne, 1791

  • Pierre Lieutaghi : La plante compagne pratique et imaginaire de la flore sauvage en Europe occidentale. Arles, 1998

  • Basile Luyet : La médecine populaire à Savièse. In : Cahiers valaisans du folklore vol. 1, Genève, 1928, p. 27-32

  • Françoise Nicollier, Grégoire Nicollier : Les plantes dans la vie quotidienne à Bagnes. Noms patois et utilisations domestiques. n: Bulletin de la Murithienne vol. 102. Sion, 1984, p. 129-158

  • Charly Rey : Domestication du genépi blanc (Artemisia umbelliformis Lam.). In : Revue suisse de viticulture, arboriculture, horticulture no. 3, vol. 29. Nyon, 1997, p. I-VIII

  • Ferdinand-Otto Wolf : Herbarium officinale Valesiae. Description et herbier de 109 plantes médicinales du Valais. (Livre premier : Plantes médicinales indigènes ou cultivées en Valais, leurs propriétés et emplois en médecine populaire). Sion, 1905-1906

Documentation