A Prayer to the Land

Photo by Pablo Garcia Saldana

Our car comes to a halt before a log in an inlet beside a back road. The log is used to stop off-roaders from tearing up the earth, but this is not our intention, so we gather our things and step into the bristling scrubland. We look to the shelter of a large mound of earth, and clear a space beneath it. Just earlier, I had been listening to a story of a reporter who was stranded in Afghanistan, hunted by the Taliban. There are no bullets flying at us now, yet I do not feel entirely alone, or entirely safe. Continue reading

Eating the Wild

Photo by Daniel Beilinson
Photo by Daniel Beilinson

The following is an excerpt from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s The Secret Teachings of Plants.

One of our greatest fears is to eat the wildness of the world.

Our mothers intuitively understood something essential: the green is poisonous to civilization. If we eat the wild, it begins to work inside us, altering us, changing us. Soon, if we eat too much, we will no longer fit the suit that has been made for us. Our hair will begin to grow long and ragged. Our gait and how we hold our body will change. A wild light begins to gleam in our eyes. Our words start to sound strange, nonlinear, emotional. Unpractical. Poetic.

Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken.

It is no wonder that we are taught to close off our senses to Nature.

Through these channels, the green paws of Nature enter into us, climb over us, search within us, find all our hiding places, burst us open, and blind the intellectual eye with hanging tendrils of green.

The terror is an illusion, of course. For most of our million years on this planet human beings have daily eaten the wild. It’s just that the linear mind knows what will happen if you eat it now.

But we’ve gone astray with this, distracted from our task. Still, it’s a good reminder. When your hair begins to grow long and you think strange thoughts, sometimes you will wonder what is happening and will become afraid.

In Nature, human markers fade, lose significance. It takes awhile to learn the old markers again, to see the path that ancient humans took before us. In kindness, learn how to comfort yourself, to hold yourself as you would a child that is afraid of the light. (I suppose you could learn the poisonous plants first if you need to; there aren’t very many.) For on this journey, you mostly have yourself for company.

It helps if you become your own best friend
and find out what is true about all this for yourself.
Open the door and take a look around outside.
The air is shining there,
and there are wonders,
more wonderful than words can tell.

A Better Banana? Organic vs Non-Organic Bananas.

real banana with seeds
Real Banana

This is a real banana. Two weeks ago, I stood on top of a truck with a machete in the rain, intent on harvesting a bunch of wild bananas I’d found on a back road. A few swings, and slice! The bunch fell to the ground like a crashed spaceship. My friends and I gathered them quickly (not wanting to get drenched), so we barely noticed that there was something odd about them. When I sliced one open, however, I noticed a great difference from the bananas I was used to eating: it was filled with pea-sized black seeds. “Aha!” Axel said. “This is a real banana.”

As it turns out, the tree we’d found was a direct descendent of the first wild bananas human beings ate. Continue reading

Food Nannying For the Poor? Restrictions on Organic and Healthy Food in Food Assistance

wisconsin organic food choices restricted for WIC and food assistance.
Food assistance program. Photo by USDA.

Wisconsin’s Women, Infants and Children’s Program “Approved Foods” brochure is cheerfully decorated with stock photos of vegetables and smiling children. Inside is a well-intentioned (or well lobbied) and utterly misguided attempt to… what? Help people? Make sure those in food assistance programs eat healthy food? Or cheaper food? Continue reading

How To Make Chocolate (From Bean To Bar)

This is a guest post by Prudence Tippins about how to make chocolate.
When people visit us in Costa Rica, especially those with winter cabin fever, they like to get out and active. Some like zip-lining, some like bird watching, some want to head to the beach. But no one escapes a visit to our home without a trip to the Rainforest Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna.  There, the Costa Rican guides give a thorough explanation of the bean-to-bar journey of cacao, which is what I’ll share here, along with unlimited melted chocolate with all the natural goodness that makes everyone so happy. It’s a day well-spent.
Making chocolate bean-to-bar.
Making chocolate bean-to-bar.
 The guides, having seen me witness their process so often, encouraged me to try making chocolate myself, and I encourage you to try it too so you can reap those bean-to-bar benefits. Even without making a batch, though, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for that 70% cacao organic chocolate bar you see for $4.00 or more at the food co-op. (I’ll tell you the secret up front: It’s worth the money.)

Continue reading

Sweet Freedom: How to Find Slavery-Free Chocolate

Sweet Freedom: How to Find Slavery-Free Chocolate
Sweet Freedom: How to Find Slavery-Free Chocolate

No, we’re not talking about chocolate that’s free because slaves made it. We’re here to say “no” to exploitation in the name of tasty treats.

Over 40% of the world’s chocolate is produced by child slaves. There are now an estimated 1.1 million child slaves working in the chocolate industry. “These children typically come from countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Destitute parents in these poverty-stricken lands sell their children to traffickers believing that they will find honest work once they arrive in Ivory Coast and then send some of their earnings home. But that’s not what happens. These children, usually 11-to-16-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, receive no education, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.” Continue reading

Documentary: The Dark Side of Chocolate (Video)

The Dark Side of Chocolate investigates child slavery in the Ivory Coast and other countries that produce cacao, the main ingredient of chocolate. Journalists go undercover with hidden cameras and assumed identities to get the inside story, including interviews with child traffickers and on-the-job footage of those who work to rescue these children.

Note: Email subscribers may have to visit the website to watch the video.