Wild Food Festival

Residents of the small villages on the island of Java will celebrate their food gathering traditions and the skills and knowledge held by local women in a few days, in their own unique event for Terra Madre Day, an occasion to promote eating locally to be held in over 120 countries across the world on December 10.

The Wild Food Festival aims is to bring back these traditions, which are being lost rapidly, spreading awareness that many edible wild plants are very nutritious and that by continuing the seasonal harvests the community wins all around, safeguarding local knowledge and biodiversity and strengthening the local economy and food security.

The first Wild Food Festival was held last year in Jatiarjo village and this year the Terra Madre Day celebrations move to Galengdowo village, East Java. The Madurese who live here, the third largest ethnic group in Indonesia, have always taken advantage of the many edible wild foods to be found in the region’s forests, however they are being eaten less and less with the introduction of modern foods.

“Foraged foods are becoming stigmatized as poor people’s food, and industrial food is becoming prestigious, but in reality the economic level of the villagers is low and these foods were used precisely because they are freely available and nutritious,” says event coordinator Hayu Patria from the Mantasa organization. “ Making matters worse, advertising is focusing on the convenience of these foods, and leading people to believe a packet of instant noodles can provide the necessary nutrition of a meal.”

With the villagers suffering health wise and economically, a group of 45 local women, supported by the Mantasa organization, have come together to help people better understand the correlation between food and health. They are working to identify the many edible species found locally which are threatened, and organize festivals to attract public attention to their project. Mantasa is working to create a database of these plants and their uses, based on interviews with the elderly, and are doing research into their nutritional values.

Last year during the Wild Food Festival, around 200 edible wild plants species were identified around the village. Participants discovered that purslane (Portulaca oleracea), a plant that they can easily find in their backyard, has a delicious taste and can be used in many dishes, including urap-urap, a salad with spicy grated coconut, and that the leaves of kelor (Moringa oleifera), a plant that grows everywhere in the forest of the area, are delicious when they are processed into powder and used to cook sweets.

“This year, women from the village will get together in small groups, with each group collecting and cooking a different wild food,” said Hayu Patria. “And this year we are introducing a competition, in which dishes will be presented and explained and tasted by a group of judges, to bring prestige to the wild foods that really deserve it.”

To see this and the other events taking place around the world on December 10, visit the Terra Madre world map.

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