BOTANY

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There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world, yet fewer than 20 now provide 90% of our food.

The stories behind plants are absolutely fascinating to me. I cannot count the number of times I've begun to research a plant, expecting cut and dry facts, only to find myself asking more questions and pondering what it means to be human. Plant stories are human stories. Think about tea, which comes from a single species, Camellia sinensis. Look back through time at how this plant has shaped national identities across the world. Images from China, Britain, or the American South might flow through your mind. All of these cultures and many others have established unique relationships with the same species. The tea plant that caused a Revolution is also the plant that innocuously sits in your cupboard waiting for you when you need a little pick-me-up. Tea can tell the harrowing history of empires, which is something I couldn't fully comprehend until I was walking around a Soviet-era tea plantation in the mountains of Georgia. I saw firsthand how conquest can absolutely derail a nation's agricultural innovation and prosperity. 

People are nuanced, and so too are plants. They adapt, communicate, and diversify. We just have to get on their level to understand them a bit better. This unending curiosity I have for all things botany-related started long ago for me. I was a plant nerd in high school. Then I went on to get a degree in horticultural science from Auburn University. Shortly after school my lens shifted to ethnobotany, wild edibles, and rare plant cultivation. Our most intimate interaction with nature is eating it, so that's often where I start when I'm learning about a species new to me. "Is it edible?" is usually my first question. That also probably explains how I ended up in food media production. I love food - almost as much as plants. So when they intersect, I'm pumped. 

 

Currently (when I'm not on set) I'm making educational videos for social media, running a plant nursery business with my husband, importing new specimens for our collections, and traveling & researching as much as possible. I hope to get to a point very soon where I can spend a lot of time researching novel plants and their products. The future looks bright - or should I say green?

- Ashlyn

 

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