Derek is an ethnobotanist and he explains to us, in the eloquent way he speaks, what that means. He calls himself, "The Crazy Botanist" and you can find him at @thechocolatebotanist on Instagram where he posts a plethora of videos. My favorites are when he shows us the massive number of plants in his apartment and on his patio.
(Check out the bonus interview we did on Patreon of Derek showing us his plants and talking about how to have your own Urban Victory Garden.) I found out about #blackbotanistsweek from him. Check out the hashtag on Instagram for lots of amazing posts from Black plant people.
When I asked Derek Haynes if he would expand on what I'd heard him say in one of his many knowledge-packed videos that he generously gives to the public on Instagram, he described the subject as "The plants' impact on Black people, and Black people's impact on the plants." Beyond hearing about that, I also asked him to speak because, we need to remember where the knowledge we've learned about plants comes from (often Indigenous people and slaves or slave descendants), and give back in gratitude. We can do that by amplifying those voices and literally giving what we can. So, today I want to amplify Derek. I'm sure you'll be glad I did, after you hear what he has to say.
"If we put education out there in the world for all to get, then we all can grow and cultivate better connections . . . "
From the relationship of plants with people in Africa before the American slave trade, to cotton, to the Gullah people in the southeastern US, rice, peanuts, and beyond, there's so much so many of us don't know or don't think about when it comes to the plants in our daily lives and how they got here and flourished. As Derek says, ". . . without the shipping of slaves, eleven and a half million bodies displaced from Africa and spread out like dice, we wouldn't have any of the American wealth or the generational wealth that some white people feed off of today." He talks about the vine threading through history that links the labor of Black people to the wealth of white people today. I invite you to listen, really listen, and think about how this affects your life today and how you can give back.
Derek tells us that George Washington Carver wasn't just the "Peanut Man," he was a proponent of Victory Gardens, crop rotation (which led to the peanut's fame), cooperative extensions, and organic gardening.
"I feel tasked with informing the world that, for Black culture, we have to be grateful that there was a slave who found a way to pollinate a vanilla bean . . . because you wouldn't have any vanillla-flavored anything if it wasn't for him: a twelve year-old slave figuring it out. You wouldn't have a lot of these grains and plant items that you enjoy if it wasn't for slaves, women braiding these seeds in their hair, because how else did the seeds make it over here from Africa? . . . We have to experience that. We have to be grateful for that." - Derek Haynes
"That's a big thing: to give back. . . . There has been . . . a history that has existed where Black ideals will be had . . . knowledge will be utilized, and Black hands will be left empty." You can give back by supporting Derek and donating to Haynes90 on Venmo and $Haynes90 on Cashapp and reposting his and other Black voices on Instagram and checking out and sharing the posts tagged #blackbotanistsweek
Derek also talked about one of his favorite things to do with plants: make fermented sodas. He gives us the down low on how to make them and his favorite plants to make soda from, including why he loves ginger so much. Then, he graciously shared his recipe for (non-alcoholic) ginger beer.
Derek Haynes's recipe for Ginger Beer
Making the ginger bug
Shred or chop up ginger. Mix equal parts ginger and sugar into mason jar. Add enough water for the solids to float, and to dissolve the sugar.
Cover with cheesecloth or some breathable fabric.
Stir daily, adding a tablespoon of sugar. Ready when bubbly.
Making the ginger beer
1-2 pounds of ginger
2 cups of sugar
1 gallon of water
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1/4 cup of ginger bug
In a pot, add shredded or chopped ginger, and 1 gallon of water.
Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Add lemon zest and juice.
You can refrigerate overnight or allow to cool to room temperature. Strain solution and add 1/4 cup of ginger bug.
Place in a warm dark area in a lidded container (mason jar, beer bottles, etc.)
NOTE: Check daily on the soda, opening containers daily to release built up pressure.
Soda is ready when bubbly.
If any foul smells arise, discard soda and retry.
A graduate of North Carolina State University, Derek Haynes’s passion for Botany is readily seen by anyone who meets him. The Crazy Botanist, as he is known, found an allure for plants at a young age. The New Bern native utilizes his creativity, and background, to present botanical tenets on Instagram and Facebook. Haynes believes that plants can help foster community, and communication.
Haynes gives back to his community volunteering with local community gardens, and creating and maintaining relationships, especially within the community of Black plant enthusiasts.
Again, if you appreciate Derek and the knowledge he shared, please support him by sharing his posts on Instagram, and donating to his work at Haynes90 on Venmo and $Haynes90 on Cashapp.
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