Abstract 114
 
The 'Botanical Gardens of the Dispossessed' Revisited: Diversity and Significance of Old World Crops Grown by Suriname Maroons Print
 
Tinde Van Andel1, Minke Reijers2
1Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO-Vidi), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, Netherlands, 2Wageningen University, Biosystematics Group, Wageningen, Netherlands
 
Several Old World crop plants were introduced to the Americas as provision on slave ships, where they were planted by enslaved laborers in their home gardens. In the former Dutch colony Suriname, the cultivation of these Old World crops has largely been abandoned by coastal Creoles as the plantation economy collapsed and farming became the activity of Javanese and East Indian wage laborers after slavery was abolished. However, the agriculture of the Maroons, descendants of runaway slaves that live in tribal communities in the country's remote rainforests, has never been studied in detail. The discovery of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) on a Saramaccan field in 2008 suggested that Maroons probably grew much more 'lost crops' from their ancestral continent on their provision grounds. Ethnobotanical fieldwork in 2013 focused on the specific cultivars of Old World domesticates (e.g., okra, yam, oil palm, banana, taro, gourds, beans, African rice) grown by Aucans in Mooytaki (Tapanahoni River) and Saramaccans in Jaw-Jaw (Upper Suriname River). We investigated the role of these 'ancestor crops' in both traditional dishes and medicinal and ritual applications. The greatest diversity in Old World cultivars was encountered in taro (Colocasia esculenta), banana (Musa sp.) and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). Some crops (e.g., sesame, melegueta pepper, African rice) largely lost their food function and served mainly for rituals, while others (e.g., Bambara groundnut, Vigna subterranea) were nearly forgotten. Several vernacular cultivar names had African origins, as did some traditional dishes, although ingredients slightly differed from recipes recorded under the same name from Africa. New World crops like cassava and peanut, introduced to Western Africa in the 16th century by the Portuguese, also played a significant role in typical Maroon dishes.


Assigned speakers:
Research Fellow Tinde Van Andel , Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO-Vidi) , Leiden , Netherlands

Assigned in sessions:
09.07.2014, 11:00-12:30, Accepted panel, Unsettling Crosby´s Euro-centered Columbian Exchange II: Old World Tropical Actors & Agencies in Remaking the Atlantic World, CO-02 (CFPG)