Reconnect with nature…
“Nature offers the chance to rejuvenate and heal your body, mind, heart, and soul.” Pierre Rabhi
Discover the virtues of wild plants and learn how to meditate through Qigong or forest bathing (aka “sylvotherapy”)… take the opportunity to turn off WiFi and your smartphone to better reconnect with nature and yourself just a few short minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Embark on an outing to learn how to identify and collect edible wild flowers and plants
A few twists and turns on the trail takes us to “Saveurs des Bois,” located on the forested hillsides of the village of Gruffy, about thirty minutes from Annecy. The road leading to this unique education center offers several breathtaking views of the valley as you take in the beautifully verdant setting.
When we arrive at our destination along the mountainside, Lionel Scaturro welcomes the day’s group of a dozen people, offering everyone a tasty meadowsweet tea and scrumptious cookies made with melilot (sweet clover) – a wild edible plant that tastes like tonka bean. The goal is to spend the morning exploring the surrounding woods (the walk lasts approximately two hours) to learn about the local flora and wild edible plants that grow there.
During the walk, Lionel encourages everyone to observe, touch, smell, and even taste the plants along the way. Up close, an entire world of shapes, scents, and tastes reveals itself. All of our senses awaken as we enjoy our roles as student botanists. We start by carefully examining the leaves (serrated, ribbed, smooth, rough, fuzzy, or even with tiny holes, like hypericum), and their position along the stem. Then we take a close look at the flowers: their color, shape, size, number, grouped, or umbel.
© Ecole des Saveurs des Bois / Edible plants discovery trip
We stop to talk about meadowsweet, mallow flowers, whose leaves have no scent but are used to thicken soups, evening primrose, whose roots taste like smoked ham, fleabane, which looks like a mini daisy and tastes like pepper, ideal for spicing up any dish, wild thyme, oregano, stinging nettles, which we learn to handle without getting stung, wild chamomile that tastes like pineapple… We also learn a few simple recipes, great ideas on how to include wild edible flowers into a meal, as well as remedies our grandmothers use to make once upon a time.
Lionel takes advantage of the excursion to remind us to approach gathering wild plants as a fun activity and not to take any risks. While the benefits of wild plants are proven, certain plants can be toxic and a small handful of them deadly. If you are ever unsure, the risk is not worth the reward.
“Saveurs des Bois” organizes several types of excursions and courses: half-day, full-day, weekends…
© Ecole des Saveurs des Bois / Lionel Scaturro – landscape architect and an ethnobotanist
Lionel Scaturro is a landscape architect and an ethnobotanist. He trained with François Couplan, a well-known ethnobotanist and author of several books.
Lionel just finished writing a book entitled, “Guide to wild mountain plants: discover, identify, gather, and use,” (Guide des plantes sauvages en montagne : découverte, identification, cueillette et usages) co-authored with his friend Cyril Bouvet, herbalist and hiking guide, and published by Terre Vivante Editions. After spending more than a year thinking about, outlining, and writing the more than 400-page book that includes hundreds of recipes and almost 300 photos of plants, dozens of outdoor activities, and plenty of other goodies to discover throughout its pages, they created specific excursions to put theory into practice.
© Ecole des Saveurs des Bois / Guide to wild mountain plants: discover, identify, gather, and use
"Gong" – Saved by the Bells: excursions along Glières Plateau to recharge your batteries
Next stop, Glières Plateau to meet with Elise Bovagnet, a certified Qigong instructor, sophrology therapist, hiking guide, and former high-level athlete (track and field), to spend the day reconnecting with yourself, enjoying a forest bath, and Qigong.
Immersed in the great outdoors, at such an incredibly important place for the French Resistance during WW II, with the surrounding alpine meadows and forests filled with wild flora and fauna, Elise organizes excursions to teach you the basics of Qigong (pronounced “Chee-Kong,” which translates to cultivating your life energy). She combines sylvotherapy, a naturpathic approach derived from yoga and meditation, with the positive energy and vibes from trees to reduce stress.
Qigong is an ancestral art that comes from traditional Chinese medicine. It combines slow movements with breathing exercises and meditation, and enhances quality of life by following the rhythm of the seasons. Qigong is most fulfilling and effective when performed outdoors in the wild.
© Elise Bovagnet / Qi Gong in nature
- Qigong Saturdays (July 23 and 30, 2022). After a two-hour morning introduction to performing Qigong movements, enjoy a fun and friendly picnic lunch.
- Hiking, Qigong, and sylvotherapy (July 24 and 31, 2022). Hike for the entire day through the forest, with stops here and there to perform Qigong and sophrology exercises. After walking for two hours, stop for the first Qigong session of the day, with Elise as your guide to awakening your senses, fill your lungs and body with the pure mountain air, take in the rejuvenating smells of the forest and earth, listen to the sounds of nature, and reduce stress by finding the right body-mind balance for you. These daylong outings are open to everyone, including beginners. Learn all about Elise’s approach and the philosophy behind Qigong and sylvotherapy.
- © Ecole des Saveurs des Bois / Fleur d’onagre
Journalist: Aude Pollet-Thiollier
Translation: Darin Reisman