This article was first published in Espores on the
29 Jan 2023

10 green questions to… Irene Ballester Buigues

Irene Ballester

In a serious and professional description, we should say that Irene Ballester Buigues is a PhD in History of Art, but as in our interviews we go much further, we must say that she is an art lover, traveller, curious, enthusiastic, communicator, firm defender of rescuing the history of women artists, and possessor of an extraordinary sensitivity. So we should not be surprised by her career with exhibitions such as the recent Matria, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, books such as “El cuerpo abierto”, her participation in the successful television programme “Tesoros con historia”, or the section on ápunto radio “El hilo de Irene”. For her, land and family is the same thing, which is why her green answers will leave us with a tender and close aftertaste.

A green place where you used to go as a child 

In the area of Canor, located between Teulada and Benissa, in the Marina Alta, where my maternal grandparents had land and where I return whenever I can. For me it is my homeland, where I have found a lot of peace and where I am surrounded by olive trees and vineyards.

If we were to invite ourselves into your home, the plant we would never find is… 

I like all plants and I probably couldn’t tell you which plant you couldn’t find in my house, but what is obvious is that I wouldn’t have a carnivorous plant as I don’t think its habitat is houses. But you never know…

Under the motto “cooking and plants”, which dish would you prepare?

A sponge made with herbs harvested the same day… Really tasty and in the Marina Alta they cook them in a spectacular way!

Your maxim to consume less

Recycle, use less plastic every day and above all buy what I really need.

Choose your power if you were an environmental superheroine

I would choose a power that has the ability to stop. To stop drought, climate change and above all the predatory construction on the coasts of the Valencian Community. It makes me sick to see how the coasts of the Marina Alta have been so mistreated and so little respected, but I am very happy for all that has been achieved in Benissa by stopping the construction of a tourist macro-resort in La LLobella cove thanks to the platform “Salvem la LLobella”, together with Compromís and “Reiniciem Benissa”. There must always be hope.

Do you have any films or books that have had an impact on you where nature is the main character?  

Any book that tells me about the Mother Goddess, the Goddess of the Earth, the Primeval Goddess, the Demeter for the Greeks who had to make a pact with Zeus and Hades to spend six months with her daughter Persephone, time of spring and summer, and another six months in which her daughter would be with her abductor, sad and dark times related to autumn and winter. The ancient Greeks, with the cycle of nature, explained the seasons but also the power of the patriarchal sword of the male divinities, which extinguished the goddess’ wedge and balance.

How do you communicate with your plants? Do you talk to them, sing to them, via WhatsApp?  

I like to look at them, observe them and when I water them I think I am giving them life! That’s how I think I communicate with them…. very calmly, with peace of mind…

“Herbero” (homemade liqueur made from herbs), “romer a la paella” (“rosemary in the pan”), thyme infusion, common sowthistle… What is your favourite #plantagastronòmica (gastronomic plant)? 

The common sowthistle with tomatoes and olives. And, especially, the olive oil, salt and vinegar. These are childhood memories along with the shepherd’s grape, which my grandmother used to prepare in a tin and which accompanied us at all our lunches….

A tree you admire 

The olive tree, because it is the tree of Athena and is closely linked to our Mediterranean culture. I am fascinated by its trunks and how their texture reflects the passage of time. Touching them gives me peace and connects me with the ground.

Besides, I don’t think I could live without olive oil.

Mushroom forager, explorer, florist, seed collector, Ikebana artist, pruner… What would you like to be when you grow up?  

Explorer, I love everything about travelling and getting to know new territories. Because when you get to know new territories, you also get to know new vegetation, new plants, new flowers… The most incredible place I have visited is the Colombian Amazon. The size of the leaves, the trees, the vegetation that traps you and turns you into an insignificant element…

Journal of scientific dissemination of the Jardí Botànic University of Valencia.
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