Halfa: The beautiful dangerous weed of hope

October 11th, 2018 Halfa: The beautiful dangerous weed of hope

Yamna just got back from her hunt on Chanbi Mountain, 40 miles from the city of Kasserine in Tunisia. Now her whole house is filled with halfa, and she can’t wait to start braiding the grasses into baskets that will travel all the way to New York. It’s her first big order, and though she is overwhelmed—worried about finding time between the cooking, the children and the household—her brain can’t stop planning what she’ll do with an influx of income.

Halfa (Stripa Tenacissima plant or esparto grass) is a strong, flexible, fibrous grass that only grows in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Spain and Portugal. For centuries, it’s been used to produce ropes, sandals, baskets, hats, mats and fine paper. The weed grows up to three feet high on rocky soil in high plains.

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