May 2009


The Invisible Food pack, comprising a map of wild food in the Loughborough area, info about the background to the project and a series of recipe cards and drawings was distributed to every household on the Loughborough Estate (1,259!) in the last week of April 2009.

Invisible Food has been created through a series of walks with local residents in the green spaces around the Loughborough Estate in Brixton. After walking, the participants made or cooked something such as tea, jam, cordials, quiches, soup or cakes with the herbs, flowers or berries we find. This map and bundle of recipe cards has been put together to help you explore the area and interact with the plants you find.

 

Invisible Food lives in the conversations held and the relationships that spring up during the walks. We’ve walked in step or with different length strides, we’ve looked at the ground or turned to each other to speak, we’ve talked about plants and what they bring us back to; childhood, games played with them, family members, herbal remedies, other countries, ‘the country’. Snippets of chats, emotions triggered by words, blasts of an idea or a different approach remain after returning home and shutting the door. Conversations held while searching out a plant never noticed before can gently blow away a confining sense of self and certainties. As Meg Wheatley writes, “Conversation is the natural way humans think together.” Whatever I or you or any one person or group knows is not enough. We need each other to fill in the gaps. I’ve pointed out some wild plants in our natural habitat, while the participants have helped me see, hear, feel and flesh out another broader context for our shared dwelling space here in Brixton. The Invisible Food Cafe – a roaming cafe of wild herb teas, jams, cakes, cordials, drawings, recipes, books and elderberry ink to doodle with – visited the Loughborough Primary school summer fair, Bonkersfest, the Lambeth Country show, Peckham Green fair, Transition Town Brixton Unleashing and People’s Republic of Southwark eco fairs in 2008.

 

On another level, Invisible Food explores approaches to play, and peak experiences that can surface through play. I’ve identified peak experiences as moments lost in an activity when time stops, or when relationship to time is punctured and its pressure released. These are moments which impart a strong physical memory beyond the ordinary consciousness of everyday life. There was scope for these peak experiences during the project through contact with nature and through exploratory play. In searching for wild food, we had to enter into an attitude of play, of allowing the unknown and the new to come into frame. We could free ourselves from a body which rehearses patterns of behaviour, such as getting from A to B as fast as possible, looking in a fixed direction and blocking out the context of habitat. We had to alter our route, pace, and eye level. The absorption of our bodies in the environment changes patterns or reveals something not noticed before. The blackberries are there to lose ourselves in.

 

Invisible Food is a tool to learn about wild plants and it offers another way of perceiving London. We live in a society with a largely uncontested belief that competition amongst experts creates strong and healthy systems, but we haven’t spent nearly enough time noticing how cooperation and interdependence can create resilience and strength. The words, drawings, photos and map point out plants in their urban habitat and invite you to take your own walk of discovery.

Map

Recipe cards

 

Elderflower freshly frittered

Elderflower freshly frittered

Around 20 people came to the walk around the Loughborough Estate on Saturday 23rd May. We started off at Wyck Gardens and the people who were lost or late caught up with us.  All of the bamboo sticks with drawings on that I’d put in place for the Artangel conference were still there, so I left them there.

 

The leaves on the Lime tree in Wyck Gardens seemed less sticky and the flowers were closer to flowering. Last year, I found it impossible to find lime flowers that were decent enough to make tea with, they were all manky and brown.

The comfrey had grown massive amounts with loads of purple flowers everyone. Some flowers were bluish. I couldn’t see any white ones but I’m sure there were white ones last year.

We discovered a chamomile related plant growing in the path over to the herb garden. It’s the same plant that’s growing in the cracks between the concrete slabs behind my block of flats. We found it in the books and identified it as Pineappleweed. It has a pineapply-chamomile-sweet smell. One walk participant, Darren, was going to try it as tea. I tried it later on at home and found it a bit tasteless.

Pineappleweed tea

Pineappleweed tea

The lemon balm was very busy/bushy in the herb garden and someone noticed some fennel growing there. What a pleasure that garden is. I still want to plant some wild rocket there. Darren mentioned a place in Bermondsey where a species of rocket grows that is only found in london, London Rocket.

In the Wild Herb Garden

In the Wild Herb Garden

We walked over to the Library House social centre which was having an open day and where we had cooking facilities to cook up some elderflower fritters and Tim Graves cooked a rocket puff pasty bake with goats cheese. We cracked open some nettle beer from the May15th batch and supped in the sun.

 

 

 

Light, lemony, fizzy Nettle Beer

Light, lemony, fizzy Nettle Beer

 

 

There were two mums with babies under one. I really enjoyed all cooking together, picking insects off the elderflowers, making the batter, making the tea from the herbs. I fried up the fritters with Emma’s help. I’ve only fried fritters once before but I knew that the oil swells up the first time you put an elderflower head in and I didn’t want to risk any accidents. The kitchen was a bit busy but I warned people to move back. It was fine though. We had an open window we could pass the fried elderflowers through to a mass of people waiting for them outside, to squeeze lemon and dab icing sugar on them

 

 

 

Chive diving

Chive diving

 

 

Thanks all for coming. Please add any comments or reflections.

Ceri

Photos by Melanie Clifford (melanie.clifford(at)gmail.com)

Starter:

Young dandelion leaves, mashed with salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Crushed dandelion leaves with salt & balsamic

Crushed dandelion leaves with salt & balsamic

Main course:

Pasta with nettle sauce, walnuts and stilton cheese

Nettle sauce with a swirl of cream

 Dessert:

Elderflower & Dandelion flower fritters

Freshly fried elderflower fritter

Freshly fried elderflower fritter

Tea: lemon balm

 

A friend, Katie was over to stay while doing her fooling work in London and on her last day we decided to go for a walk and try some elderflower fritters. And Cor Blimey were they worth it. But let me start at the beginning. We picked all the leaves and flowers (I already had some nettles from Burgess park left over from the weekend. We started off with Dandelions crushed with salt and olive oil. Aga from the walk at the weekend mentioned this and it’s a perfect combination. I normally find dandelion too bitter to be enjoyable but the salt and the vinegar offset the bitterness and but the dandelions hold their own against the harshness of the vinegar.

Then we had a simple onion, leek, carrot & nettle sauce. Blended with a swirl of cream. I didn’t actually put walnuts and stilton in as I didn’t have any but I think they would go well. The pasta dish was very tasty but my 2 year old son didn’t try any but I think that’s because he was too tired to eat. Kids are funny like that.

But then, the amazing, incredible discovery was the fritters. We heated up sunflower oil really hot, made a batter with egg, plain flower and cold water. The elderflowers, we picked off any insects  but didn’t wash them. If you dip the elderflower head in the batter and then place it in the oil, the oil whooshes into frying action and the stem of the flowers is a great handle. You don’t need a slotted spoon to remove it. Each head of flowers took about 10 secs, not much more than this. It was divine. Katie and I dabbed each freshly fried flower head in icing sugar and then squeezed lime on it.

 

My friend Katie has been developing Clowning and Guerrilla Gardening workshops around Europe over the past year and may do one in London over the summer. Please contact kugi(at)rebelclown.net if interested.

To help promote the launch of the Invisible Food Pack, which has been distributed to every household on the Loughborough Estate (by good friends and excellent distributors, so if you can’t find your pack, look in your junk mail/recycling bag!), there was another Invisible Food walk on Saturday 9th May, starting at 11am at Wyck Gardens. Posters were put up all over the estate to encourage local residents to come and there were some people from the estate and some people who heard about the event from the Transition Town Brixton network.

People pooled their knowledge – and because I’m no expert, I learnt things – here are some random thoughts.

someone from the estate identified ragwort and mentioned that it was poisonous

we found some wild onion on the wild herb garden – which I’d never seen before. Sadly I went back today and 3 of the heads have been cut off? / chewed off? / I don’t know what off? and were left in amongst all the plants. I felt really sad.

Two Uruguaians met each other on the walk. They are both lovely.

We spent 20 minutes just on the patch of plants at the entrance to Wyck Gardens, where there are dandelions, nettles (stinging and dead), ribwort plantains, mallow, yarrow, chickweed, hoary mustard – what else have I forgotten? – and a rowan tree.

Please add comments or other things I’ve forgotten. If anyone wants to come again on the 23rd, there’ll be different food to taste at the end.

 

Here is a list of plants around in April and May, not all of these you’ll find in London. List compiled by Fergus Drennan http://www.wildmanwildfood.com/

April/May wild plant list

Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Crataegus+monogyna
                                                          
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4625.jpg
                                                           
http://www.ecoflora.co.uk/albums/800340140/index.html
Bramble Rubus fruticosus………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Rubus+fruticosus
                                                           
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4627.jpg
Japanese Knotweed
Polygonum japonicum http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Polygonum+japonicum
                                                                              
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4628.jpg
Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Angelica+sylvestris
                                                       http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/A-Flowers/Angelica.htm
                                                       Photo
 Stinging Nettle Urtica procera…. http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Urtica+procera
                                                        http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4790.jpg
Burdock Arctium minus ………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Arctium+minus
                                                       http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4640.jpg
Broad-leaved Dock Rumex obtusifolius
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Rumex+obtusifolius
                                                                       
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4633.jpg
Common Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Heracleum+sphondylium
                                                                          http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4634.jpg
Early Dog Violet Viola reichenbachiana ……http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Viola+canina
                                                               http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/V-Flowers/Violet,%20Early%20Dog.htm
Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare …………http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cirsium+vulgare
                                                               http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4647.jpg
                                                               http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/T-Flowers/Thistle,%20Spear.htm
Garlic mustard Alliaria petiolata……. .http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Alliaria+petiolata
                                                               http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4806.jpg
Ground Elder Aegopodium podagraria http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Aegopodium+podagraria
                                                                       
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4629.jpg
White Deadnettle Lamium album ……
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Lamium+album
                                                               http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4638.jpg
Wood Avens Geum urbanum………… http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Geum+urbanum
                                                                    
http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/H-Flowers/Herb%20Bennet.htm
Red Deadnettle Lamium purpureum…
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Lamium+purpureum
                                                               http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4639.jpg
White Horehound Marrubium vulgare
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Marrubium+vulgare
                                                                picture
Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Ranunculus+ficaria
                                                                http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/C-Flowers/Celandine,%20Lesser.htm
Hoary Plantain Plantago media………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Plantago+media
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4643.jpg
Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris ……http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Anthriscus+sylvestris
                                                               http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/P-Flowers/Parsley,%20Cow.htm
                                                                     another picture
Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea……. http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Glechoma+hederacea
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4644-1.jpg
Hop
Humulus lupulus ……………………http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Humulus+lupulus
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4804.jpg
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage Chrysosplenium alternifolium      . .  …………………………………………………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Chrysosplenium+alternifolium
                                                                                   
http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/S-Flowers/Saxifrage,%20Alternate-leaved%20Golden.htm
Wild Garlic Allium ursinum……………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Allium+ursinum
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/WildGarlic2.jpg
                                                                    http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/R-Flowers/Ramsons.htm
Red Currant Ribes rubrum…………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Ribes+rubrum
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4650.jpg
Jelly Ear Fungus  Auricularia auricula-judae    ……………………………
http://www.rogersmushrooms.com/gallery/DisplayBlock~bid~5580~source~gallerychooserresult.asp
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/Jewsear1.jpg
                                                                    http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/Jewsear.jpg
St George’s Mushroom Calocybe gambosa  http://www.rogersmushrooms.com/gallery/DisplayBlock~bid~5697~source~gallerychooserresult.asp
Silver Birch Betula pendula …………..http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Betula+pendula
                                                                            http://media.photobucket.com/image/silver%20birch/gardenplansireland/Silver-Birch-Betula-pendula-Beith-G.jpg
Crow Garlic Allium vineale ……………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Allium+vineale
                                                              http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/G-Flowers/Garlic,%20Crow.htm
Hoary Cress Cardaria draba …………..http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cardaria+draba
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/Jewsear.jpg
                                                              http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/C-Flowers/Cress,%20Hoary.htm
Dittander Lepidium latifolium ……….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Lepidium+latifolium
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4659.jpg
                                                              http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/D-Flowers/Dittander.htm
Shepherd’s Purse Capsella bursa-pastoris
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Capsella+bursa-pastoris
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3592.jpg
                                                              http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/S-Flowers/Shepherd%27s%20Purse.htm
Hairy Bittercress Cardamine hirsuta   http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cardamine+hirsuta
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_1046.jpg
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3602.jpg
                                                              http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/B-Flowers/Bittercress,%20Hairy.htm
Pink Sorrel Oxalis articulata ………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Oxalis+articulata
                                                              http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4795.jpg
                                                                     http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/S-Flowers/Sorrel,%20Pink.htm
Stag’s Horn Sumac Rhus typhina…… .http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Rhus+typhina
                                                                    
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/59/179810772_b9208153b8.jpg?v=0
Reedmace Typha latifolia …………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Typha+latifolia
                                                              image
Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa …….http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Rumex+acetosa

                                                                   http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3616.jpg
Ash Fraxinus excelsior ………………… …….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Fraxinus+excelsior
                                                                      http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/haytime-ash-keys-june.jpg
Bristly Ox-tongue Picris echioides ………..
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Picris+echioides
                                                                             http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4662.jpg
Common Daisy Bellis perennis………… ….http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Bellis+perennis
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3582.jpg
Fennel  Foeniculum vulgare…………………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Foeniculum+vulgare
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4273.jpg
                                                                      http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/F-Flowers/Fennel.htm
Wintercress Barbarea vulgaris…………. ….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Barbarea+vulgaris
                                                                      http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/W-Flowers/Wintercress.htm
Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum………….http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Smyrnium+olusatrum
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3565.jpg
                                                                             http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/A-Flowers/Alexanders.htm
Gorse Ulex europaeus ………………………..http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Ulex+europaeus
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/100_0431.jpg
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_3612.jpg
Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara                             http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Tussilago+farfara
                                                                             http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/C-Flowers/Coltsfoot.htm
Lime Tilia x europaea………………………… .
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Tilia+x+europaea
                                                                      http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/L-Flowers/Lime,%20Common.htm
Ivy-leaved Toadflax Cymbalaria muralishttp://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Cymbalaria+muralis
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4787.jpg
Barberry  Berberis darwinii………………
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Berberis+darwinii
                                                                      http://www.buytreesonline.co.uk/assets/images/Berberis_darwinii_01.jpg
                                                                             http://www.korewildfruitnursery.co.uk/Berberis%20darwinii.JPG
Sea Purslane Halimione portulacoides.. …http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Halimione+portulacoides
                                                                             
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4665.jpg
Sea beet Beta vulgaris maritime……….http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Beta+vulgaris+maritima
                                                                            
http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/Seabeet.jpg
Laver Porphyra umbilicalis ………………….http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/porphyraumbilicalis.htm
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4668.jpg
Gutweed  Enteromorpha spp (linza….. ….http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/Ulvalinza.htm
                                                                      http://i375.photobucket.com/albums/oo195/fergusdrennan/IMG_4733.jpg
Egg Wrack Ascophyllum nodosum ………..http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/Ascophyllumnodosum.htm
Serrated Wrack Fucus serratus…………… .
http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/taxon_fucusserratus.htm
Sea Lettuce Ulva lactuca ……………………..
http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/Ulvalactuca.htm
Carragheen Chondrus crispus ………………
http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/taxon_chondruscrispus.htm
Bladder Wrack Fucus vesiculosus …………
http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/Fucusvesiculosus.htm
Horned Wrack Fucus ceranoides ………….
http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/Fucusceranoides.htmhttp://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Mercurialis+perennis
                                                                             http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/M-Flowers/Mercury,%20Dog%27s.htm
Hemlock Conium maculatum …………………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Conium+maculatum
                                                                             http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/H-Flowers/Hemlock.htm
Hemlock Waterdropwort Oenanthe aquatica .
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Oenanthe+aquatica
                                                                             http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/W-Flowers/Water%20Dropwort,%20Hemlock.htm
Lords and Ladies Arum maculatum …………….
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Arum+maculatum
                                                                                     http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/L-Flowers/Lords%20&%20Ladies.htm
Wood Spurge
Euphorbia amygdaloides ……http://www.plantpress.com/wildlife/o882-woodspurge.php
                                                                            http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/S-Flowers/Spurge,%20Wood.htm
Wood Anenomy Anemone nemorosa ………..
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Anemone+nemorosa
                                                                            http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/A-Flowers/Anemone,%20Wood.htm
Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus …………………….http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Iris+pseudacorus
                                                                            http://www.british-wild-flowers.co.uk/I-Flowers/Iris,%20Yellow.htm

Poisonous:
Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis …………..

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