On Thursday 13th October, I gave a walking talk in the green spaces around the Garden Museum (the area in front of the museum and Lambeth High Street Recreation Space). All participants introduced themselves by stating their name and a plant that is calling to them at the moment or this year on some level, be that aesthetically, or functionally or intuitively. We wandered around the spaces looking at the plants listed below. In the Recreation Space we collectively made a tincture with rosehips.
Invisible Food is a project that has been running for over 3 years and trains people to look at their surroundings in different ways, to appreciate the natural environment for its nutritional potential & potential for health and wellbeing.
ABOUT TAKING: We can take in various ways from nature. We can collect seeds, we can collect leaves and berries. We can dig up roots. We can cut stems to take a cutting.
ABOUT NOT OVERTAKING: In London and indeed everywhere, we have to be very conscious about what we take. We have to take consciously, to not over-take, to not take more than we need, to not take what other creatures need more than us. There are some glorious built-in safeguards in nature to ensure equal distribution, in that some berries are toxic to some species but not to others, so some species’ food supplies are protected. For example, holly berries are toxic to humans – so we can’t eat them – but the birds can eat them throughout the winter without any harm.
ABOUT NOT BEING MECHANICAL WHEN WE TAKE:I’m interested in exploring how not to be mechanical about our interactions with nature. For example, don’t be mechanical about seed collecting. LOOK AFTER the seeds once you’ve collected them. Don’t stuff them in a drawer to go mouldy because you haven’t put them in a suitable paper bag and shaken them regularly. It’s the time and the love you put into them that make a difference. I have a teacher who says to me Always thank the plant. See how that feels. This is interesting to explore because once the taking becomes mechanical, abuse and exploitation can easily occur. Mining great big gash holes in the earth’s surface, cutting down the rainforest, cutting out our own lung.
ABOUT NOT JUST WORKING WITH PLANTS ON A COGNITIVE LEVEL: It’s really important to not just learn about the plants on a cognitive level. Don’t just read about them, learn about their properties and uses and try to ‘gain knowledge about them’. Develop your intuition with them. Be open to the plants. Try to listen. Be still with the plants. See what comes through.
ABOUT NATURE’S GENEROSITY: Finally, it’s stunningly clear when you think about it but nature really wants to work with us. Nature is so generous in all her leaves, fruits, roots, woods, and nature wants us to take. It’s our gift to nature that we take it with us, in our mobile state. It’s nature’s gift to us that it can root us.
Holly – from midsummer to midwinter when the days grow shorter, the god of the earth and the underworld reclaim the sun. The tree that symbolises this is the holly. Even in the depths of winter we are reminded that life begins again. This is why traditionally we bring evergreen into the house as a reminder of the growing season. Not edible but an important winter plant for decoration, both outdoors where it grows and to bring inside.
Chickweed – soothes inflamed tissue and absorbs impurities from the skin. Eczema. Digestive and lung problems
Sow thistle – young leaves
Dandelion root – allows liver to break down toxins, leaf - potassium, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, Vit A. Eat the whole plants, fritter the flowers, caper the buds
Thistle – young stems, peeled and eaten raw, young shoots as greens
Red dead nettle – use flowers as colour contrast in green salad. Use leaves as you would stinging nettle
Cleavers – High in Vit C, calcium, iron. astringent and diuretic (so good tonic). Can be used by herbalists for tonsillitis, throat infections, cystitis, eczema. Dry seeds substitute for coffee
Nipplewort – young leaves and shoots, best before plant comes into flower
Hawthorn – for the blood, regulating high & low blood pressure, relieves stress, insomnia,all problems of the heart.
Oregon grape – make jelly, root used by herbalists as anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, alternative to Goldenseal
Nettles – stabilise blood sugar, good for kidney cells, soothes the lungs and bronchial tissues, Vitamin K (amongst many other vitamins) prevents bleeding and stimulates breast milk
Black nightshade – collect young pre-flowering plants as greens, avoiding risk of gathering plants with green berries.
Yarrow – good cold remedy reduces fever, Stop bleeding. Aids digestion, anti-inflammatory
Daisy – Vit C, good for coughs and colds. Daisy leaf sandwich Mr Funny
Horseradish – chop up young leaves finely in mashed potato, dig up root to make sauce
Mallow – huge amounts of protein, more than nettle. Anti inflammatory
Rosehips – cordial. Extremely high in Vit C. Rose petal jelly