On Saturday 15th August, 21 adults and 5 children walked from Wyck Gardens on Loughborough road, by Woolley House, to Loughborough Park, then back to the wild and wonderful herb garden between Loughborough and Angell Town estates.

Gathering at Wyck Gardens

Gathering at Wyck Gardens

 Ceri Buck introduced the project and outlined the history to Invisible Food, as a project that researched an approach to play and different play types, and how the idea behind Invisible Food was to create an autonomous space in which the daily demands of time and business were ruptured by contact with nature , through conversation and with the task of the game, which was to identify and where possible, gather wild food.

Long line of walkers; crossing Coldharbour Lane

Long line of walkers; crossing Coldharbour Lane

Invisible Food has evolved and grown from intimate walks with one other people to small group walks and now to larger group walks, but the focus on conversation and sharing knowledge and learning is the same. As Meg Wheatley writes, “Conversation is the way humans think together”.
Picking the blackest mulberries,

Picking the blackest mulberries,

As well as conversation, and an opportunity to get to know neighbours and people in the community, Invisible Food is also about awareness of the miles food travels to get onto supermarket shelves, and the packaging it consumes to get there and be bought from there. The mulberry is a fruit which defies consumerism as it disintegrates in your hands when picked and needs to be eaten straight from the tree.  The berry will stain your fingers and the juice will run up your arm as you reach up to pick it, but crushing leaves and rubbing them on red hands will get rid of most of the colour. 
Invisible Food is not just about salvaging English traditions of food, it’s about all cultures and communities’ traditions of food. And especially about similarities between cultures and their use of herbs or food.  It’s about a connection to the land which can develop whether you were born here or not.   
Nibbling on yarrow, learning that clover is used in curry in Pakistan

Nibbling on yarrow, learning that clover is used in curry in Pakistan

 In Loughborough Park, as well as the beautiful mulberry tree there is a mound with an elder tree surrounded by nettles. The elder is in the berry stage now and good for jellies, chutneys, cordials and even ink! Between the elder and the mulberry tree is a stretch of grass full of yarrow, ribwort plantain ( a natural anti-histimine and good for insect bites), clover leaves and dandelion.

Elder, hand and sky

Elder, hand and sky

Picking, holding, smelling, tasting, listening

Picking, holding, smelling, tasting, listening

Back on the Loughborough Estate, the walking group walked further into Wyck Gardens, the 1950s blocks above our heads. Blackberries are hidden in the borders, and the wild spaces are full of yarrow, nettles, dandelion, mallow. There’s a rowan tree at the entrance to the gardens but this year it hasn’t berried and last year, it did have berries but they didn’t look good.

Tower block, couple and yarrow

Tower block, couple and yarrow

We took the path heading North from Wyck Gardens, after looking at all the mugwort that was used in former times to smoke, or for strong dreams , place some under the pillow. We moved onto the herb garden between Loughborough and Angell Town estates. A marvellous open space, the herb garden itself, overgrown. its treasures almost hidden, a rampant curry plant. But there’s plenty of sage, rosemary, mint and lemon balm for everyone.

Collecting mint for tea

Collecting mint for tea

We gathered mint, lemon balm, sage, thyme, rosemary, washed them and boiled up some water in the storm kettle to accompany the jams (mulberry & apples 2008, blackberry & apple 2009) and oat cakes.

Feeding the fire with sticks the two boys collected

Feeding the fire with sticks the two boys collected

So we had a little picnic sharing the food we had gathered and relaxing on the grass. Sharing food is one way of breaking down cultural barriers.  Sharing food is what friends do together.

One of the Invisible Food Cafe hot flasks

One of the Invisible Food Cafe hot flasks

 Didn’t come on this one? Come on the next one.

First in the queue for jam

First in the queue for jam

 

And come again, if you did come!  See you on the 19th September for more berry harvesting. The hawthorns will be fully out then.