On Saturday September 19th, there were 15 of us, including 3 under 10s. A lovely mixture of residents from the Loughborough estate and people from around the surrounding area and from even farther afield. I love this mixture.  It’s so rare this meeting up and opportunity to talk with people from different cultures, even though we pride ourselves on London being multicultural and diverse etc etc etc the opportunities for dialogue are often few and far between.

This is one thing that the Invisible food project is trying to tackle in its own little way. Food and plants resonate deeply with people and we all know they are important. Those who are willing to experiment with new tastes are sharing something important from their store of life skills … an openness to the new, a skill which eases the passage of a life transported to London, a skill which rejuvenates a life rooted in one area.

I began the walk this month talking about how I’m noticing that everyone who participates brings something different to the walk (a memory, a skill, knowledge, surprise about a plant, wonder, curiosity, the ability to strike up a conversation, a question, a half-remembered recipe) and everyone takes away something different (any of the above, a feeling you get after speaking to someone new, the feeling in the body you get after walking). I’m interested in these elements as things that could be mapped into an intricate map of human relationships to the plant world.

In gaining or regaining skills in how to look at and use plants, we bring identity, our selves, a memory, a personal and collective history. I’m interested in this identity having a voice

 

Starting the hunt at Wyck Gardens

Starting the hunt at Wyck Gardens

 

We met and started hunting for plants in Wyck Gardens, near the sad rowan tree, we found nettle, dandelion, mallow, tons of yarrow and mugwork. I mentioned how I love the curve of the bramble – like a fishing rod with a catch – and how this helps it spread as when the tip touches the ground it roots and moves on in this way. Another walker said how bramble stem can be made into rope – removing the thorns and whittling it down with friction.

Fig tree on Old Loughborough

Fig tree on Old Loughborough

 

The figs on this tree have been there since last year. I was saying how figs are harvested only every 2 years but I’ve just checked on wiki pedia and have just discovered that that’s rubbish. In hotter countries,

 “Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first or breba crop develops in the spring on last year’s shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year’s shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or fall. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality than the breba crop”

I’d be interested in finding out more about fig growing in England. The fig tree on the Loughborough Estate has good looking figs but they’re rock hard and they have been there since last year. 

Apples on the herb garden

Apples on the herb garden

 

 One of the walkers, Darren, revealed what this next plant was – and I’ve been wondering for ages – first I thought it was Rosebay Willow herb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireweed which is often associated with London as it sprung up readily on all the bombsites after the war and Loughborough was heavily bombed during the war. But the pictures weren’t matching the real plant I was seeing around, then Darren said it was Buddleia and how it spreads rapidly, especially by the side of railway tracks, due to the seed head being whooshed along with the passing of a train. Don’t think it’s edible.

Bees and butterflies love buddleia

Bees and butterflies love buddleia

 

 We gathered in Mostyn Gardens for refreshments. This month we had the usual herb teas from the herb garden and as I’m going through a dandelion coffee phase due to giving up real coffee. I made some dandelion coffee. I love the thick syrupy consistency, especially from the Cotswold brand which is deeper roasted and roasting it yourself – even through I prefer learning how to do all these things myself – it’s difficult to get the same deep roast which makes it more of a coffee and less of a watery tea.

Mostyn Gardens is a large expanse of open green space, a little bit barren and devoid of care and attention but I wanted to go there to collect the now ready for collecting wild rocket seeds. It was great spending an hour or so there and having a different bodily experience of the space, relaxing, chatting, preparing a little picnic with a crowd of people. All these spaces can be reclaimed and the open, green ones are the easiest to reclaim!

Preparing the storm kettle in Mostyn Gardens

Preparing the storm kettle in Mostyn Gardens

 

 In addition to the blackberry and apply jam and the scrapings of the mulberry jam from last year. I’d made a carob and rosehip cake, which even if I do say so myself, was very nice. My cakes are always hit and miss. I always make vegan cakes and normally always make cakes free from refined sugar. This one was sweetened with date syrup which went well with the carob.

Having tea, carob & rosehip cake and jam

Having tea, carob & rosehip cake and jam

 And this is one of the walkers posing for a photo in the style of collecting rocket seeds. Goia normally takes the photos but he got left behind a bit with Zeca and the rocket seed collecting hadn’t been documented so we had to set up this photo so the moment didn’t pass by undocumented. There are lots of wild rocket bushes on Mostyn Gardens. Keep the seeds wrapped in paper in the fridge until next spring.

 

Wild rocket seeds on Mostyn Gardens

Wild rocket seeds on Mostyn Gardens

 As we sat down to eat, I asked people to write down things that they brought with them to the walk and things that they’re taking away with them from the walk. This was Segen’s drawing of mallow and chestnut.

Mallow and chestnut by Segen

Mallow and chestnut by Segen