This is something I’ve been researching since this project began 2 years ago. I’m interested in getting in touch with academics, pressure groups, gardeners, guerrilla gardeners, anyone who may have some research or personal interest in this area.
I have guidelines which I use on the walks and they are:
Never pick from the side of the road, because of heavy metals particles. The further away from a road the better and the effects of roadside pollution diminish as the distance increases from the road. A hedge, row of trees or house creating a barrier between the plant and the road helps.
Favour the dog free spaces. Some children’s areas are great but obviously don’t go mooching around a child’s area if you don’t have children. (In fact, I started urban foraging after the birth of my son, I spent a lot of time in playgrounds!)
Be wary of bomb site created green spaces – traces of lead in the soil from Victorian piping. I tend not to pick from Wyck Gardens as I have heard, but I haven’t seen written evidence of this, that this land has tested positive for arsenic and lead. This being the reason Ebony Horse club weren’t going to use the land as stables for their horses. However, I believe they are going ahead and using this land.
Always be very, very careful when picking because of needles and other sharp objects. Wyck Gardens is also notorious (by the comfrey patch) as a place that drug dealers use. Stay wise.
I feel this is really important to discuss, not only for longterm health issues but also hopefully it will be a catalyst to put pressure on to reduce car dependence.