May 2012

Try this magical drawing technique:

You will need:

  • various types of paper and card
  • various types of pen, felt tip, gold glitter pen, wax crayons etc
  • card, folded into a card shape
  • an envelope for your card
  • a 1st class stamp

Choose a plant that you are irresistibly drawn to.

Don’t think too much. The plant will draw you to it.

Sit down beside it.

Prepare to draw. Look at plant.

Don’t take your eyes off the plant and start drawing.

Don’t look at what you’re drawing. Your conscious mind, which operates through vision, will only get in the way of the work of art you are creating.

Try to fill the page by feeling your way round the edges of the paper with your other hand. This isn’t too important but something to experiment with.

Do loads of drawings really quickly. Try gold pen on black paper, felt tip on white paper, wax crayon on black.

You’ll be surprised at what you create.

Glue your drawing onto card and dedicate to a friend. Pop in an envelope and send off right away. Speed is of the essence. Your friend needs to see your creative talent as soon as possible. And needs to know you are thinking of him or her as soon as possible.

This is what Hamish drew and wrote – what a star!



to draw, without looking at the paper

removes all expectation of what may happen.

through focussed attention,

the complexity, the rhythm of the structure of the plant

and the rhythm of pencil on paper

reveal something of its inner music


Rights and Resistance: A FREE evening of discussion and inspiration with water rights activist Zayneb Al Shalalfeh – Weds 23rd May



Dear friend,



Friends of the Earth would like to invite you to join us for an evening of discussion withZayneb Al Shalafeh. Zayneb is an environmental justice activist currently visiting the UK from Palestine. She works to organise and support communities in Palestine, particularly on fair access to water, land and better agriculture.



She will be sharing stories from her work with the organisationLifesource, which advocates forrights to access water for Palestinians. Lifesource does this through research, popular education and resistance with a special focus onwomen’s empowerment.



So join us for an inspiring evening of discussion onmovement building and environmental justice.


Find out what we can learn from Zayneb’s stories and how we can apply it to our activism in London and the UK. How can we offer solidarity to communities working on environmental justice issues in Palestine?



Please to book your place.



Venue: Claremont Project

Wednesday 23 May, 17.30 – 20.30, 24 – 27 White Lion Street, Islington, London, N1 9PD


This one of the first chapters of the book Street Food. Photos are from our event on 3rd May. Hurray! the book is beginning to emerge!

Steam, people, bowl

Dishes that are part of a ritual have a special resonance that we can slip into when we make it ourselves. The Japanese dish Nanakusa-gayu or Seven herb porridge is made on the 7th January as a new year dish to bring in good health and prosperity for the coming year and also as a soothing broth after the new year festivities.

Nanakusa-gayu is a type of congee, which is a type of rice porridge common to many Asian and Asian-influenced countries. It is a rice soup with additions of ginger, spring onion, chicken and herbs all common.  In other Asian cultures, it is also called kanji (Tamil/Malayalam/Tulu), juk (Cantonese, Korean), cháo (Vietnamese), deythuk (Tibetan), chok (Thai), kayu (Japanese), lúgaw (Filipino), “Bubur” (Malay) or jaou (Bengali), zhou (粥) in Mandarin and even canja in Portuguese. All these words mean gruel or broth.

Our seven herbs from right; dock leaf, chickweed, shepherd’s purse, ladies bedstraw, salad burnet, dandelion leaf, clover leaf

The wonderful thing about Nanakusa-gayu is that most of the traditional herbs – Japanese water dropwort, shepherd’s purse, cudweed, chickweed, nipplewort, turnip greens and radish greens –  are available in the UK, although we have to substitute the water dropwort. The Japanese water dropwort (oenanthe javanica) isn’t toxic but our wild growing hemlock water dropwort (oenanthe crocata) is lethal. If you wanted to substitute with a plant of the same family, then try cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). However, it’s very easy to confuse cow parsley with hemlock water dropwort so observe an easily confused plant for at least a year before you attempt to use it. And if you do use it, always do so paying close attention, with your full intention on picking safely. Don’t ever get blasé about your task. Play this game safely!

With Invisible Food, we prefer to use what’s abundant and easily and effortlessly available and there’s definitely something of this spirit about the original dish, in which herbs are often substituted by what’s available at a dark and wintery time of year. This dish was made with shepherd’s purse, chickweed, ladies bedstraw, dandelion, salad burnet, clover leaves, and to honour the use of the greens of a vegetable, dock leaf.

Toasted shepherd’s purse seeds taste a bit like seaweed flakes!


Seven herb porridge Nanakusa-gayu (七草粥)


1 cup Japanese rice

6 cups water


the 7 herbs

Wash the rice.

Add water and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the rice is cooked.

Add the herbs shortly before the rice is cooked.

Take the shepherd’s purse seeds off the stem and lightly toast.

Sprinkle a few shepherd’s purse seeds on each serving.

More photos from the event

Seven Spring Herbs 七草の節句,

Welcome to our 7 herb porridge event. We will forage and cook to celebrate our Japanese friends, our shared humanity and in fact a series of special events taking place in Japan over 3 – 5th May.

May 3 Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日, Kenpō Kinenbi?)

This national holiday was established in 1948, to commemorate the day on which Japan’s postwar constitution took effect.

May 4 Greenery Day (みどりの日, Midori no Hi?)

This national holiday is celebrated as a day to commune with nature and be grateful for its blessings.

May 5 Children’s Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no Hi?)

This national holiday was established in 1948, as a day on which to esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness. 

“The seven traditional greens are seri, nazuna, gogyou, hakobe, hotokenoza, suzuna, suzushiro. We had to memorize these in school as I recall – and I guess I still remember them! I’m sure they were used originally just because they grew in the Kyoto area in January.  Other possibles that I have used here is:

Flat leaf parsley leaves Baby spinach leaves Mache or lamb’s lettuce (Nüsslisalat in Swiss-German) Arugula (rucola/rocket) leaves Daikon radish sprouts Swiss chard leaves Dark green kale Turnip greens Collard greens Beet greens (the red parts add a bit of color) Dark green cabbage Komatsuna Sprouting broccoli leaves Dandelion leaves”

The seventh of the first month has been an important Japanese festival since ancient times. The custom of eating nanakusa-gayu on this day, to bring longevity and health, developed in Japan from a similar ancient Chinese custom, intended to ward off evil. Since there is little green at that time of the year, the young green herbs bring color to the table and eating them suits the spirit of the New Year.

Renri and Jinjitsu – cultural links between Japan and China

Renri (Chinese:人日, literally Human Day) refers specially to the 7th day of zhengyue (正月, the first month in the Chinese calendar). According to Chinese customs, renri was the day human beings were created. It is celebrated not only in China, but also other regions influenced by Chinese culture

In Japan, Jinjitsu (人日, jinjitsu?), literally “Human Day“, is one of the five seasonal festivals (五節句, gosekku?). It is celebrated on January 7. It is also known as Nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句, nanakusa no sekku?), “the feast of seven herbs”, from the custom of eating seven-herb kayu (七草粥, nanakusa-gayu?) to ensure good health for the coming year.

It is said that on the morning of January 7, or the night before, people place the nanakusa, (which I think are the herbs?), the rice scoop and the wooden pestle on the cutting board and facing the good-luck direction, chant, “Before the birds of the continent (which is China, the mainland) fly to Japan, let’s get Nanakusa” and cut the herbs into pieces. The chant may vary.

Nanakusa-gayu is a type of Congee

– a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. Despite its many variations, it is always a thick porridge or soup of rice which has usually disintegrated after cooking.

In other Asian cultures, it is also called kanji (Tamil/Malayalam/Tulu), pakhal bhat (Oriya), ganji (Kannada/Telugu), juk (Cantonese, Korean), cháo (Vietnamese), deythuk (Tibetan), chok (Thai), kayu (Japanese), lúgaw (Filipino), “Bubur” (Malay) or jaou (Bengali) which is derived directly from the Chinese character zhou (粥, which means gruel in Mandarin).

Nanakusa-gayu (七草粥), simple saltiness

                                                                                                Ingredients for four servings:

  • 1/2 cup Japanese rice
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • the 7 herbs
  • ginger finely cut


First, put the rice, washed and drained, in cold water in a deep pot and leave it for 30 minutes. After, put the pot on medium fire and bring to a boil. Then lower the fire and leave to boil for approx. 30 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Add the herbs shortly before the rice being ready.

The nanakusa are seven edible wild herbs of spring. Traditionally, they are :


Traditional name

Modern name



芹 : せり seri


Water   dropwort


薺 : なずな nazuna

Nazuna or Penpengusa (ぺんぺん草)

Shepherd’s   Purse


御形 : ごぎょう gogyō

Hahakogusa   (母子草)



繁縷 : はこべら hakobera

Hakobe (蘩蔞)



仏の座 : ほとけのざ hotokenoza

Koonitabirako   (小鬼田平子)



菘 : すずな suzuna

Kabu (蕪)



蘿蔔 : すずしろ suzushiro

Daikon (大根)


There is considerable variation in the precise ingredients, with common local herbs often being substituted.

Today, we are going to replace the herbs with those that are abundant in South London right now,

Yarrow, dandelion, nettle, salad burnet, ladies bedstraw and cleavers, dock, chickweed, clover

Gather your own 7 herbs










The Street Food book

This book is a month by month calendar for foraging in an urban environment including what you can find and way of cooking that reflect cultural diversity in London. It’s about world food, community building, and imaginative, holistic connective work.  The book connects both urban spatial awareness and nature awareness and new recipe creation of world-wild food.


This recipe will be part of a month focussing on  Asian dishes. Upcoming Street Food workshops include the following:

April: Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia


  • Japanese 7 herb porridge Nana-kusa-gayu
  • Spring herb Vietnamese rice wraps
  • Braised burdock and mushroom, or sautéed burdock root
  • Japanese knotweed Dorayaki & aduki bean ??
  • Pan fried plantainroot with shepherds purse sprinkle


May: Central and Eastern Europe


  • Wild sorrel soup and eggs
  • Nettle souffle
  • Dandelion and elder fritters and hawthorn flower syrup
  • Elderflower and Strawberry jam
  • Drink: Elderflower cordial


June: West African


  • West African mallow and crain crain  stew with fufu
  • Akara balls and nasturtium ata sauce
  • Gorse coconut biscuits
  • Drink: Nettle and ginger beer


July : North African and middle east


  • Khobiza or bekkoula with mallow
  • Stuffed lime leaves
  • Poppy seed and mallow cake (Morrocan)
  • Drink: Cleavers coffee