Last weekend myself and Marty launched ourselves into the Big Smoke in search of wild food. This is not as silly as it may first appear, as Londons many small pieces of disturbed ground and warm microclimate create an ideal environment for many of our favourite edibles. The fact is, wild edible plants are often symbiotic with humankind – they thrive near us and on our wastes and we thrive on them. Nettles have grown on the sites of Neolithic settlements for thousands of years due to the high volumes of nitrates deep in the soil, for example, and plaintains were known as’White Mans Foot, as wherever white settlers went in America the plantain seeds riding on their soles found the compacted ground that they love to grow in.
First port of call was Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington.
This beautiful, secretive and haunting graveyard and nature reserve boasts the oldest derelict Gothic chapel in Europe and a plethora of wild edibles including the delicious burdock, white deadnettles, ground elder, cleavers, comfrey. However, sadly they are not fit for long term consumption due to high levels of lead and mercury contamination in the soil. This really makes one think about what we heedlessly throw into the soil.
Where this is the case i recommend picking some of the seeds come autumn and planting them in a windowbox or back garden, then you have your own crop of safe ‘semi feral’ plants!
Onwards to Clissold Park which proved far too well manicured (yet an excellent play ground and nice deer!) then a pre emptive strike at a yet unopened National Trust reserve, Woodberry Wetlands, (so new it still has the wrapper on, and a fence around it!) It is due to be opened by Sir David Attenborough in May, im told. It has a boating lake next to it festooned with sculpted gardens complete with breakdance troupes practicing their moves and slow plaits of hemlock with its deadly tresses.
So thats Stoke Newington in a nutshell…next installment, soon!