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Monday, March 09, 2009

Ethnobotanising En Masse

At Kew Gardens on Saturday there was a fab event showcasing various kinds of ethnobotanical research that goes on here and there.

I went along and met various friends from life and internet, and discovered some really great new plants to eat from the weed-bed.

I've also got all interested in collecting english plant lore for Ethnomedica so if you have some ancient plant remedy to tell me please do.

I met some really great people with weeds to eat so I thought I would mention it and then I will go and find the weeds for myslef and report back.

One particularly cool thing was eating thistles, speficially in this case, Sow Thistle. Anna showed me how to cut away the spines and gave me the stem to try. Its crunchy and juicy and fresh tasting, vaguely in the same food bracket as celery I suppose.

A lot of the plants at the stand were things you know very well from the garden, little hairy things that grow in the grass or along the cracks in the paving.

In fact hairs and spines are a good sign something is nice to eat - otherwise why would it bother making hairs and spines to try and put you off.

I was also fascinated by wild parsnip which I'm not sure I would find as easily as cats ear or hawks bit, or of course the Ubiquitous Dandelion. So Iwill be reading up on it and hoping to discover one this year. I also will be finding out more about Fergus Drennan who is living off foraged food entirely.

Apparently Anna and her colleagues are going to run a course in Sussex on wild food foraging, but its fully booked and there arent more planned just yet. Judging by the enthusiasm of the punters I reckon they would be well advised to sort it out. And BBC TV shows like my former colleague James Wong's, about herbal medicine in the garden, and Ray Mears (whose book Wild Food was co-written by Gordon Hillman who was there with Anna Richardson), and of course the adorable Hugh F-W, will all be helping feed this apparently resurging interest in local herbalore. The famous James was also rumoured to be at the show but I didnt see him. I was probably too busy fondling bamboo fibres in the textile displays.

I just can't wait till some things start growing again and I can go and eat them.

I also watched a film about shamans in the Amazon which brought back great memories of my adventures in Ecuador all those years ago.

Many thanks to the organisers and participants of this brilliant event. It was even better that it was on my doorstep and for once, my friends were schlepping in this direction and not the other way around. It made me think what a great place Kew is to live, if only they would all come and live here too!

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