Foraging and feasting in North London

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It didn’t actually seem that cold today until we got into Lordship Recreation Ground and were hit by an icy blast whipping across the flattened grass. I started to question the wisdom of early spring foraging walks. Would anybody have turned out for the Urban Harvest event at all?  I should have known better though – we were greeted by a large group of enthusiastic (and warmly-wrapped) people, both regulars and newbies, keen to get out into the Rec and see what leaves could be found to add to the spread planned for later.

Urban Harvest is a group dedicated to finding (and eating, obviously!) free food in North London. Events are informal and free. I am always hugely impressed by the knowledge, generosity and inventiveness of the people who turn up. Anyone can find free food in September; doing the same in the winter months is more challenging!

But find free food we did, even in an urban open space in Tottenham in March. There was salad burnet, sorrel and ribwort plantain growing in the wilder grassy areas, three-cornered leek (a garden escape) in the woodland, dead nettles and cleavers in disturbed ground, hawthorn and brambles at the edge of the woodland. All of these have leaves which can be used raw in salads, although in in the last three cases only when young. Hawthorn tastes of very little but bramble had a flavour surprisingly reminiscent of coconut.

Obviously this was not going to amount to a square meal for 20-odd people (or even 20 odd people – you decide) but back in the warmth of the Hub community centre later on we got to add our finds to the delicious food that Gemma had brought, all made with foraged ingredients.

[PS if you are a beginner it is always best to go out with experienced foragers who can tell you what is safe to eat. Obviously keep away from areas frequented by dogs and wash everything well before eating.]


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