Growing food and sharing skills in London's schools and communities
Lettuce and lettuce-type things are among the easiest edibles to grow in containers and small spaces, but too often we stick to unadventurous species of Butterhead and Looseleaf, ignoring the multitude of more unusual (and better looking) leaves and flowers that can be used to make a salad.
Herbs, too, are frequently seen as simply a garnish and added in minute quantities that can barely be detected – but if chosen correctly, and combined with milder flavours, I believe that they can be a main ingredient. My favourite salad ingredients, container-grown in my Hackney garden include chard, parsley, chives, golden marjoram, nasturtiums, borage, baby spinach and lovage.
The selections below are all suitable for containers, can be sown now and taste much better than an iceberg.
Lactuca sativa var. romana “Little Leprechaun”
Levisticum officinale (lovage)
Celery-like shoots, but a milder taste. The young leaves are one of my favourite salad ingredients.
Malva sylvestris (mallow)
The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw. This is hardly worth growing as you can find it everywhere this time of year (Hackney-dwellers, try the marshes -there’s enough to feed the borough there).
Rumex acetosa (garden sorrel)
This perennial herb is mild enough to be eaten raw as a salad leaf.
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
As the name suggests, the leaves taste of garlic and mustard, are delicious in salad if you like that sort of thing, and grow in abundance in Hackney Marshes.
Allium ursinum (wild garlic)
One of my absolute favourites, growing abundantly in British woodland in February and March. Use the leaves and flowers in salad – they taste strongly of garlic, so use in addition to a milder leaf.
Trapaeolum majus (nasturtium)
Adds colour to the smallest of garden, grows in the poorest of soils and the leaves and flowers are delicious.
Initiated by the wonderful Bootstrap company, the development trust responsible for the funding of a multitude of local creative and social enterprises since 1977, the Dalston Roof Park sits on top of the company’s Print House HQ .
The Roof Park is part food-growing project (in which local residents can participate), part astro turfed summer hangout and part cultural space, its summer program packed with film screenings, live music and poetry readings, complete with a pop-up bar serving cocktails, cider and other refreshing beverages.
Become a “Friend of the Dalston Roof Park” (free and open to all) to get access to the Park at any time – you just need to fill out a form on Bootstrap‘s website.
The Roof Garden’s fourth-floor view of Dalston Lane’s mix and match approach to architecture
the re-purposed beach hut serves as pop-up bar on summer nights from 4pm
rocking the astro turf
This new-build 14-storey residential project opposite Homerton Overground station takes its undulating triangular shape from that of the previously derelict site it sits on. The building will aim to operate on 20% renewal energy, is entirely clad in heat-retaining terracotta, boasts a continuous garden roof, two external green walls, (visible from all over Hackney), community garden, playground, rain water recycling system and there are plans in place for a biomass boiler community heating scheme.
I don’t actually like this, because the idea that you would pay £1.22 plus postage for soil or that there’s even a market for this is completely depressing, but corporate bandwagon aside, this is a cute way of illustrating that you can grow stuff anywhere, and it would be a fun project to try with my students (using soil from umm, the ground , and not mail-order from Japan).
These are great, although the £80 (plus £20 postage) price tag is a little OTT and I’m sure there must be a way of making one yourself. But for those who can afford it, they combine good design and space saving for both indoor and outdoor gardening.
I’m a big fan of maps, and I’m lucky to be married(ish) to someone who draws them for a living. Reda has taught me much about the medium’s potential for analysis and presentation and together we are always on the look out for innovative ways of representing space and the information it holds.
With sustainable living and food growing being the issues “du jour”, there seems to be no end to the out pour of creativity which merges design and all things “green”, or which begs us to re-imagine the landscape we inhabit. The maps below are an assortment of some of my favourites.
Artist Ceri Buck’s Invisible Food map was commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction with support from the National Lottery. It details the location of wild food growing on the Loughborough Estate in Brixton, South London.
These hand-coloured images were produced back in 2009 for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe). Concrete, tarmac, cement and brick have been removed, leaving only the green – gardens, parks and waterways.
Stephen Walter‘s hand drawn maps are possibly the best thing I’ve seen in recent years. The Island (2008), 140cm x 200cm, depicts the 33 London boroughs as a collection of supermarkets, pubs, CCTV cameras, clichés, secret goings on and hidden gems. It’s the kind of piece which will always offer something new, however many times you’ve seen it, and I urge you to explore it in full here.
worldmapper features nearly 700 maps, re-sized to present a range of startling information on subjects ranging from house prices to voting rights.
This map of Hackney and Homerton from 1827 shows St. John’s Church, Well Street Common, the odd building and a whole load of fields. Morning Lane, Homerton Row and Paradise Row are unchanged, while Grove Road seems to have shifted South before it replaced Grove Street.
Starting off a new series of posts on London’s hidden green spaces is the Scented Petal Garden, situated within the grounds of Boscobel House on Royal Oak Road but best viewed from the pavement of Wilton Way (particularly on a sunny afternoon when the south-facing garden is bathed in light).
Maintained by the estate’s junior residents with support from the tirelessly brilliant Petra the garden is a frenzy of colour and creativity. The flowerbeds are watched over by Unicow, George the Ghost, Guerepowee (half gorilla half bee, since you ask) and Drumfly among other ingenious creatures, and the walls tell tales of blushing frogs, flying elephants and a gentlemanly worm.
Members of the Boscobel House Scented Petal Garden Club will be showing off their talents at the Wilton Way public street party on April 29th, unveiling their hand painted giant tea pot and two gold and gem laden rocking thrones alongside their many other creations. The club will also have a designated wall space opposite the Wilton Way Café where party goers will be able to make their own artwork to take home with them as a souvenir of the day, and their handmade crowns will be passed down the street party banquet table so that grown-up partyers will get a chance to be King and Queen for the day.