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AUGUST spuds / berries / beans / thoughts

August 15, 2011

I’ve harvested my second crop of spuds.  White ones this time, handsome vegetables that have been growing in a small jute shopping bag lined with plastic.  Two seed potatoes have transformed into twenty.  They’re currently in a gloriously muddy pile in an old enamel bowl, glowing golden through smears of soil.

The next few days will no doubt feature various potato based dishes, most including roof-grown garlic, sage and rosemary, perhaps with some just picked runner beans on the side.  I could make a spud salad with rooftop mint, chives and chervil leaves too.

For pudding there will be a mountain of blackberries, picked from the wonderful Walthamstow Marshes.  An urban sprawl of grassland that’s full of huge knots of bramble, laden with dark fruits.  The berries taste wonderful straight from the bush, but also baked in a pie or reduced into a syrupy liquid and stirred into sharp yoghurt or sweet ice-cream.

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London is restless at the moment, and sound-tracked more than ever with ear piercing sirens and helicopter buzz.  There’s much that can be soul destroying about urban living – inequality and poverty (not just of the material kind) can be magnified in places such as this.

This capital is home to dogmatic and disappointing politicians, and questionable, but worshipped, fat cats of the worst kind.  It is home to out and out criminals, and also to people that are just more complicated than that.  There’s an angry generation that feels no ownership of the city or responsibility for it, one that believes it has a right to demand stuff but not to demand a decent future.

Seeking to understand and explain violence isn’t the same as condoning or excusing it.  How do we prevent situations reoccurring if we approach them with knee jerks and not thoughtfulness?

Access to nature, good food and growing projects are not going to solve riotous urban issues, of course not.  But these things do help connect people to places, especially ones that can feel oppressively hard and grey.   It can offer a different view point and perspective.  It can challenge people to see things differently.

I recently spent a week helping out with a summer growing club on an estate in Dalston that has been transformed into an edible one by community effort.  It’s not perfect or idyllic, but it does go some way to foster a sense of worth in everyone and anyone who gets involved.  A tended city engenders love and respect, a neglected one reflects a population that is encouraged not to care.

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