A two-part Haystack event with Gaja Mežnarić Osole: Japanese Knotweed and Urban Foraging as Collective Performance

Spring has sprung and the Japanese knotweed season is upon us.
Please join us for the next Haystack in collaboration with Phytology and Company Drinks.

Urbana zetev-v zgodnjem oktobru smo pred staro Cukrarno nabirali japonski dresnik za pridelavo papirne kase_Foto_NatasaKosmerl

Friday 22nd April from 6.30pm at Phytology
Presentation and talk by designer Gaja Mežnarić Osole
about her work with the Ljubljana based Re-generacija collective and
their specific interest in Japanese knotweed.

Bethnal Green Nature Reserve
Middleton Street
London E2 9RR

Join us at the campfire, with food and drinks as always.
This event will take place whatever the weather.

Saturday 23rd April from 2.00 – 4.30 pm
Japanese Knotweed Foraging Walk and Syrup Making Workshop
at Eastbrookend Country Park in Dagenham.

Meet at Dagenham East Station (District Line) at 1.30 pm or at
2pm at the Millenium Centre in Eastbrookend Country Park,
Dageham Road, RM7 0SS.

About Japanese knotweed
Japanese knotweed is best know in this country as an invasive plant that needs to be controlled and it is obligatory to prevent the spread, see also www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-the-spread-of-harmful-invasive-and-non-native-plants

The plant is classified as non-native and due to the damage its strong and quickly growing root systems cause to the built environment – it’s considered a huge economical and ecological threat. Yet the plant is edible – tastes like rhubarb – and contains a high level of antioxidants, which make the plant valued also for it’s medicinal qualities.

Japanese knotweed is mainly introduced through construction works,
when ‘infected’ soil gets imported into new developments, slowly spreading it from place to place. That is why the plant usually grows on ecologically damaged land, neglected urban areas or down the streams and rivers – in areas where the land and its soil was not treated without the necessary care.

Japanese Knotweed is best to be foraged from the beginning of April until end of May – that’s the time when the plant is still young and juicy. The shoots are great to use as as a substitute for rhubarb or asparagus, in drinks, snacks, pies ect.
We are planning to use the crop from the foraging walk for a new Company Drinks soda made in collaboration with Square Root.

About Gaja Mežnarić Osole
Gaja  is a Ljubljana (Slovenia) based designer working within Re-generacija collective. Their work focuses on re-introducing urban foraging as a collective performance through spatial and social engagement. The exploration assembles a harvest gathered through picking up edible plants, walking, talking to people, interviewing and facilitating workshops, cherishing spontaneity and unexpected encounters.

Focusing on the accepted ways of confronting the problems of domination of invasive species the designers started looking for ways to present Japanese knotweed not as an economic and environmental threat, but as a new opportunity to learn from contemporary natures and initiate new synergistic partnerships. By introducing ways to use Japanese knotweed as a local source of cellulose, a tasty snack or a natural dye they started to encourage new community economies, field works and had a chance of working within a trans-disciplinary field of collaborators in a rather organic, ever-learning manner.

About Company Drinks
Company Drinks is a Barking and Dagenham based community drinks enterprise which links the history of east Londoners ‘going picking’ in Kent to the set up of a new kind of company. As part of our year-round public programme of activities we organize monthly foraging walks in local parks. The Japanese knowtweed walk on Saturday 23rd April is part of our seasonal picking tours and we hope to turn the crop into another delicious Company Drinks soda.

Company Drinks has been initiated by the artist group Myvillages, with support from Create and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. www.c-o-m-p-a-n-y.info

About Phytology and the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve
The Phytology medicinal garden was established at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve in 2014. This urban physic garden provides free food and medicine for local and surrounding communities.
The garden has been sown with over thirty-two varieties of indigenous plants common to the streets of London and urban ecosystems across the country.
Generally regarded as ‘weeds’, each plant has been selected for its historic and on-going use in phytotherapy and traditional medicine.
The physic garden grows in pollution free soil to ensure our plants are safe and suitable for daily use. Visitors are invited to harvest from the medicinal garden with the support and guidance of the Phytology team. Phytology aims to challenge ideas of use, value, resilience and the function of wildness within our urban ecosystem.

For more information about the events and to get in contact please e-mail
Kathrin Böhm

Michael Smythe

or call 07941 696515