When I first moved here I noticed that this plant was EVERYWHERE and was clearly able to take over any space it encountered so I began to treat it aggressively as a weed. What I have since discovered is that it only does that if there is room, it’s not greedy, and it’s flowers are rather pretty, and it’s a lot nicer, to my eye, than it’s cultivar version. The flowers on this plant are pink, and the cultivars have white or red flowers which are plentiful and brash. They are often grown in pots, and are good if you want a splash of colour for not much work.
I have become rather fond of this native plant. I like the way that over on the marshes it grows to armpit height, while wherever it encounters mowing it simply adapts and flowers near the ground. It’s an unassuming little thing, identifiable by the dark heart on the leaves.
The other day in the park I came across a woman stuffing a plastic bag with these leaves so I asked her what she was doing. She told me it was for a Turkish dish. I asked if it was like spinach, and she agreed. The leaves are too tough to be nice in a salad, and spinach cooks down from a massive volume of fresh leaves, so I quite understood the sheer volume she had picked.
What I have discovered is that while British people must have made do in various ways during the war, other people were much more imaginative. This is probably because when the UK industrialized and then send what was left of their country dwelling young men to die in the “Great War” a lot of knowledge was lost. A principally urban population simply turned to eating really crappy food.
Previously, I have seen Polish people picking fruit and nuts in public spaces. It is ALWAYS worth asking what they are up to, because we let these fruit and nuts fall to the ground without a second thought, and given the EFFING AUSTERITY situation, we are missing a trick. The only thing that Brits routinely pick from the wild are blackberries. While blackers are delicious, we could really forage more, but we also need to learn how to store things and how to cook with unfamiliar ingredients. We also need to plant edibles. This is considered so radical in some quarters that an Occupy garden was destroyed by the local council just before harvest in Toronto. Shame on them.
A similar looking plant is the nasturtium. I have that growing in the garden, and this time last year it was fully mature and covered in orange flowers – both the leaves and the flowers are edible, though not particularly tasty, but there is something very jolly about having flowers in a salad.