I am interested in the idea of making produce from the wasteland: identifying plants on the the wasteland that can be used as food, drink or medicine. It offers another perspective on the value of such places. The Island is a very ‘productive’ site when viewed in this way – it’s a rich foraging ground. Last week, David and I went to pick elderberries (Sambucus nigra) from the southern part of the site. We noticed a lot of elder trees growing next to the factory earlier in the year and the berries are very ripe now.
Elder is a common plant here, and there’s a lot of interesting folklore and history around it. The elder used to be known as ‘The Poor Man’s Pharmacy’ because all parts of the tree can be used medicinally and help to treat a wide variety of ailments. It felt appropriate to pick elder from this site that was once a store for a big pharmaceutical company and use it to make a herbal remedy.
I used the berries to make ‘Elderberry Rob’ (cordial) an old cure for flu and colds. The berries have anti-viral properties and are high in vitamin C.