Giulia Fiocca: Edible Footpaths

Edible Footpaths

Walk giving a name to the wildlife

Giulia Fiocca


Get familiar, find a way.

One more walk…every time the first thought is to understand how to move myself in an unknown landscape, how to perceive the traces and the signs, to comprehend the invisible rules, the codes, always different in every place: may I jump the fence? Could I cross highways? How should I approach people on the way?

The second thought that usually comes up in my mind is about recognizing where we are, what kind of urban process is going on here:

the sound of an airport usually tell us we are in the fringe of the city, a racist graffiti says that we are in a neighbourhood with a high level of social conflict, the quality of houses defines the social milieu of local residents, the industrial ruins are windows on a past.

What last? The taste.

This time the path is well defined by the riverbank, a continuous line along the river flows as connection between different urban settlements.

No need to search for the path, to orientate myself and be curious of what is beyond and behind, but a pleasant walk along a defined and protected path, leaving the city of London on our backs. The safe walk allows me to focus on other layers and enjoy the pleasure of other actions: touch, pick, smell and taste.

I find my path!

Horseradish, Rocket, Wild Mustard, Wild spinach, Artemisia, Elderberry, Dill, Sorrel, Hawthorn, Wild carrot, Poppy, Wild fennel, Blackberry, Mallow, Ribwort plantain, …

Walk wondering on how plants choose their space, their habitat, how they concentrate themselves in a defined spot, how they mix themselves with other.

Plants that survive the pollution, which slipped into the cracks of artificial materials. Resistant plants!

Plants that have always been there, which were brought voluntarily or involuntarily by someone or something.

Plants voyagers!

Nomadic plants: every season are in a different place, every season have different structures and densities.

Plants that have a name, a history or tradition, a structure, a life cycle, a smell, a color.

Plants that may have a use: curative, aesthetic, air pollution mitigation, soil improvements, …

…and they are edible!

We have this landscape, which can produce even food.

In her book “Hungry City”[1], Carolyn Steel focuses the attention on the issue of food and the city, today more and more crucial: “How do you feed a city? It is one of the great questions of our time. Yet it is one that is rarely asked. We take it for granted that if we go into a shop or restaurant, there is going to be food there waiting for us, having magically come from somewhere. But when you think that every day for a city the size of London, enough food has to be produced, transported, bought and sold, cooked, eaten, disposed of, and that something similar has to happen every day for every city on earth, it is remarkable that cities get fed at all. We live in places like this as if they are the most natural things in the world, forgetting that because we are animals and that we need to eat, we are actually as dependent on the natural world as our ancient ancestors were.”

We are dependent on the natural world, let’s be self-sufficiency thank to spontaneuous edible landscape: harvest as an act of indipendence!

With the simple act of walking and harvesting, alongside the urban farming, we promote the concept of simplicity in the frame of urban sustainability.

Since few years in Rome, Stalker-PrimaveraRomana[2] has been promoting the practices of Agro Nomadism, a project of collective harvest of edible products; such as olives (300 kg came out of the first pubblic harvest that means 32 liters of good oil, the Olio PU.RO. Public Oil of Rome), bitter oranges for producing marmalade and cappers along the ancient walls of the city.[3]

What’s next?

Why not spread seeds, during next walk, as a trace of our passage to discover the following season a new landscape and to promote spontaneous harvests?

Enjoy the pleasures of walking and eating!

[1] Carolyn Steel, Hungry City. How Food Shapes Our Lives, Vintage Books, London, 2009

[3] The main goal of the practice, a kind of ‘landscape activism’, is the partecipation and the social cohesion, the sharing of a public space and the take care by the inhabitants of the common goods. It is also an active way to experience the city along with a political  statement: a way to think about the space around and the way in which is utilised and that can be a source for our food; the possibility of having daily edible fresh products KM 0 or around the corner products.