Words By Eve Lewis
Spring is here and Cardiff is in bloom. Walk through any part of Bute or Roath Park and you will be struck by how many different shades of pink you can find in the blossoms. Nonetheless, if you can tear your eyes away from the trees for just long enough, you might also notice the rich greens which carpet the ground. Nettles, land cress, sorrel, and wild garlic may all just look weeds and grass but, as the Global Gardens’s supper demonstration showed on Monday, can be used to make some seriously delicious dishes.
Held at the Embassy Café in the Cathays Community Centre, the first thing you notice when you walk in is the earthy smells coming from boxes of fresh produce. The second thing you notice is the friendly atmosphere emanating from Poppy and her colleagues from Global Gardens. After introductions, you get to take your seat at one of two tables, each with a different recipe. This month, the recipes were for nettle soup and wild garlic pesto. I chose to give the pesto a go.
PESTO (serves 20):
- A few bundles of wild garlic;
- A few bundles of parsley;
- 500g toasted sunflower seeds;
- Juice of 2 lemons;
- Salt and Pepper.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend with some olive oil. Add water until you reach your desired consistency.
Between a group of eight of us, with one instructor, we took it in turns to prepare the ingredients. This layout of one table doing joint preparation, allowed for perhaps the nicest part of the evening – getting to know new people easily as you chat over juicing lemons or chopping wild garlic. After about half an hour (and a minor hiccup with the blender), we had an amazing smelling bowl of pesto in front of us. And it wasn’t just the smell that was amazing! Without a doubt, this was the freshest, tastiest, and most flavourful pesto I have ever tried. As a table we all agreed. Additionally, the famous Embassy Café sourdough that it was served with was the perfect partner for our creation.
By the time we’d finished appreciating our pesto, the nettle soup was almost ready to be served. Before this though, we were all treated to a brief talk on how to forage for ourselves. For anyone new to foraging this talk was invaluable – never forage near roads if you want to avoid polluted plants, only ever take at most one third of the plant, and don’t ever dig the plant up from the roots.
It was now time for the nettle soup to be served. Earthy and rich, this soup surpassed all expectations, especially with some of the pesto mixed in for an extra kick! Everyone has spoken to agree, with one person saying that this soup made them feel like they were “getting back to [their] roots, literally!”
The evening then began to wind down, but there were still plenty of people sticking around to chat and catch up. I took this opportunity to talk to Poppy, the organiser of this event and a leading figure at Global Gardens. She told me all about the project and Global Gardens’s incredible origins. Starting as Soil and Clay – a project aimed at bringing people and refugees together through pottery – Global Gardens came into creation when the project was given access to an allotment plot in Whitchurch. Now, Global Gardens has a thriving garden which provides food for these suppers, as well as an activity to connect people with others. Poppy was keen to stress that Global Gardens has not lost its roots, and still works with refugees at the Trinity Centre on Four Elms Road.
I also spoke with Isabel Ellis, a second year student at Cardiff University, who leads volunteers from the university at the garden project. “You get a lot as a volunteer,” she told me, “you get to take produce back, learn how to throw, and get to meet great people.” As for the supper, Isabel said that it was “satisfying to see your work turned into food. It’s cool that it’s all organic and you get to try things you’ve never tried before.”
Certainly, the couple of hours I spent at the café that evening showed me that Global Gardens is an extremely rewarding and admirable project.
All in all, this was an incredibly fun evening that left me feeling very wholesome and warm. I would highly recommend to anyone interested in cooking with locally-sourced or homegrown food to keep an eye out for upcoming events. Global Gardens runs a supper and demonstration once a month and posts links to tickets on their Facebook page. These suppers are free, but places are limited – so don’t hesitate to get your ticket quick. Bring a couple of pounds along with you, too, as a small contribution is welcome to help keep the garden and events like these going. Moreover, if you enjoy gardening and want to get involved in the garden project, or take part in some of the other projects, such as pot throwing, Global Gardens meets at their plot on Whitchurch Road every Wednesday between 10-3, and every Saturday between 2-5.