Always fancied rowing a slice of papaya through an interactive floating pineapple or entering a secret banana grotto? Of course you have, and this summer at Kew Gardens you can!
The gardens are opening their lake to the public for pleasure boating this year, for the first time ever. This comes as part of the IncrEdibles festival, which celebrates all the weird and wonderful food we eat that originates from plants. Not knowing an awful lot about plants myself, I went to Kew to find out more.
We were met by Sam Bompas of the famous food architects Bompas and Parr, who created the Tutti Frutti boating lake. He told us that the pineapple is “a symbol of welcome to the city.” In the 18th and 19th century the pineapple was seen as a representation of hospitality, and therefore is now used by many buildings in London as decoration.
A definite highlight of the day was rowing the fruit inspired boats around the “Mediterranean” blue water, under the pineapple and through the banana grotto; wear 3D glasses for a psychedelic experience complete with the scent of banana! Don’t fancy rowing? Then take a stroll down the walkway out over the water to the island and watch the boats go by whilst communicating with the plants! Sounds mad, but touch them and see what happens…
Next take a tour of the Palm House, a tropical rainforest which is home to 60 edible plants. Then step outside and visit the tea party with a twist, a dining table on which edible plants grow out of plates, dishes, jugs and platters. Move from seat to seat and learn about where your favourite food products come from, for example Bakewell Tart and Earl Grey Tea. Kirsti Davies who designed the table tells us “not everything is as it seems” – the table is full of riddles and clues which encourage you to touch, smell and taste if you dare!
Go past the bouncy carrot tops to the Global Kitchen Garden – each bed geographically arranged in continents, from Europe to Asia, telling the story of the plants often surprising origins. For example, did you know that the carrot, which is grown all over the world today, originally came from Afghanistan? No, me neither!
The festival, which opens this weekend, will feed your imagination, inviting you to reconsider the way you look at plants, broadening your relationship with what you eat.
I had an incrEdibly good time and guarantee you will too!
IncrEdibles at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 25 May to 3 Nov. More information