Rachel Alexandrou has been busy foraging this spring. Alexandrou is among the “(stillness) 18” participants, and her responsibilities involve helping with the gathering and preparation of food. Her informal job title is “lead forager.”

The meal that follows the performance of “(stillness)” is in many ways the centerpiece of the evening, a coming together of performers and spectators to form a community and share a meal that’s based almost entirely on edible ingredients found in and around the performance site. The meal and its preparation help participants deepen their relationship with nature.

Among other things, Alexandrou has collected fiddleheads, dandelions, groundnuts, nettles, wild onion and strawberry, and the dreaded Japanese knotweed. They’ll all end up as part of the community feast.

A groundnut isn’t a nut. It’s a climbing vine and a member of the pea or bean family, and it takes its name from the tubers that are part of the plant’s root. They were and remain part of the diet of indigenous people.

Nettles are a nutritious green that grows on the banks of rivers and lakes and can be cooked like spinach, though it has a different flavor. “It’s really yummy and really good, and I do not know why everybody is not eating them,” Alexandrou said.

Similarly, she doesn’t understand why more people aren’t using knotweed in the kitchen. Generally, people rip out knotweed because “it’s an invasive plant that everyone hates,” Alexandrou said. She is using knotweed to make chutney. It’s similar to rhubarb, but with more of a vegetable tartness.

Last year’s menu hit was elderberry fritters, but the elderberries won’t be out in time for this year’s event. Instead, Alexandrou is preparing dandelion fritters.

She doesn’t use recipes, though she and event organizer Susan Bickford have talked about committing the creations to writing so they can share them. “I figure it out as I go. I like the improvisational nature of cooking,” she said. Especially when that cooking is based on the natural world.


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