This festival aims to showcase the wonderful world of edible plants. Kew achieves this by inviting people into its gardens to learn about and interact with the verdant banquet that make up 80% of our calorific intake (so we are told).
At The Tropical Larder, visitors can see over 60 edible plants including banana trees (which are actually giant herbs), jackfruit trees (part of the fig family) and even pawpaw trees (a pawpaw tree’s sap is used for tenderising meat, so don’t get too close). Volunteer guides will be on hand every weekend to hold special sessions, or to dissuade you from taking a nibble of the knee-quivering Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper that grows next door — the world’s second hottest pepper.
The Rose Garden Tea Party is an absolute delight. Edible plants grow up and around the crockery, which is emblazoned with clues as to what the plants might be, and how they go into making a traditional high tea menu. But this is no formal, stuffy tea party, as you are encouraged to explore the ingredients with touch and smell.
The highlight of the festival is undoubtedly The Tutti Frutti Boating Lake (created by 'food architects' Bompas and Parr) that looms azure blue through the trees as you approach the centre of the gardens. Kew’s Palm House Pond has never previously been open to the public. In fact, the last recorded excursion on the pond was in 1755 and ‘it certainly was not a member of the public’ who ventured out on it, we were mysteriously told.
Yet it is a feat worth waiting for, as visitors can hire their own boat and explore the pond from the water itself for the very first time. A floating pineapple island, complete with a giant pineapple, looms gaily over proceedings. Head underneath the pineapple for a secret banana grotto, or touch the electrode-festooned plants around it to modify the island’s soundscape.
Visitors will also discover edible plants from every corner of the globe (which will no doubt have to stoically battle through a British summer) at The Global Kitchen Garden, be inspired to grow their own vegetables at The Student Vegetable Plots, or just have a go on The Bouncy Carrot Patch. Why not?
IncrEdibles: A Voyage through Surprising Edible Plants runs from 25 May-3 November 2013. Entrance fee to the gardens is £14.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions, free for under 16s. The Tutti Frutti boating experience is £4.50 for adults and £2.50 for under 16s. Please see the website for more details.