A Weedy Kinda Love
Mirra Whale is an artist based in Sydney. Obsessed by food and inspired by the natural environment surrounding her, its no surprise she started drawing weeds. Yes, weeds. Mirra states on her website that she she ‘strives to present the banal and commonplace from an unusual and different angle’. She’s certainly achieved that. Not only are the weed illustrations beautiful, they are also a challenge to explore the rationale behind why we call certain plants weeds, and a suggestion that there are other approaches. Yes, a little subversive. Just what we like!
Mirra and I had a little chat about weeds. This is what she said:
“When returning to Sydney in 2012 I was introduced to naturalist Diego Bonetto, who was running foraging tours. I discovered a whole new pantry literally at my doorstep. Many of the plants were woven into the dishes at Cornersmith Cafe (where I worked), for example, wild fennel labne, stinging nettle and goat stew, nasturtium baked ricotta and pesto, dandelions, purslane, and pine mushrooms.
The more time I spent with these plants the more I grew to love them – their hardy resilience, global status, nutritional value, subtle beauty and retentive qualities.
Weeds are deemed as trash, walked on, discarded, and over looked. I wanted to present these plants in a series of botanical illustrations, taking them outside of their typical context with the aim to provoke interest and enquiry. I wanted to draw each specimen in great detail – each hair, petal, and root – celebrating their beauty and unique qualities and potential as a food, medicine and valued species.
Many introduced plants, including what are considered weeds in Australia have strong cultural significance. I am enticed by the stories, history, tradition and folklore connected to the gathering and foraging of plants that have travelled across the seas to Australia. Collecting wild fennel along the railroads to make the tastiest spanakopita, harvesting dandelion roots for roasting, picking pine mushrooms at Easter, wild pepper berry, african olives, stinging nettle, nasturtiums, sow-thistle, shepherds-purse and purslane.
In prosperous countries such as Australia, people often overlook the importance of weeds as food and medicine. There’s a plethora of wild herbs, weeds, flowers, shrubs, trees and vines all safe to eat so long as they’re identified properly and you know what part of the plant is usable. The potential to restore natural habitats by consuming competitive organisms of nutritional benefit and unique flavour makes perfect sense.”