As you jump on the tube tomorrow morning, spare a thought for Jon The Poacher who’ll be out foraging on gloomy Hackney Marsh. In today’s instalment of our ‘Reaping Rewards’ series we meet the man supplying fruit and veg to north east London’s cafes and restaurants.
Every morning, Jon The Poacher takes to London’s marshes with his pocket knife, plastic bag and gardening gloves to see what food he can find. He’s a forager – ‘the result of a misspent youth,’ he smiles – and after a couple of hours on Hackney Marsh, an area he knows intimately, he will have filled his bag with herbs, mushrooms, salad leaves and fruit salvaged from the unlikeliest places.
Jon trained as a gardener and chef, but ‘prefers to be out here, picking’. His nickname comes from his younger days when he snared rabbits, but now acts as a handy title for his business. He picks for local cafés, restaurants – including Shane’s on Chatsworth, E5, and Stoke Newington’s Oui Monsieur, N16 – brewers like Hackney’s Pressure Drop, and other food producers who value the freshness of produce harvested from their doorstep.
He also organises walks on the marshes, so amateur foragers can learn how to discern the dead nettle from the real nettle, or discover where to find the best elderflower. ‘Most things are edible one way or another,’ he says. ‘That’s the thing about foraging in London, everybody’s after something different and there’s plenty to go around.’ Tweet Jon at @jonthepoacher
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Photography: Chris Terry