What is “Ubuntu”?

Design by © Ann Macdonald

Ubuntu is an Ngnuni word. Ngnuni languages are spoken in southern Africa. Zulu, Siswati, and Xhosa, for example, are Nguni languages.

Ubuntu is a philosophical concept meaning, ‘I am because we are.’ A person with Ubuntu has a quality of being human by recognizing the humanity of others. It shows in people who are compassionate and kind because of their own inner wellbeing.

Fungi forage

On Sunday, the 20th of October, Nicola (my daughter, business partner, talented painter and lover of biology), and I went for a fungi forage walk at Lambley. It was organised by the Northumberland Community Development Company. It was an enlightening outdoor treat. Aside from discovering which mushrooms won’t poison you, the thing that rang out for me was the concept of unimproved pasture.

Unimproved pasture, Lambley Viaduct, Northumberland
© Copyright Peter McDermott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The fungi in the photo below are stunningly beautiful. They are called wax caps, and you can eat them, although I would feel sad to munch up their magnificence. But these gorgeous beauties are becoming harder to find. Such fine looking edible fungi grow in grassy unimproved pastures, and they are disappearing. Jooops. Just like that.

A variety of waxcaps found on rare unimproved pasture.

Unimproved pasture is a grassy area that has not been treated with fertilizer, lime or liquid manure, or been subjected to too much trampling. Such additives increase milk and meat outputs, by making grass lovelier and juicier.

Unfortunately, they also damage the mycelium that live in the soil, sending up fungi offerings each autumn.  Such soil improvement practices are common all over Britain. You may even have a lush manicured lawn, right beneath your feet, where mycelium will struggle to grow. 

In unimproved heritage pastures, which have not been encroached on by modern methods, the mycelium for these edible beauties thrive.  


Nick Youngson – link to – http://nyphotographic.com/

On Monday there were some reduced items in the fresh produce section of the supermarket – leeks, tomatoes, and a cauliflower. I put them in my basket and took them to the till.

At the till, the scanner flagged up my leeks. They were past the sell by date. So the assistant said she could not sell them to me .  The outer sheath was a little wrinkled, but with the outer layer taken off, they would be as good as new – worthy of my soup pot – good nourishing food.

I wanted the leeks. The assistant stood her ground, afraid of the law, of losing her job. My leeks were binned.