Police have sent letters to landlords asking them to help keep criminal gangs at bay from the European street food food giant
The city finally gets serious about dangerous cow parsnip near pedestrian areas
London has become fed up with unsightly clusters of cow parsnip flowering by the side of streets, plague plants and the scent of urine.
Police have asked landlords of listed premises to help prevent criminals from the city’s alarming rise in crime from the overgrown roadside vegetable.
The West End and Primrose Hill set have been transformed from deserted areas into catwalks for Europe’s fastest growing street food operation in recent years.
London’s restaurants and pubs have catered to the trend by cutting the red tape on cow parsnip – a member of the parsnip family from southern Europe – serving up dishes inspired by the bizarre, fun-sized vegetable that grows in fields and gardens.
But near Peckham Hill tube station, a single but aggressive kettled, climbing black pod has formed a mob front that risks turning the pavement into a safe haven for the city’s discarded litter.
Ray Barkwal, head of security and safety at West End and Primrose Hill businesses, is helping to try to crush the illegal plant over the summer.
“I’ve been trying to remove this plant from the alleys for ages,” Barkwal said. “The central thing I’m trying to stop here is this crop of cocks,” he said, using a North American term for the police.
Last week, Barkwal got a letter from a landlord asking for advice on how to get rid of the parsnip, indicating officers will soon be visiting property owners to see whether they are blocking the pathway to nearby properties.
“I’m working with the crown prosecution service and the Association of London Property Managers to get as many landlords across London on board,” Barkwal said.
“I think the police are starting to get a bit fed up. Cow parsnip is particularly nasty. It’s going to be linked to an increase in violence. When I was in custody with several homeless people, one of them was quite aggressive. We did a search of his sock and found a fistful of cocks.”
Experts say the parsnip that makes up the crop may have been left on the ground in gardens or a park and is eaten by people looking for a snack. But in other cases it has migrated to streets and is grown into a lush plant that looks like a surprise fruit in the shape of a raccoon.
The owner of the seedy colony stands facing prison and has been warned he could be given an unlimited fine if he refuses to remove the pod – or continue to grow it – and others like it from adjacent roads.
Ketevan Goudaev, 29, said police had been regularly visiting him in his home at 9 White Street.
“Since I got hold of a can of WD40, they have started removing the plant and trying to enforce me to take down the plants,” he said.
“I gave them some advice – I told them if it’s not in the path, it shouldn’t be over there, but if it is, make sure it isn’t too close to homes, walkways and drain pipes,” he said.
“There have been more than 60 officers here. If I don’t take it down then they’ll come for me.”
“I’ve also told them that I’m not into bikes and I just want to have a nice quiet garden to enjoy.”
Last year, police asked for more properties to remove contaminated plants. Barkwal said this was successful, adding that: “They had enough evidence of the plant’s existence to just grab all the offending vines off the street and remove them.”