Willow (Salix alba, S. fragilis, NL: Wilgen) catkins have been my wild flavour of this afternoon. They taste very like Aspirin tablets because they contain the same active ingredient (Salicyclic acid). It is found throughout the tree, particularly in the bark but spring catkins are an easily measurable source of this natural pain reliever. When catkins (which can be dried for use later in the year) are not available, simply chewing on a short length of a Willow tendril may also the trick. The approximate equivalent of 2 Aspirin tablets is said to be about about 6 – 8 inches of tendril or 10-15 catkins (Linda Runyon). Treat the herb with caution and respect, as you would other medicines. I find that Willow really helps for pain but that eating it on an empty stomach (especially the catkins), makes me feel a little nauseous.
There are many beautiful Willow trees in Amsterdam, including this wavy Willow and the play structures in Park Frankendael.
Other herbs of note today include Cleavers (Galium aparine) which are already speeding up some fences and my favourite Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). It is too early to harvest either herb but a great time to find where they are growing. Also, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), the dream herb is just starting to wake up. It’s too early to harvest but it is becoming very obvious. Look for the silver undersides of the Chrysanthemum-like leaves and for tall dry stems from last year. It is best to harvest this herb at midsummer.