What a beautiful winter’s day again today! I met with the apprentices again this morning and we took a fresh walk through a section of Park Frankendael before testing our marshmallow milk decoction back at home.
We found this stunning Witch hazel (NL: Tover hazelaar) in flower still, Ground ivy, plenty of woodland Geraniums still in good (if frozen) shape. We noticed that almost every Rosehip has been stripped from the bigger wild roses and that catkins are already fluttering in the wind from many trees. We harvested Willow withies from a huge pile laid down by the council gardeners, just enough to make a few drying racks. We found Yarrow, wilted Comfrey, lots of toxic Fools Parsley and still, not a single Sweet Cicely plant has emerged where we looked. Winter Jasmine is looking stunning against many homes and the flowers are edible it seems, if a little dull to taste. The evergreen herbs are looking striking, such as Yew (highly poisonous) and Juniper. The dried, frozen seed heads of perennial herbs such as Motherwort, stand proud and give away the locations where they should be found come late spring. Chickweed abounds still, as does Hairy Bittercress.
Later in the day I walked again with my little girl and we found this lovely Japonica, just coming into flower. Chaenomeles Japonica flowers are edible but they are such a welcome sight on winter days that I think it would be a pity to pick any. The full common name of this plant is Japanese Quince. Quinces are useful for jelly making and are certainly edible. This quince has tiny fruit but they are useful and should not be overlooked by the urban forager. Also this afternoon, a nice bank of geranium looking perky.
There are many herbs available at this time of year. Obviously only a small fraction of the bounty we should see come late spring and summer but nonetheless a useful set of herbs. It’s not a time to harvest in quantity, it’s a time to know what’s out there and to know how to utilize it in case you really have a need.