Day 3 – UH foraging challenge

Allium ursinum
Allium ursinum

Have just noticed that this is my 600th blog post on Urban Herbology – Thank you for reading it!

A friend and I harvested quite a lot of daslook / wild garlic (Allium ursinum) today in Amsterdam. This plant is on the Netherlands endangered plant list but it grows like a weed in some parts of Amsterdam and is frequently foraged.  One of the reasons for my running the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael,  is to have a place where ethical foragers can carefully harvest this plant,  legally without getting into awkward situations.

We were sprinkled with cherry blossom confetti as we harvested.  A beautiful experience!  If you would like to help out at the orchards sometimes and learn more about herbs,  let me know. We are there (almost) every Wednesday morning – year round.

And what did the challengers get up to today?  I’ll update with some of their day 3 foraging challenge plants and photos later today…

So, they have reported back to me with notes and photos of Japanese knotweed, dandelion, mugwort, motherwort, daslook, spring/Himalayan balsam, valerian, winter purslane, cherry blossom, stinging nettle and more. Here is a beautiful photo from Carol Poye, of Claytonia perfoliata (winter purslane / postelein).

Photo credit – Carol Poye

I love the taste of this plant and never cease to be amazed by it’s appearance. Just look at the leaf shape and how the flowers seem to emerge from their centre. What a special plant. I am not surprised that this is grown as a crop salad in the Netherlands.

Here is a substantial patch of Japanese knotweed which Ann Doherty photographed. What a sour tasting edible stunner this is and yet what a brute it can be!

Photo credit - Ann Doherty
Photo credit – Ann Doherty

I remember looking at an old house for sale in Somerset, many years ago and Jap. knotweed was growing into that house through one meter thick stone walls and a thick concrete floor. That house had stood looking like a Midsommer Murder’s location for centuries (it was very pretty) but Japanese knotweed brought it to it’s knees. The plant is native to Japan where it is apparently kept in balance by other local plants. But here in Europe, it does not have such competition so quickly spreads, smothers other plants and finds barriers such as concrete little challenge to penetrate. I have long found it rather worrying to have this plant growing all over the place here in Amsterdam. For years it has been spreading here and the costly related problems in countries such as Canada and the UK are well known, yet little has been done about it here. I wrote a post about it in 2012 – take a look at the healthy knotweed specimen in the Hortus Botanicus! I guess that the green managers of Amsterdam felt that a balance of nature would arise and that the problems abroad were perhaps exaggerated. Having seen them first hand, I find it all rather worrying.

Finally, there is a new local map of the spreading invader, restaurants are starting to serve it, there is mention in gardening magazines but I find this recent awareness raising all rather late in the day. The plant continues to grow in great robust smothering swathes throughout Amsterdam parks and elsewhere. It erodes the waterway banks, penetrates so deeply and widely into the soil. The smallest flinter, on a trowel or spade, in boot treads etc will cheerfully regrow. Of course, all plants have a value but I would like Japanese knotweed to stay away from my building and from the beautiful biodiversity of Amsterdam. If you find it and fancy a taste, be totally sure not to leave any part of the plant hanging around. Cleanly cut the part you want (young and tender shoots are best), prepare it and any left overs should be burned. Amsterdam household waste heads off to the municipal incinerators, that’s the best route for Japanese knotweed. Don’t leave left overs, trimmings etc in your compost heap or worm bin.  Here’s a simple recipe which I made up for the plant in 2012. I haven’t really eaten it since writing that post. The taste was good but perhaps thoughts of that crumbling cottage spoiled my appetite.

So with Japanese knotweed in mind, let’s journey on to day 4…



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