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Urban Herbology Map

I have started a map to help my students and others to find herb gardens, foraging spots, community gardening projects and other interesting herbal places. I live in Amsterdam Oost so to start with, most of the map points are clustered there but I hope that it will steadily grow as more people add interesting medicinal and edible herbs to the map. I also want to map more places where Urban Herbologists can learn about plants and nature in general. Hopefully we can build it up for other cities and parts of the world. Let’s see where it goes.

If you would like to add points to the map, which show finds outside of private gardens, either send details and a photo to: urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com or ask me to have editing rights, so that you can post your own favourites. I want each point to have the Scientific plant name, local name and English.

Please remember that this is for educational purposes and that no responsibility is taken for incorrect points on the map. The aim is purely for people interested in Urban Herbology to find more interesting plants and places close to where they live.

At present the map layers are:

General (useful herbs, edibles, medicinals in open ground)
Trees (with edible / medicinal uses in open space)
Private Collections (museum gardens, botanical gardens etc)
Community Gardens (where you could get involved with some local schemes)

I hope you find it interesting and useful. Let me know any feedback.

Lilac Wijn

For English click here
Excuses, ik heb je enigszins misleid. Dit bericht gaat eigenlijk over het maken van Lilac Mead en Lilac Honey, in plaats van Lilac Wine.

De reden voor mijn bedrog is dat ik elke keer dat ik langs een lila boom kom, denk aan mijn moeder, onze oude tuin, haar beste vriendin Francis en Jeff Buckley. En lieve Jeff Buckley zong adembenemend goed Lilac Wine, dus als ik over Sering schrijf, kan ik dat alleen maar bedenken en vandaar de misleidende titel.

Het horen van het lied brengt me terug naar een tijd dat ik de hele dag naar hem zou luisteren en elke pauze zou vasthouden. Als je ook een beetje romantisch bent, raad ik aan om de track te spelen terwijl je mijn instructies voor het maken van mede leest. Ik kan niet goed ademen terwijl ik naar Mr Buckley luister (ik schijn met hem mee te ademen) dus vergeef me alsjeblieft als ik zo nu en dan mijn draad verlies …

Laten we eerst wat lila honing opzetten

Ja, de bloemen van de Sering struik (Syringa vulgaris) zijn eetbaar. Deze plant komt uit de Olijffamilie (Oleaceae) en je merkt misschien dat de bloemen lijken op die van Liguster (Ligustrum vulgare).

Sering is gemakkelijk te herkennen aan de grote trossen van vierbladige bloemen, elk met een kleine buis, die het verbindt met de bloemclusterstelen en de nectar bevat. Sering bloemtrossen hebben een sterke geur en zijn over het algemeen ongeveer 15-20 cm lang. Volwassen Sering bladeren zijn hartvormig en ongeveer 10 cm lang, terwijl Liguster kleinere bladeren heeft, een kleinere gestalte in het algemeen en veel kleinere witte bloemtrossen.

Liguster wordt vaak wild gevonden en wordt geplant om een dichte haag te maken. Sering wordt soms buiten tuinen gevonden, maar wordt vooral gekweekt vanwege de ongelooflijke bloemen en de aantrekkelijke dikke stelen. Ik klauterde altijd rond en picknickte met slakken in onze oude Lila struik, als kind.

Syringa vulgaris

Ja, alle kleuren van Sering bloemen werken hiervoor. De geur is het belangrijkste eigenschap, een beetje kleur is een bonus. Het is het beste om de witte, lila of paarse bloemen te oogsten terwijl ze in topconditie zijn, maar zoals je kunt zien op de afbeeldingen hieronder, gingen sommige van de bloemen die ik vandaag heb geplukt gedeeltelijk over. Maakt niet uit – het is gemakkelijk om de beste onderdelen van de rest te scheiden.

Ik weet niet hoe het met jou zit, maar mijn materialen voor het maken van mede zijn momenteel niet steriel en mijn beperkte kastruimte in het appartement zit boordevol ingeblikt voedsel en gedroogde bonen. Dus terwijl de lila bloemen een week of twee in honing trekken, kan ik een kleine gistingsfles en waterslot vinden en steriliseren en ruimte maken om de fermenterende mede te bewaren. Ik woon in een appartement in Amsterdam, dus er is weinig ruimte en ik brouw in kleine hoeveelheden.

  1. Oogst voorzichtig en legaal 1 of 2 volle sering bloemhoofdjes. Met legaal bedoel ik, gebruik een schaar of snoeischaar en vraag toestemming. Neem maar een beetje. De drie koppen die ik vandaag heb geoogst waren van drie zeer grote sering struiken.
  2. Leg de bloemen, bij voorkeur op een lichtgekleurd oppervlak, tien minuten uit om eventuele insecten aan een plakkerige dood te laten ontsnappen. Scheid vervolgens alle dode of onbetrouwbaar ogende bloemen van de trossen.
De paarse bloemen ruiken nog steeds geweldig, maar sommige bloemen in de tros zijn voorbij hun beste

Kies elke kleine bloem uit de trosstelen. Zorg ervoor dat je de nectary niet op de stelen laat staan, die moet in de honing gaan. De nectary bevindt zich aan het begin van de bloembuis, net waar deze het groen raakt. Knabbelen en je proeft de zoetheid op dat punt van de tube.

De geur die vrijkomt tijdens deze verwerkingsfase is geweldig – als je van de geur van sering houdt.

Plaats de afzonderlijk geplukte bloemen in een schone glazen weckpot of jampot. Ik heb vandaag een pot van 2 liter gebruikt en je kunt zien dat er nog veel ruimte over is, wat handig zal zijn als ik over een week of zo water toevoeg.

5. Giet nu voorzichtig ongeveer 500 ml / 2 kopjes vloeibare honing (bij voorkeur lokale honing) over de kleine bloemen en zorg ervoor dat ze volledig bedekt zijn. Zachtjes maar grondig zachtjes om ze in de honing gedrenkt te krijgen. Je hebt zoveel mogelijk contact nodig tussen de honing en de bloemen.

6. Gebruik een schoon, slank, puntig voorwerp, zoals een stok of breinaald, om rond te prikken en eventuele opgesloten luchtbellen uit de mix te verwijderen.

De bloemen zullen naar de top van de honing stijgen als er luchtbellen ontsnappen. Dat is prima. Zorg er gewoon voor dat die bloemen in honing zwemmen en dat je controleert of alle luchtbellen zijn ontsnapt.

Bloemen stijgen op met de kleine luchtbelletjes
  1. Laat het mengsel intrekken zolang je het kunt verdragen om te wachten. Het basisproces duurt niet lang (een dag), maar naarmate je langer wacht met deze stap, krijg je een veel interessantere mede. Ik vind dat een paar weken voldoende is om een aangename complexiteit van smaak te ontwikkelen in de honinginfusie. Houd gedurende deze tijd, indien mogelijk, dagelijks de infuserende honing in de gaten. Controleer of de bloemen helemaal met honing doordrenkt zijn, vooral tijdens de eerste dagen, anders kun je bruin wordende bloemen vinden – een zeker teken dat zuurstof de bloemen bereikt en rotten mogelijk maakt. Sommige mensen houden ervan om de verzegelde pot een week lang elke dag ondersteboven te houden om het probleem te voorkomen. Ik ben er meer ontspannen over, maar ik zorg er dubbel voor dat er de eerste paar dagen geen lucht in het mengsel achterblijft en dat de bloemen doordrenkt zijn met honing.

NB: Als je alleen de geïnfuseerde honing wilt, zeef dan de bloemen van de honing op dit punt in het proces. Giet het mengsel door een kaasdoek / mousseline. Bewaar de doordrenkte honing in een schone pot en gebruik de gebruikte bloemen in desserts of voeg een theelepel toe per kopje gekookt water voor thee. Anders composteer je ze. Ik bewaar graag wat doordrenkte honing en gebruik de rest voor het volgende mede-recept.

Nu voor het gist!

  1. Voeg na voldoende infusietijd gekookt en vervolgens afgekoeld (tot kamertemperatuur) water toe aan de honingbloemeninfusie. Verschillende culturen staan bekend om het maken van mede van verschillende honing: waterverhoudingen. Hoe hoger de honingconcentratie, hoe hoger het uiteindelijke alcoholgehalte. Ik heb liever een milde mede

Voor deze voeg ik 3x het volume honing toe, in water. Omdat ik ongeveer 500 ml honing heb gebruikt, zal ik ongeveer 1500 ml water toevoegen. Dat zou de pot vullen, dus ik zal er waarschijnlijk iets minder aan toevoegen. Mogelijk hebt u op dit punt een grotere weckpot nodig. Ik hou van de 2-liter exemplaren, omdat ze een behoorlijke hoeveelheid brouwsel kunnen zetten zonder al te veel opslagruimte in beslag te nemen.

  1. Roer nu alles goed door en blaas lucht en natuurlijke gisten de jonge mede in. Gebruik hiervoor een schone lepel. Er zullen natuurlijke gisten zijn over je Sering bloemen, maar deze stap moedigt meer aan en het stimuleert een beter brouwsel.
  2. Bedek de pot met een doek, bijvoorbeeld een schone mousseline en houd deze op zijn plaats met een elastische band rond de rand van de container. Dek het deksel niet volledig af. Het idee is om te voorkomen dat vliegen binnendringen en gisten in de lucht bij het brouwsel te laten komen.
  1. Wacht een week of twee en houd het in de gaten voor microbiële actie. Schuimvorming is hier een goede zaak. Het geeft aan dat gisten in opkomst zijn en de geïnfuseerde honing beginnen te fermenteren, waarbij alcohol en kooldioxide worden geproduceerd. Roer het elke dag goed door, minstens één keer per dag om meer gisten in te rijden. Mede heeft gist nodig!

NB: Als de lokale moerasspirea rond deze tijd in bloei komt, voeg ik een bloemhoofdje van twee toe aan de mix. Moerasspirea bloemen zijn bedekt met lokale gisten en helpen echt bij het fermentatieproces.

Witte schuimende moerasspirea bloemen, van de kruiden van een vorige brouwsel

Gedroogde moerasspirea zal het doen, maar ik hoop dat je het ermee eens bent, het is veel minder Jeff Buckley dan ronddwalen naar een lokale beekrand en een sterk geurende bloei plukken die bekend is bij de druïden en sluwe mensen van weleer en bij sommigen nog steeds bekend om hun plaats in bruidsboeketten en midzomerkronen. Verder gaan…

  1. Ga door met stap 10 totdat u tevreden bent dat er een goede hoeveelheid actie in uw mengsel zit. Als je helemaal geen schuim hebt, bovenop de vloeistof, heb je niet veel gist en krijg je niet veel van een mede. Geef het dus meer tijd.
  2. Als er genoeg opwinding is in uw met stof bedekte weckpot, haalt u de bloemen eraf (en composteert u ze alstublieft). De vloeistof is je onvolgroeide mede. Behandel het vriendelijk. Het heeft nu een gistingsfles nodig met een luchtslot en dat moet een mooi geschrobde en steriele gistingsfles zijn.

Ik gebruik gistingsflessen met een inhoud van 2 liter van de Brouwnarkt.nl. Ze zijn geweldig voor mijn behoeften omdat ze klein genoeg zijn voor mijn appartement en het groen getinte glas voorkomt dat het meeste zonlicht binnenkomt en mijn gisting doodt. Hierdoor kan ik ze op hun beurt uit de kostbare kastruimte houden en op een plank waar ik ze kan volgen (ook bekend als ze elke keer als ik langskom en Lilac wijn voor mezelf zing).

  1. Pas de luchtslot aan zodra de onvolgroeide mede in de gistingsfles zit. Deze moeten meestal voor de helft met water worden gevuld. De rol van de luchtslot is om frisse lucht en insecten buiten de fermentatie te houden en tegelijkertijd bellen van CO2 te laten ontsnappen.
  2. Laat het zo zitten, zonder ermee te roeren of ermee te rommelen, tot het een heldere week niet meer borrelt. Dit kan een paar weken zijn, het kan een paar maanden zijn. Wees geduldig. Goede dingen komen aan degenen die wachten.
  3. Een lange periode van niet-borrelen geeft aan dat de fermentatie is gestopt. Dit kan echter tijdelijk zijn, bijvoorbeeld bij lage temperaturen. Pas dus op dat je niet te opgewonden raakt en te vroeg flesjes maakt, want je zult merken dat hogere temperaturen later in het jaar ervoor zorgen dat het proces opnieuw start. Als dat in uw afgedekte flessen gebeurt, krijgt u waarschijnlijk een puinhoop van lekkende mede en mogelijk enkele exploderende flessen.

Ik heb de neiging om de luchtslot op mijn voltooide mede maandenlang te laten staan. Zolang het luchtslot voor de helft gevuld is met water, kan er niet veel misgaan. Hierdoor kan de mede rijpen.

  1. Ten slotte wordt het afgewerkte deel in flessen gesifoneerd, zoals een sterke glazen Grolsch-fles met drukdop. Hiervoor bewaar ik een meter schone aquariumslang.
zijn ene smaakte erg goed – zelfs na 7 jaar wachten. Elke fles is een verrassing!
  1. Drink onmiddellijk of bewaar om de mede te laten rijpen.

Ik denk dat mede geweldige dingen zijn en ik hoop dat jij het ook leuk vindt. Laat me weten hoe je verder gaat met het recept als je het probeert. En als je van de lila tonen van meneer Buckley houdt, luister dan opnieuw. Misschien is er een lied dat Lilac mede heet? Laat het me weten!


Ik bied een kruidencursus voor diegenen die geïnteresseerd zijn in het gebruik van lokale kruiden en in harmonie met de natuur leven, terwijl ze in de stad zijn. Voor meer informatie, stuur een e-mail of bekijk de informatie hier. De cursus wordt online gehouden met wekelijkse zoombijeenkomsten, 1:1 wandelingen en workshops die opnieuw starten wanneer de corona situatie verbetert. De cursus is beschikbaar in het Nederlands en Engels.

Lilac Wine

Voor Nederlands klik hier

I apologise, I have misled you somewhat. This post is actually about how to make Lilac Mead and Lilac Honey, rather than Lilac Wine.

The reason for my deception is that I think of my mum, our old garden, her best friend Francis and Jeff Buckley, every single time that I pass by a Lilac tree. And dear Jeff Buckley sang Lilac Wine breathtakingly well so as I write about lilac, I can only think of that and hence the misleading title.

Hearing the song transports me back to a time when I would listen to him around the clock and hang on his every pause. If you’re a bit of a romantic too, I suggest playing the track whilst reading through my mead making instructions. I can’t breathe properly whilst listening to Mr Buckley (I seem to breathe along with him) so please forgive me if I lose my thread now and then..

Firstly let’s set up some Lilac honey

Yes, the flowers of the Lilac shrub (Syringa vulgaris) are edible. This plant is in the Olive family (Oleaceae) and you may notice that the flowers are similar to those of Privet (Ligustrum vulgare). Lilac can be easily identified by the large clusters of 4 – petalled flowers, each with a small tube, connecting it to the flower cluster stems, and containing the nectar. Lilac flower clusters are heavily scented and are generally around a 15 – 20cm long.

Mature Lilac leaves are heart shaped and roughly 10cm long whereas Privet has smaller leaves, a smaller stature in general and far smaller white flower clusters. Privet is often found wild and is planted to make a dense hedge. Lilac is sometimes found outside of gardens but is mostly grown for the incredible flowers and the attractive thick stems. I used to scramble around and picnic with snails in our old Lilac shrub, as a child.

Syringa vulgaris

Yes, all colours of Lilac flowers will work for this. The scent is the most important aspect, any colour is a bonus. It’s best to harvest the white, lilac or purple blooms whilst they are in tip top condition but as you will see from the images below, some of the blooms which I picked today were partly going over. No matter – it is easy to separate the best parts from the rest.

I don’t know about you but my mead making materials are not sterile at the moment and my limited apartment cupboard space is chock full of canned foods and dried beans. So, whilst the lilac flowers infuse in honey for a week or two, I can find and sterilise a small demijohn and air lock and make some space to keep the fermenting mead. I live in an Amsterdam apartment so space is at a premium and I brew in small batches.

1. Carefully and legally harvest 1 or 2 full lilac flower heads. By legally, I mean, use scissors or secateurs and ask permission. Only take a little. The three heads that I harvested today were from three very large Lilac shrubs.

2. Lay out the blooms, preferably on a bright surface, for ten minutes to encourage any bugs to escape a sticky death. Then separate any dead or dodgy looking flowers from the clusters.

The purple flowers still smell great but some of the flowers within the cluster are past their best

3. Pick each tiny flower from the cluster stems. Be sure not to leave the nectary on the stems, that needs to go into the honey. The nectary is at the start of the flower tube, just where it meets the green. Have a nibble and you will taste the sweetness at that point of the tube.

The smell released from this processing stage is great – If you like the scent of lilac.

4. Place the individually plucked flowers in a clean glass canning jar or jam jar. I used a 2 litre jar today and you can see there is loads of space remaining which will be useful when I add water in a week or so.

5. Now gently pour about 500ml / 2 cups of runny honey (preferably local honey) over the tiny flowers and ensure that they are totally covered. Gentle but thoroughly ease them around to get them soaked in the honey. You need as much contact between the honey and flowers as possible.

6. Use a clean slender pointy object, such as a chop stick or knitting needle, to poke around and release any trapped air bubbles from the mix.

The flowers will rise to the top of the honey as air bubbles escape. That’s fine. Just ensure that those flowers are swimming in honey and that you check that all of the air bubbles have escaped.

Flowers rise with the tiny air bubbles

7. Leave the mixture to infuse for as long as you can bear to wait. The basic process won’t take very long (a day) but you’ll get a far more interesting mead the longer you wait with this step. I find that a couple of weeks is sufficient to develop a pleasant complexity of flavour in the honey infusion. During this time, keep an eye on the infusing honey daily, if possible. Check that the flowers are totally honey drenched, especially during the first days, or else you may find browning flowers – a sure sign that oxygen is reaching the flowers enabling rotting. Some people like to tip the sealed jar upside down each day for a week, to prevent the problem. I am more relaxed about it but I make double certain that during the first couple of days, there is no air remaining in the mixture and the flowers are drenched in honey.

NB: If you just want the infused honey, strain the flowers from the honey at this stage. Pour the mixture through a cheese cloth / muslin. Save the infused honey in a clean jar and use the spent flowers in deserts or add a teaspoon per a cup of boiled water for teas. Otherwise, compost them. I like to save some infused honey, without straining and to use the rest for the following mead recipe.

Now the yeasty bit!

8. After sufficient infusion time, add boiled and then cooled (to room temperature) water to the honey flower infusion. Different cultures are known for making mead of different honey:water ratios. The higher the honey concentration, the higher the eventual alcohol content. I prefer a mild mead

For this one I’m adding 3x the volume of honey, in water. As I used about 500ml honey, I will add about 1500ml water. That would fill the jar, so I will probably add a little less. You may need a bigger canning jar at this stage. I do like the 2 litre ones as they will make a decent amount of brew without taking too much storage space.

9. Now give it all a good stir, driving air and natural yeasts into the fledgling mead. Use a clean spoon for this. There will be natural yeasts all over your Lilac flowers but this step encourages in more and it encourages a better brew.

10. Cover the jar with cloth, something such as a clean muslin and hold it in place with an elastic band around the rim of the container. Do not fully cover with the lid. The idea is to prevent flies getting in whilst allowing airborne yeasts to get to the brew.

A light froth, on top of the ferment indicates yeast action

11. Leave for a week or two and keep an eye on it for any microbial action. Frothiness is a good thing here. It indicates that yeasts are taking hold and are starting to ferment the infused honey, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Give it a good stir everyday, at least once daily to drive in more yeasts. Mead needs yeast!

NB: If the local Meadowsweet comes into flower around this time, I will add a flower head of two into the mix. Meadowsweet flowers are covered in local yeasts and really help the fermentation process along.

White frothy Meadowsweet flowers, from the herbs of a previous batch of mead

Dried Meadowsweet will do but I hope you’ll agree, it is far less Jeff Buckley than wandering along to a local stream edge and plucking a heavily fragrant bloom known to the druids and cunning folk of old and still known to some for it’s place in bridal bouquets and midsummer headdresses. Moving on…

12. Keep doing step 10 until you are satisfied that there is a good amount of action in your mixture. If you don’t have any froth at all, on top of the liquid, you don’t have many yeast and you won’t get much of a mead. So give it more time.

13. When there is plenty of excitement in your cloth covered canning jar, strain off the flowers (and please compost them). The liquid is your immature mead. Treat it kindly. It now needs a container with an air lock and that needs to be a nicely scrubbed and sterile container.

I use 2 litre capacity demijohns from de Brouwnarkt.nl. They are great for my needs as they are small enough for my apartment and the green tinted glass stops most sunlight getting in and killing my ferment. This in turn allows me to keep them out of precious cupboard space and on a shelf where I can monitor them (aka covet them every time I pass by and sing lilac wine to myself).

14. As soon as the immature mead is in the demi-john, fit the airlock. These usually need to be half filled with water. The role of the airlock is to keep fresh air and bugs out of the ferment whilst allowing bubbles of CO2 to escape.

15. Let it sit like that, without agitating or fiddling with it, until it stops bubbling for a clear week. This could be a few weeks, it could be a few months. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

16. A long period of non-bubbling indicates that fermentation has ceased. However, this could be temporary, in cold temperatures for instance. So be careful not to get over excited and bottle too soon as you may find that increased temperatures later in the year, cause the process to start up again. If that happens in your capped bottles, you will probably get a mess of leaking mead and possibly some exploding bottles.

I tend to leave the air lock on my finished mead for months. As long as the air lock is half filled with water, not much can go wrong. This allows allows the mead to mature.

17. Finally siphon off the finished mead (I keep a meter length of clean aquarium tubing for this purpose) into bottles such as a strong glass Grolsch bottle with pressure cap.

This one tasted really good – even after 7 years of waiting. Every bottle is a surprise!

18. Drink immediately or store to allow the mead to mature.

I think mead is amazing stuff and I hope you like it too. Do let me know how you get on with the recipe if you try it. And if you like Mr Buckley’s lilac tones, listen again. Perhaps there is a song out there called lilac mead? If so, do let me know!


I offer an apprenticeship course for those interested in using local herbs and living in tune with nature, whilst in the city. For more information, email me or see the information here. The course runs online with weekly Zoom gatherings, 1:1 walks and workshops restarting when the COVID situation improves.

Weekly Online Herbology Gathering

In reaction to the current social distancing requirements, I am offering a free weekly online gathering for my apprentices. It has worked out really well, we Zoom and chat about whatever herbal things are on our minds, check out someone’s garden or plant pot for mystery plants if that comes up, make herbal lotions and potions together-apart, my cat joins in the fun sometimes, we discuss issues with crafting, using remedies and simply spend some time together. It is very gezellig – as the Dutch say!

I am going to keep these weekly gatherings going as I am really seeing how it is adding power to my students’s herbology studies and creating a great sense of togetherness as we each navigate the plants in our own area, at our own pace. The gatherings are open to all past and present apprentices and are most certainly a great place for brand new students to connect. You don’t need any background knowledge or experience and everyone is very friendly so don’t be shy about joining in!

This week, we will look at how to make useful tinctures, elixirs and honey/agave infusions.

If you want to work along with me this Friday at 19.30 Amsterdam time, you could gather beforehand: about 20 dandelion flowerheads, a clean dry glass jar with well fitting lid, a knitting needle or chopstick and enough honey or agave syrup to fill that jar. You could also have some strong spirit available – vodka/brandy etc. Soggy dandelion flowers are not going to work well so dust them off or wash them and dry before the gathering.


I have a batch of newcomers to the course, who joined in the past few weeks so several of you are in the same boat and this is a great way to connect.

Send me a message if you would like to know more, take a look at the apprenticeship website or see the meetup group. It is perfectly possible to dip in an out of the course at your own pace.

Stoepkrijt tijd

For English click here

De laatste tijd hebben een paar vrienden en familie me een zetje gegeven over deze botanische stoepkrijt die momenteel in Europa gaande is.

Ann van City Plot gaf me gisteravond een zetje, wat de laatste strohalm heeft bewezen – het is duidelijk tijd dat we beginnen met meedoen! Wil iemand meedoen met ons?

Hier zijn een paar dingen die we vandaag in de stad hebben gekrijt …

Overblijvende ossentong (Pentaglottis sempervirens) Green Alkanet

Er gaat niets boven een naamplaatje om mensen te helpen beseffen wat er onder hun neus groeit terwijl ze door de straten lopen.

Smalle weegree (Plantago lanceolata) Ribwort

Veel van ons kennen de waarde van de planten die de meeste mensen onkruid noemen. We zijn gepassioneerd door mensen die beseffen wat er kan worden gedaan met planten die om hen heen groeien en zorgen voor de planten die van nature groeien in vergeten ruimtes.

Grote weegbree (Plantago major) Plantain

Meestal willen we niet van trottoirs oogsten of foerageren, maar die stedelijke kruiden en groenten kunnen een bron zijn van gratis zaad, stekjes, startplanten en leerplanten.

Lindenboom (Tilia sp.) Lime tree

Hier is een Grote stinkende gouwe die ik vorige week uit een stoeptegelscheur trok en nu op mijn dak groeit voor een huismiddeltje en een leerplant. Het gele sap binnenin heeft verschillende toepassingen.

Stinkende gouwe (Chelidonium majus) Greater celandine

Als je niet zeker bent van de naam van de plant, stuur me dan een duidelijke foto via Whatsapp of e-mail van en ik stuur je de plantnaam. 06 275 969 30 urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com

Ik zou ook graag je gelabelde planten zien en zal hier graag wat foto’s plaatsen, en op het Urban Herbology Facebook pagina.

Chalk and talk

Voor nederlands klik hier

Lately, a few friends and family have nudged me about this botanical street chalking that’s going on in Europe right now.

Ann from City Plot gave me a nudge last night which has proved the final straw –  it’s clearly time that we start to join in the fun!

Anyone in?

Here are a couple that we did today across town…

Green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens)

Nothing like a name tag to help people realise what’s growing under their noses as they walk around the streets.

Smalle weegree (Plantago lanceolata) Ribwort

Many of us know the value of the plants which most people call weeds. We are passionate about people realising what can be done with plants growing around them and looking after the plants which naturally grow in forgotten spaces.

Grote weegree (Plantago major) Plantain

Mostly, we won’t want to harvest or forage from pavements but those urban herbs and veggies can be a source of free seed, cuttings, starter plants and teaching plants.

Lindenboom (Tilia sp.) Lime tree

Here’s a Greater celandine which I pulled from a pavement crack last week and now grows on my roof for a home remedy and teaching plant. The yellow sap inside has several uses.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) Stinkende gouw

It you’re not sure of the name of the plant, feel free to send me a clear photo by What’s app or email and I’ll send you the plant name. 06 275 969 30 urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com

I’d love to see your labelled plants too and will happily post some photos here, and on the Urban Herbology FaceBook page.

April

A few photos and short comments today as we rapidly approach Beltane, the festival of early summer.

Lime trees – Tilia – Linden in Amsterdam

This week, the Lime trees which line many Amsterdam streets, burst into leaf. I love to eat these leaves, they have a mild flavour, are not tough and they bring many nutritional and medicinal uses. The trees in this street show a characteristic of Lime, they often grow leaves down the trunk. This is a bonus for foragers as it makes the leaves easy to harvest from a tree species which can easily reach 20 meters.

Symphytum x uplandicum in flower

Comfrey plants are in bloom. This helps up to identify the species and help discern whether the comfrey growing near you in the white flowering Symphytum officinale, which is not seen as safe in internal preparations (such as teas) but helpful in external preparations (such as skin salves) or Symphytum uplandicum, which tends to have leafy parts which don’t contain the hepatotoxins in it’s leaves and flowers.

Another Symphytum in flower – 20 m away from the purple one above

Next up, Hawthorn. This is called by many names around the world, including May Tree because it generally bursts into bloom around the first of May. Well this year, it is a little earlier than I have seen for a while. It has been in bloom for over a week and it looks very pretty. Hawthorn is a tree wrapped in much folklore and superstition, due to the plethora of medicinal uses associated with it. This is one of my favourite city herbs.

Hawthorn in bloom. Crataegeus monogyna.

I have been Zooming with some of my apprentices over the past few weeks. I am posting the date and time on the Apprenticeship events page and any who fancy joining me for a chat, do. One week, there was a question about creams so I made them a video about it and have actually been more in love with the cream recipe since! It is a real skin soother. I made this one with orange blossom water and olive oil.

My Zoom cream. Orange blossom water and olive oil.

Magnolia is going over now, the flowers that it. If you have uses for the leaves then now is the time to harvest a few of those! Here is a beautiful specimen which grows in my local cemetery which happens to also be the Netherlands national arboretum – A nice double function, you may agree. The cemetery also houses the national funeral museum. An incredibly interesting place.

Yellow petaled Magnolia in Neiuwe Osster Begraafplaats, Amsterdam Oost.

Below is a photo of an invasive weed which grows in parts of Park Frankendael. I identified it several years ago as Pennsylvania pellitory (Parietaria pensylvanica), a non-stinging member of the nettle family and a sister of the well known traditional herb, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria officinalis). It is called Glaskruid in Dutch and Cucumber weed in parts of the USA. Both helpful common names as it kind of looks glassy when held to the light (translucent) and it has a mild cucumer taste. Sadly, it is also known as asthma weed because when the flowers start to release their pollen, it can cause havoc for people with respiratory issues. This prime specimen is growing in the woodland area of the park. There is a single mature plant growing in the River of Herbs nettle orchard, on the left hand side, soon after entering through the gate. We are leaving it there and will keep an eye on it when the weedy seed spreading time comes.

Pennsylvania pellitory

Next today, can you see the Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) in the photo below? I found this yesterday, on my walk back home from the supermarket in Oostpoort. Beautiful, fragrant (often nastily fragrant), edible, medicinal and fabulous Elderflower!! I just thought you may like to see it as this heralds the start of the main foraging season for many people. Here are a few recipes and thoughts about elderflower. As you will see from those posts, I am a big fan of them and each year, as well as making foods, drinks and home remedies from them, I dry a batch or two and store carefully to use as a tea during times when my immune system needs a boost. Elderflower tea is a well known traditional remedy for. Since COVID-19 hit Amsterdam, my Elderflower tea has been drunk at least once a day so my stock has steadily been depleted. It will certainly be restocked in a few weeks time, when the flowers are open everywhere and I can harvest some for drying.

I am trying to grow more vegetables than usual at home. I may write a post about these later but for now, here’s a windowsill shot of some veg scraps which I am trying to bring on. The Paksoi is particularly fast!

Romaine lettuce base, basil cuttings, paksoi base, spring onions, some sprouting lentils, celery base and carrot tops. Day 1.

You may have read about my Rosemary beetle problem. I can now report that the issue is improved but continuing. Yesterday, I picked only 5 beetles from the pruned bush. My poor Rosemary bush!

Rosemary beetle – Photo credit:  Secret garden

Lastly, a mention of a Dutch woman who asked for my advice by telephone earlier this week. She had been foraging in an Amsterdam park and noticed a young fern head had been snapped off and removed in an area with many fern heads were coming up. She took this to mean that some knowledgeable forager had found an edible fern and harvested some. She has heard that some young fern heads are edible and she wanted to try so she snapped one off, took it home, prepared and ate it. Unfortunately although now recovered, she became quite ill and she wondered what to do and did I know much about ferns.

My advice was to call her doctor or the emergency services if this sort of thing ever happened again and that if she relapsed at all now, to contact them straight away, showing them a photo of what she had eaten. Also not to follow supposed “leads” from other foragers. That fern head may have been snapped off by any number of things, from kids playing near them, a strong bird animal pecking around, a dog etc. This is just one of the reasons why I teacher foragers to pluck really gently and to leave no trace. When one person sees you have been there, others often think that it is fine to copy. Sometimes with catastrophic effects.

I don’t forage ferns and I keep a few bottles of Norit activated charcoal tablets handy, they may sometimes be helpful at absorbing toxins but hospital is your best bet, if a plant poisoning situation occurs – don’t be proud if it should happen, just call 999 / 112 / 991 etc and get professional help – quickly. And only harvest what you know really well, have identified properly and only eat what you are sure is safe for you. I am looking forward to meeting the woman and us going for a herb walk together.

Gnarly apple tree – Wishing you a blooming lovely Beltane!

So that’s it from me today. I hope that you are keeping well, getting enough fresh air and are looking forward to Beltane – May Day, this coming Friday. I certainly am! If you are on the Apprenticeship course and fancy a Zoom or socially distant meeting in the plants, let me know!

Rosemary beetle

I had a pavement garden put in by the city council, beneath our Amsterdam apartment, soon after we moved here 13 years ago. Such pavement gardens are narrow strips, right up against the buildings, were the pavers get lifted and removed, making the sand beneath available as a planting area for residents. You need to draw up a plan and get written permission from your neighbours, when you request a new one – It was quite exciting I can tell you. Well, my neighbours approved my idea and after the council workers set it up for me, I poured in a couple of bags of compost and planted it up with Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), Rue (Ruta graveolens)and Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia). Everything in there grew really well, even though the little plot faces full south, is under a bay window and gets little rain. It was a lovely, simple Mediterranean herb garden. The herbs were resplendent and many neighbours would snip off a little Rosemary through the growing season, to add to their cooking. That shrub was enormous and very healthy.

Then last year, things started to go rather pear-shaped in the geveltuin. The mature Rosemary had some damage. More than a little damage, in fact it looked decidedly nibbled all over. Only a few flowers pushed through and the plant looked increasingly bedraggled. We also noticed very pretty, metallic striped beetles on the Rosemary sometimes. Often, when we brushed against the shrub, some of them would shoot off and bounce off the pavings making a characteristic crackling sound. We didn’t realize back then but our Mediterranean herb garden was under attack by the Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana).

Rosemary beetles don’t feast alone! Photo credit: RHS

This week, enough was enough. The Rosemary looked barely alive and as neighbourhood Rosemary bushes were starting to really bush out with lush deep green new shoots, our looked downright grey. To make matters worse, the Purple Sage was almost gone, the Rue totally desiccated and the Lavender was a shadow of its former self. The beetles were more plentiful than before and my herb garden was no more.

Know your enemy
I read up on the Rosemary beetle and planned my counter attack; Hard pruning, taking a few insurance cuttings, enriching the soil and removing the thick blanket of dead leaves (which I was building up beneath the shrubs, out of laziness really). Finally a good drenching with water.

Part way through the pruning operation

Operation Revamp
As you can see in the video, I shook out the shrubs onto a bright blanket, placing tumbling beetles and larvae in a glass jar which became enormously interesting to local kids. We had about 30 bugs in there by the end. The leaf layer was totally cleared and I hard pruned all of the shrubs. The Rue had to go, sadly as I loved it and few people seem to grow it these days. However, I was delighted to find that it had spawned a few babies, growing between paving slabs so I hope they will make it in the newly prepared plot. My daughter and I scoured the geveltuin and surrounding area for more beetles and larvae before giving the remaining plants a really good watering and then enriching the soil slightly with a bucketful of spent compost (which I collect from my old rooftop pots). Later, I added a couple of lupin seedlings which I had on the roof, a few radish and beetroot seeds, some potted tulips from the kitchen balcony and some self-seeded Lemon balm, which was growing across the street in the gutter. A cheap and cheerful geveltuin makeover! The project took a few hours and I am satisfied with the result.

Rosemary beetle. Photo credit: Secret garden.

Prevention
It took me a couple of years to give in to the fact that these pin-stripe armored beetles were beautifully munching through my herb garden and that I was providing them with perfect overwintering conditions. From now on, I intend to keep the plot more open and airy, more species rich and attractive to predatory and pollinating bugs and I will water the plants regularly, especially when they appear to be under pressure. I also plan to place a bird nesting box on the street tree across the pavement and will feed the plants with comfrey & nettle tea, when the mood strikes me.

In the hope that I can help others to spot Rosemary beetle and deal with it more quickly, I made a short video, which you can see here. My daughter and I had fun editing this one so we hope that you find it useful.

Squish or Release?
So what happened to the collected beetles and larvae in the glass jar? Well, I did squish one on the pavement in frustration, the day before the clean up operation and I felt really bad about it. Killing them didn’t feel right at all and I knew well that these bugs were here for a while and I had allowed them to get out of control. I needed to help nature to restore beetle balance. After a chat with a gardening friend, I decided that the best solution was release these little beasts into a more bio-diverse area, away from aromatic herbs and where natural predators could feast on them or they had a chance to escape and live among other species of insects. This morning, we took them to a grassy area, close to water and let them go.

Have you got a beetle problem? If so, how are you dealing with it? What would you have done with the captured beetles? Do you have other herby-pesty problems and can you think of better ways for people to keep their herbs healthy? Do let me know as I would love to hear!

Herb Walk

I went for a walk and forage in the Orchards of Park Frankendael this morning and made some recordings for you. Next time, I will hold my phone the other way so that it records a wider frame but for now, I hope that you can at least enjoy some of the blossoms and bees!

So there we have it, about 30 minutes of my ramblings in the orchards. We saw quite a few plants today but there are hundreds more to find. Let me know what you would like to see next time!