Here’s a video that I made yesterday, showing some of the plants which are around at the moment.
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 …
Er gaat niets boven een naamplaatje om mensen te helpen beseffen wat er onder hun neus groeit terwijl ze door de straten lopen.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
Ik zou ook graag je gelabelde planten zien en zal hier graag wat foto’s plaatsen, en op het Urban Herbology Facebook pagina.
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!
Here are a couple that we did today across town…
Nothing like a name tag to help people realise what’s growing under their noses as they walk around the streets.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d love to see your labelled plants too and will happily post some photos here, and on the Urban Herbology FaceBook page.
A few photos and short comments today as we rapidly approach Beltane, the festival of early summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!
It’s stinging nettle top plucking time here in Amsterdam. Most people realise that they are edible and that they sting. I”m often asked how to eat these prickly iron and protien-rich freinds. There are many ways!
Some people like to roll them up and eat then raw. I prefer them cooked or added raw to smoothies. Nettle soup is popular and I like that but I’m fonder of incorporating nettles into creamy, garlicky sauces. I’m making one this evening so I thought I’d share how.
I’m calling this little sauce recipe The Prickly Bear because it contains stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) which are clearly prickly and wild garlic, scientifically known as Allium ursinum, Bear onion. You may know it better as Ramsons, Daslook or Wild garlic.
To make enough sauce for 4 – 6 people, I used:
3 banana shallots
20 stinging nettle tops (top 4 full leaves and stems)
Handful of wild garlic leaves
5 chestnut mushrooms
3 table spoons sour cream
1/2 good quality stock cube
Salt and pepper
Gently saute a few chopped shallots (or a medium onion) in butter, ghee or olive oil.
Add washed and chopped stinging nettle tops, before the shallots are thoroughly cooked.
Cover with a lid and allow it all to steam for a few minutes. Stinging nettles benefit from being nice and soft when you eat them so don’t rush this step.
Now add the chopped Ramsons. Give it all a good stir.
Add sour cream, salt, pepper or a little of a good quality stock cube.
and then add a hearty pile of sliced mushrooms (preferably chestnut mushrooms).
Replace the lid and simmer gently for 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are cooked and tender.
Serve with whatever you like. I stirred it through some gnocchi this evening and sliced some Comte cheese over the top.
This is the start of my main edible and medicinal herb walk season and it’s beautiful here in Amsterdam.
The plants are looking wonderful. Bumble bees are buzzing and caterpillars are already nibbling the nettles.
There’s no need for me to purchase as many vegetables as usual because I’m adding fresh Stinging nettle and Ramsons to my diet each day.
I’ve decided to try to bring some of the wild city edibles to the virtual doorsteps of those of you who are hungry to learn.
One day next week, I’ll go for a solo herb walk, somewhere very quiet, during my daily fresh air break. I’ll pretend that you’re with me – in a good way 😉 I’ll record it and share it so that you can see what’s around.
I’ll perhaps look like a mad plant lady as I walk around talking to plants but what’s new? I’d like you to see the plants and learn from them. We need to know what grows around us and how to use them safely and ethically.
Some which we find may be growing right outside of your window, right now. Some may be invading your balcony pots. Let’s see what turns up.
If you would like to see the orchards and hear some bird song, hop over to the River of Herbs blog as I’ve posted a few green video clips and photos there this week.
If you’d like to join my free virtual walk, let me know, preferably in the comments box below and I’ll inform you when it’s online.
Journey well, Green Freinds.
Spring is in the air, I can smell it and feel it and taste it! Well, early spring is here at least which means that my apprenticeship is reopened to newcomers, I’ve ordered too many heirloom seeds for the coming season and I’m planning growing projects in each spare moment. I can’t help it, when I feel Imbolc (the first spring festival) approaching, my energy levels pick right up and I need to get busy. Maybe you are the same?
I’m so looking forward to the Urban Herbology walk that’s coming up on Saturday, in Past Frankendael. It starts at 11.45 at the main old entrance of the park and is almost fully booked so have a look at the meetup group if you would like to join or if you fancy joining me on another walk.
I sent a message to people who have signed up, through meetup yesterday. If you have signed up but didn’t receive the message, please let me know (email@example.com).
If you would like to stay informed whenever new walk and workshop dates are set, please sign up to the meetup group as I don’t keep a mailing list and don’t like to spam anyone.
Heaps of edible and medicinal plants are showing themselves at the moment and many are growing so well that we can harvest them from certain places. I’ll show you lots of tasty and useful plants on Saturday.
See you on Saturday!
I’m back at work in school now so not too much time to write posts but I just have to share these images with you. I took an ex-student into the woods for a walk and chat last week and we found these amazing Jelly ear or Wood ear fungi on a mossy old Elder tree. The scientific name for these ear shaped beauties is Auricularia auricula-judae.
Some were enormous!
Jelly ears are one of just a few fungi that I get excited about when out foraging because they are so straightforward to identify and I love to pick, cook and eat them!
I harvested a couple whilst out on that walk and went back for more with my daughter, a few days later. We found them on the mossy Elder but also on older dead trees which now have no bark so I couldn’t identify those tree species (but they are certainly not Elder).
I harvested a small paper bag full, dried most in my oven on a very low heat and cooked up the rest in a curry.
I’ll rehydrate these in a cup of water for 15 minutes or so, when I’m ready to slice and cook them.
Jelly ears don’t have a strong flavour and they smell of the mossy woods which they come from. They have this particular crackle-crunch when cooked and munched and I really like them. They are not crunchy or crackly when fresh however. When on the tree, they are totally gelatinous, unmistakably ear shaped, have a velvety upper texture, a another under texture and are pure jelly in the middle. They can be pulled carefully off the wood rather like a bit of turkish delight. I like everything about them!
Jelly ears are mostly associated with rotting parts of Elder trees (Sambucus nigra) but are also known to grow on other tree species.
I’d love to know your thoughts about these ears of the woods. Have you tried them? Do you like them? How do you like to cook them? Let me know your thoughts.