Category Archives: Alchemy

Sweet Contradiction

oxymel

Let’s face it, some herbs are hard to swallow – not because they are chewy or toxic but because they just taste sooooo strong that they make your toes curl and your hair stand on end!

One solution to the issue of strong but necessary herbal taste, is to create an Oxymel. These are delicious concoctions which take just moments to prepare and have a good storage life. They are made from herbs, honey and vinegar, having a sweet and sour taste which detracts from strong flavours. Oxy- means acid, containing oxygen or contradictory. -mel means honey.  I like to think of them as sweet contradictions. Oxymels combine the properties of the herbs, vinegar and honey from which they are made.

This morning I made some Oxymels with my Rowan apprenticeship group and the apprentices have plans to use them in salad dressings and food dips as well as for the traditional medicinal purposes. You may also like to devise pairs of herbs which work together, either culinary or medicinally. Ginger and garlic is such a combination.

The following is taken from my book which is still not finished!!

OXYMELS
Preparations of vinegar and honey, where at least one has been infused with herb.
The ratio is traditionally 5 parts honey to 1 part vinegar. A traditional method is to combine the honey and vinegar and simmer gently, along with the herb, until the mixture becomes very viscous, like treacle. However I don’t like to heat honey, I follow Ayurvedic advice never to heat it above body temperature.  I prefer to infuse the vinegar and honey separately, for 6 weeks, then to combine them and leave them runny, no need to reduce to a thick consistency. If you have only one constituent infused, the vinegar or the honey, you will also be able to make a useful oxymel. If you have neither honey or vinegar infused, you can simply set up a vinegar and honey herbal infusion and wait up to 6 weeks before straining and storing.

Recipe (with pre-infused honey and/or vinegar)
1. Simply combine 5 parts runny honey (which may be previously infused with herb and strained) and 1 part apple cider vinegar (which may be previously infused with herb and strained).
2. Store in a sterile glass jar with non-metallic lid.

Recipe with fresh herbs
(In the absence of infused herbal vinegar or honey)
1. Fill a small glass jar with chopped fresh herb.
2. Make a non-herbal oxymel using the 5:1 guidelines above (e.g. 100ml honey and 20ml apple cider vinegar). Make enough to fill the jar to the brim as your fresh herb will infuse into this liquid.
3. Pour the delicious liquid over the chopped herbs.
4. Seal jar with a non metalic lid (to prevent the vinegar oxidising the metal).
5. Store for 6 weeks and then strain through muslin into another sterile glass jar.
6. Preserve the oxymel in this glass jar with a well fitting non metallic lid.

Storage
Long term but keep an eye on it. 1 year plus.

Dosage
1 teaspoonful a few times a day, of course depending upon the herb used.

Uses
Oxymels are a very useful way to disguise herbs which have tastes which many find hard to swallow. But they have also been used for millennia to create delicious drinks and deserts. A pleasant way to take them is a tablespoon mixed with a glass of soda water or plain water.

Suggested herbs
Garlic-ginger oxymel is a tasty combination or sweet, sour and spicy. I find it handy to keep in stock for colds, flu or as a sore throat gargle.
Peppermint, Sage, Thyme, Mugwort, Hyssop, Garlic (whole cloves), Onion, Ginger, White Horehound, Rosemary – each makes a good oxymel.

As ever, note which oxymels you have made, tried and what you think of them. Also record which proportions of vinegar to honey you have tried and found best. Only use herbs which you are certain are completely safe for you to use. If you are really sick, consult a doctor! I use my oxymels for simple ailments such as tickly throats.

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No matter how much I know that a strong bitter taste is just what I need at a cetain time, it’s often very hard to swallow unless I can soften the blow to my tastebuds. Oxymels are one way to do this. I hope you enjoy them too.

If you would like to learn more about oxymels, perhaps you would like to sign up for my Kitchen Witchery workshop on 12th October 2015.

Feeling Witchy?

Fly agaric Frankendael Park Amsterdam

I am delighted to offer a series of free-standing half day workshops to develop the magical side of your life.

Each session focuses on different ways to live in deep connection with nature and spirit, whether you are based in the city or countryside.  The workshop series (running through autumn 2015 – spring 2016) includes:

  • Kitchen witchery
  • Apartment magic
  • Enchanted gardens
  • Poisonous treasures
  • Everyday magic and
  • Natural ritual.

Turkish Hazelnut Spiral

Each session will include work with herbs, hedgerows and the seasons. Each will offer practical ideas for protection work, self development and furthering your knowledge of the natural and spiritual world. I am very excited about these workshops and hope that you will join me for one, some or all of them!

The events page on this website will show the details of each upcoming workshop. Please email (lynn.shore@gmail.com) me if you would like to reserve a space.

Spring Herbs Risotto

Fennel and Lemonbalm harvest
Freshly plucked Fennel and Lemonbalm leaves

This time of year provides a bounty of nourishing and tasty spring herbs. Here is one way that I like to cook them – a simple, no-fuss risotto.

Today I harvested two large feathery  Fennel leaves and three verdant tops of Stinging nettle (from Frankendael herb orchards). Yesterday I plucked three huge Dandelion leaves from the school garden (where I work). The dandelion leaves were wilting away in my fridge today but still taste great cooked, so those three herbs were chopped and added to the pot this evening. I could have many other herbs of course (Dead nettle, Wild garlic seedheads, Geranium and Ground ivy for instance) and I could have harvested heaps of Nettle and Dandelion leaves but there are other days, other meals, other foragers and other creatures who need those plants.  Upmost in my urban foraging mind is that by using foraged material as I would use herbs (i.e. in small amounts for culinary seasoning), I reduce my environmental impact and reduce the risk of eating contaminants and plant poisons (should they happen to be on or in the foraged plants). This is why I call my work Urban Herbology, rather than urban foraging. To find out more, do come along on one of my herb walks soon!

Lynn's Spring Herb Risotto
Lynn’s Spring Herb Risotto

 

Spring Herb Risotto
(makes about 2 main dish sized portions)

1/2 cup risotto rice – (non risotto rice will do, it just won’t become so creamy)
1 cup of good stock and 2 cups hot water (or 1/2 an organic chicken or vegetable stock cube in 3 cups hot water)
1 cup finely chopped seasonal fresh herbs (e.g. Fennel leaf, Dandelion, Stinging nettle).
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
Salt/Nori flakes/pepper/Parmesan cheese
to taste.

Method
1. Add the rice, stock and hot water to a heavy based pan.
2. Stir briefly to prevent it sticking to base of pan and bring to a boil.
3. Add chopped herbs and onion, stir and bring to boil again before reducing heat to simmer gently with lid on.
4. Simmer as per instructions for your specific rice, the dish thickens up considerably and may require lots more water, it depends on the type of rice used. My risotto rice took about 25 minutes to cook through completely and become nicely loose and creamy.
5. Whilst simmering, continue to stir briefly whenever you think about it. You may need to add a little more water to prevent stickiness.
6. When the rice is cooked through and of a good consistency, add the frozen peas to the pan. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.
7. Check and adjust seasoning (it may need a pinch of salt,nori flakes or pepper)
8. Serve with a hearty grating of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Bones, Bites and Bali

As some of you know, I fell from my bike in November and was out of action for quite some time. In short, I broke my cheek bone in several places, took quite a hit on my bum and was rather shaken up. Illness is one of the greatest teachers so naturally lessons were learned. I wrote a few of them down as the weeks went by and thought I’d emerge from hibernation today, to share some of the ways I used herbs and other things to aid recovery. I have tried to relate the story to the Wise Woman system of healing, just as I ask my apprentices to relate a health incident they have been through to the system.

Step Zero – Serenity medicine
Bali lily and water cabbage

For the first week I did nothing but allow my body to quietly sort itself out. The cut over my eye was quickly glued together in hospital as this was clearly necessary but the rest was left to calm down, in readiness for a facial reconstruction operation. No herbal ointments, no supplements, no infusions, nothing. The body’s powers of repair and regeneration are amazing. Stores of nutrients from deep within the body are called upon to fight the cause. There was clearly nothing to do except rest and sup on water, chicken soup, pumpkin soup and all manner of smoothies. The nutrients which are taken from the storehouses of the tissues must be replaced. Adding anything extra to my diet felt wrong at this point, even dangerous so I stayed away from everything other than plain food. My mental taste-buds were my guide.

Step One – Collect information
I wanted to know several things:
1. How the accident had happened. It was a mystery and this was not helping me. It took three weeks to find out that a stone or similar must have wedged between the front wheel and mudguard, stopping the bike very suddenly. Knowing helped in some ways. Knowing that I am not able to prevent this happening again didn’t help. So I researched bike helmets. That helped. More people should wear one.
2. I wanted to know about the imminent operation. Without it my sight could be lost, with it I should look normal again. Risks of anesthetic, risks of not operating. Knowing helped.
3. I believe nothing happens by chance. Why did this happen at that moment? I searched, through dreamwork and visioning. I found answers. The answers are for me. That helped. I act on my findings.
4. Shaking, why did my body persist in shaking? Shaking is a natural response to trauma and I needed to welcome it. Whole schools of therapy revolve around it. This is an interesting field!

Step Two – Energy medicine
The energetic body is an incredible part of us. It is us. When it disappears we disappear. To feel the flow of Nwyfre / prana / chi (whatever you want to name it) through a major chakra almost disappear and not return for weeks is a terrifying thing, speaking personally anyway! I was unable to correct this easily so a dear friend helped. Being aware that the energy body is out of balance is important. Knowing how to track it’s state and assist it’s return to balance is important.

Nourishing Comfrey – Boneknit

Step Three – Nourishment
Let food be thy medicine. After the operation I incorporated Oatstraw infusion into my daily diet. One liter a day. This helped to soothe my nerves (they were rather frazzled). Motherwort tincture helped in this way also. Ten drops as and when needed to bring things into perspective again. I keep a green ointment in stock here at home for all manner of skin ailments. This was very helpful after the operation. I kept it away from the broken skin and used it with intention to seep into the skin and speed the bone and flesh healing. Comfrey within the ointment came into its own as I have never felt before. So soothing, healing, scar reducing and welcome. I trusted my thoughts on when to begin using it – not before the bone setting operation, not before the skin had stopped it’s healing fluid oozing. All had calmed before I used it. I did not wash my face for three weeks and then moved onto a regime of plain tepid water, then a little ointment here and there above the breaks plus the SJW oil mentioned below. My face was cut and grazed from my eyebrow to my collarbone. All marks went quickly, except for the super glued cut (which is not surprising). What money we waste on skin care preparations!

Another thing that nourished me was friends. They helped nourish me with food, books, cards and they nourished me by making contact in whatever way felt best. Nourishment on all levels! I must nourish my friends.

Step Four – Stimulate / Sedate
When the cheekbone breaks the supplying nerve tends to be constricted and stops working so that side of the face becomes numb. This can remain permanently in some people, due to the way the bones heal, degree of nerve damage during the trauma etc. I was keen to avoid permanent nerve damage so as the bones began to feel more fixed I turned to St John’s Wort oil. This herb has an affinity to nerves and it was all I wanted on my skin other than the green ointment. Soon after I began working with the oil the nerve began to return to action. It was completely back to normal after 6 weeks.

Nadis Herb Shop, Ubud
Nadis Herb Shop, Ubud

Step Five – Supplements and Drugs
Paracetamol seemed inescapable for me in the first weeks after the accident. I took paracetamol and codeine erratically. I don’t touch them usually but I wanted help. They certainly helped with pain but it was quickly clear that they could not remove the cause of the pain. This may sound obvious and of no consequence but for me it was something of an issue.  When I took the pills I could sleep but it was not very restful sleep. It made me feel out of control, detached from myself and although it stopped my shaking, it didn’t stop the cause so when they wore off, the shaking and fear returned with a vengeance. I found other ways to deal with the worry and shaking eventually (Motherwort and Oatstraw) but if I had not realized that these would help, I imagine I would still have been taking the drugs. That’s not a comforting thought as most people don’t know about those simple herbs. It was also a learning experience in that by simply removing the worry, I could remove the pain. 

We went on holiday  three weeks after the accident, to Bali, not exactly a hardship and certainly an opportunity for herbal learning. I learned all I could about Jamu – traditional Indonesian medicine. During my quest I met Lilir, a generous herbalist at Nadi Herbal in Ubud. A bug bite on my calf had grown to the size of a tennisball overnight and I needed local herb advice. Lilir calmly applied a hot herb tea compress, applied some herbal antiseptic spray, advised me that Patchouli essential oil is a useful first aid antiseptic in the tropics, and then taught me about Sambiloto. I began a course there and then. What an amazing herb! Sambiloto or King of Bitters (Andrographis paniculata) is a herb competing (and combining) with Sweet Annie from the Artemisia family in the fight against Malaria and Dengue Fever. Get to know it. It could really help you out. I used it to make me less appetizing to the bugs. It is really incredibly bitter so Lilir recommends it in pill form and not at a high dose. I began with one pill a day for 14 days and then down to two pills a week.

Kunjit asam Jamu

Another Jamu which I fell in love with is Kunyit Asam. I have learned how to make this at home and am trying to make a litre bottle of the orange wonder each week. It is a potent concoction of Turmeric, Tamarind, Galangal (or Ginger) and sweetened water. It has many useful properties and I treat it as a supplement to reduce inflammation and stimulate digestion. It is to be respected and should not be used by certain groups of people.  Interestingly, powdered versions are available in Balinese supermarkets and chemist shops. I bought a few packets but find them super sweet and poor immitations of the freshly made potion. But it is good to see that there is demand for such a mass produced Jamu product. An interesting read if you want to know more about Jamu was written quite recently by Susan-Jane Beers.

Since returning to Amsterdam I have found a great source of fresh Turmeric rhizome and have been experimenting with homemade Mead, infused with Turmeric, Ginger and Lemon. So far so good!

Jamu powder for sale in Bali

Whilst I was researching various nasties which can be transmitted via tropical insect bites, I learned about natural ways to treat Dengue Fever. Fresh Papaya leaf appears to be a very promising remedy. Here is some interesting reading about it. In learning about that, I found out about how fresh Papaya fruit can help keep various intestinal bugs at bay. So Papaya also became part of my daily regime.

Step Six – Break and Enter
VUAmsterdam
An operation was necessary in my case. It went very well and was less intrusive than it could have been but all operations are a shock to the system. Returning from the anesthetic was an unexpectedly “interesting” experience. Chanting a deeply ingrained Sanskrit  mantra from the Upanishads on and on and on, whilst drinking in delicious oxygen did the trick – after a while. Mantras are very powerful, whatever they are and wherever they are from. Choose a powerful one and a positive one and one for which you know the words well. It helped me to focus and to shut out worrying thoughts. It brought me back down to Earth and made me breathe slowly and steadily. Thank you Ranju for teaching it to me all those years ago!

Arnica gel was also a useful remedy at this stage. I rubbed a little on my temples to lessen the shock to the body. Here in Amsterdam I buy a homeopathic Arnica gel called Eerste Hulp Gel. It is a combination, containing also Calendula and I find it very useful for shock.

Moving on
So that’s my Wise Woman style summary of my recent healing experience. Now my biggest issue is recounting the events each time I meet friends for the the first time in a while. They want to know and I want to tell but looking back is not always beneficial. My new response is simply to be – I am healing well.

Now that’s a nice mantra!

Marlies’ Winter Wonder Honey

Ayurvedic winter remedy

 

Here at last is a quick recipe for Marlies van Wisselingh’s too simple to be true,  teacher’s throat saving, cold and fever beating Ayurveda remedy – passed to her from a very helpful Indian man some years ago, in India. Her husband Bob is a volunteer with the River of Herbs and has been enthusiastically telling us all about this mysterious potion for ages!

I’ll try to place more detailed instructions on here at some point but until then…

Into a sterile 250ml canning jar sterile (e.g. Fido, Blokker €3),  slice 2 organic lemons (peel and pips stay),  peel and slice a huge piece organic ginger (12cm?) into the pot and  add 2 teaspoons organic Turmeric powder. It is useful to alternate layers of lemon and ginger as you build up the contents of the jar. Then gently pour on runny honey. Use a chopstick to release air as you pour. Fill it to brim! Lid on. Refridgerate – leave to infuse for 3 months ideally, before sampling the concoction. Then due to the high water content (lemon and ginger juice) it is probably advisable to consume within a year. However, if you notice an unpleasant odour, bubbling (in a fizzy ferment type way), mould or anything else before that time then you should not consume it as a winter remedy. If mine begins to ferment I will gladly turn it into a bottle of mead.

This wierdly becomes a marmalade-y type concoction which appears to knock the socks off many brewing winter bugs. Have been using it on and off since September and am very impressed. Thank you Marlies!

Marlies takes it in a warm cup of water when needed. I have been using it straight from the pot, one teaspoon per dose.

Do let us know what you think of this simple Ayurvedic remedy.

Sweet Chestnut & Parsnip Risotto

Sweet Chestnut and Parsnip Risotto

I learned on Saturday, from one of my Willow apprenticeship group, that many Japanese cooks like to peel Sweet Chestnuts when raw and add them to rice whilst it cooks. So today I tried it out and wow – what a sensation this cooking combination can create! I intended to take a huge portion of this risotto into work for tomorrow’s lunch. Umm, there is now only about half a portion left so must think again about lunch. This risotto uses sweet parsnips, sweet chestnuts and rice which is naturally on the sweet side. The other ingredients are savoury and the result is sweet savoury. Never again will I cook sweet chestnuts without thinking of rice first. These sweet chestnuts came to me as a gift – foraged in the east of The Netherlands – unfortunately I have not found them of this quality in Amsterdam, though I’m sure they exist!

So here is my latest wildfood recipe for…

Sweet Chestnut and Parsnip Risotto

(makes about 2 main dish sized portions)

1 cup risotto rice – I used wholegrain (non risotto rice will do, it just won’t become so creamy)
1 small onion, finely chopped
Oil or butter
Parsley, sprig finely chopped
1 large parsnip, finely chopped
1/2 organic chicken or vegetable stock cube or 1/2 cup of good stock added in place of hot water
6 -8 fresh sweet chestnuts, shell and skin peeled, then the creamy nut broken into rough pieces.
Seaweed – I used 1 frond of Dulse or  equivalent, finely chopped.
A little Spinach, finely chopped (seasonally available local leaves would also have worked very well, e.g. Dandelion, Ground Elder)

Method

1. Gently fry the onion in a heavy based pan and when translucent add the dry, unwashed risotto rice.
2. Fry the rice in the onion, very gently, for a minute or so.
3. Add 1 cup of boiling hot water. Stir to prevent it sticking to base of pan and simmer steadily with the pan lid on.
4. Continue to stir breifly whenever you think about it.
5. Add the other ingredients to the pan and stir every now and again.
6. Add more hot water, cup at a time whenever you see the rice absorb the cooking water and the dish thickens up considerably.
7. Simmer and add water in this way until the rice is translucent and thoroughly cooked through.

Autumn Street Treats and Tricks

The past few weeks have seen a bounty of free street food falling from trees in Amsterdam. I’ve been enjoying Hazelnuts, Hawthorn berries & Sloes (plucked rather than fallen) and Sweet chestnuts – all absolutely delicious when prepared! The nuts and fruit are still there for the taking in many places but if you have trouble identifying these, keep your eyes open for fallen orange Gingko fruit, falling to the ground from mature female trees. See here how to harvest, prep and eat them and feel free to join me for a quick lunchtime forage in Oud Zuid, over the next couple of weeks.

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Here above is Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) (NL: Eenstijlige meidoorn) in berry. This one is in a hedgerow of Frankendael park. I have mostly been cooking them like this:

hawthorn infused casserole

I infuse them into casseroles, using a stainless steel tea infuser. It gives a mild boost to the food and avoids me having to deal with the inedible pips. Ripe Haws taste a rather similar to bruised apples. Taste aside, they are reported to have many health benefits.

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These are plump plum-like edible fruit which look similar to Sloes (which come from the well known Blackthorn tree (Prunus spinosa) (NL:Sleedoorn)). This shrub is growing in the hedgerow of a local playground and it looks more like a Bullace than a Blackthorn. The fruit are larger and the leaves larger and slightly more smooth. Whatever their exact identity, they are of the Prunus species and they tasted good when ripe.

Turkish Hazelnut Spiral
Turkish Hazelnuts (Corylus colurna) (NL: Boomhazelaar). Larger nuts than the usual multistemmed Hazel (and I haven’t had a blank yet, unlike with the others). I’ve been harvesting lots this year from Pythagorasstraat in Amsterdam Oost Watergraafsmeer. This tree species is used commonly as a street tree in cities, it is very tolerant of harsh growing conditions and doesn’t grow those multiple stems so can be kept easily under control in treepits.
Turkish Hazelnut Case

What a wonderful gift from the Amsterdam town planners!

drying washed Turkish hazelnuts

cracked Turkish Hazelnut

If you are lucky and find some on the ground either within or popped out from these extravagant nut cases, take them home and give them a good wash before drying the surface of the nuts and then get cracking! You can use them straight away as a snack, roast them (when the shell is off) or blend them to make a nut milk, pesto etc. How about mixing them with some cocoa or carob powder and honey to create some choc/carob nut spread? Yum!

And now for the deadly tricks…

bittersweet

These pretty tiny tomato like berries are the fruits of poisonous Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) (NL: Bitterzoet). Please note that in the US there is another plant called Bittersweet which is quite unrelated. The one in my photograph here above is a member of the Nightshade family and I wasn’t able to get a decent shot of the leaves but they resemble a potato leaf rather than the long blade seen next to the berries (see the link for a clearer idea and better still, look in a good field guide!)

Yew berries
A female Yew tree (Taxus baccata) NL: Venijnboom, laden with beautiful red fruit. The soft slimey flesh is actually edible BUT the seed within each red fruit is deadly poisonous.

Fly agaric Frankendael Park Amsterdam

Another red and poisonous autumn beauty, Fly agaric toadstool (Amanita muscaria) (NL: Vleigenzwam). It is also psychoactive. These two were growing in Park Frankendael last week. There seem to been quite a flush of them across northern Europe recently.

Herbal Ferments Circle – Meeting 2

Blackthorn Sloes Amsterdam

July saw the first Herbal Ferments Circle at Brouwerij t’Ij. A hearty group of us gathered on a sunny evening to swap stories, taste Meade, exchange Kombucha SCOBYs, herb plants, talk tempeh technique and generally have a good time.

Those summer evenings are gone but there is fruit on the local trees and the weather is getting witchy! This is a great time to brew interesting concoctions so I feel that another fermentation meeting is due. I’m thinking of a gathering on the evening of Thursday 31st October. But where should we meet?

Today, I finally emailed the distillery in Flevopark, to see if they could welcome us this autumn. But I fear we may have to wait until spring for that venue. So can you suggest another easy to reach Amsterdam venue? And would you like to join us? Restaurant Merkelbach is a favourite haunt of mine. It is on the edge of the Frankendael woods, so weather permitting we could also take a stroll in there and have a drink and chat in Merkelbach.

Please let me know what you think and your venue suggestions through the comments box here, via the Facebook group or by emailing me (lynn.shore@gmail.com). Please do the same if you would like to join the herbal ferments circle.

Rose petal and Mugwort Elixir

rose and mugwort elixir

This morning was an Oak Apprenticeship meeting and this afternoon, a walking-cooking magazine interview. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) was a welcome participant at both gatherings. This common urban herb offers a plethora of uses and is currently flowering here in Amsterdam.

Mugwort has a strong aromatic taste and is not the easiest herb to eat raw. The leaves are full of a strong fibre which is almost impossible to chew through when eaten raw. These fibres are used to prepare the Moxa of Chinese Traditional Medicine. In summary Mugwort is a warming herb, a women’s ally, encouraging menstruation, may ease period pains and is a warm soother or muscle tension and pain. It makes a simple and useful infused muscle rub oil and even simpler, a foot soak, when infused in water. The tea is unusual to some but is tasty and not unpalatable. It can be used to deter insects. A protective herb. This is the abundant urban herb of dreams, scrying and prophecy. Seek it out in flower, to enjoy the peak of it’s spiritual powers. In bud and in flower, it is also easier to prepare for cooking (although this is not the best time to harvest for cooking). You can simply push the little flowers from the stems and sprinkle them into cooking.

Mugwort is in the Asteraceae family.  It is sister to Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum), Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) to name but a few. Mugwort is thought to unsafe during pregnancy and should only be used in small culinary quantities, watching for sensitivities, by others. Here’s a link regarding some known side effects and drug interactions.

Mugwort and Rosepetal Elixir

Today I harvested plenty flowering tops of Mugwort and used them to make tea and a simple savoury dish. I then hung some on my willow rack to dry for out of season use and made the rest into this delicious elixir…

Mugwort and Rose petal Elixir
1. Harvest a few flowering tops of Mugwort, gather about the same amount of clean, unsprayed Rose petals (I used dried purple petals today, from Jacob Hooy). Lay out any fresh herbs for a while to allow resident bugs to crawl safely away.
2. Chop the Mugwort and if necessary, separate the rose petals from their flowers (if using fresh roses).
3. Place the prepared herbs in a suitable clean glass jar, where they will take up approximately half the space.
4. Cover the herbs with runny honey.
5. Use a chopstick to distribute the honey more evenly over the herbs.
6. Now fill the remainder of the jar with Brandy (or another strong spirit of your choice).
7. Cover the jar with a well-fitting lid, label and leave the contents to infuse for four to six weeks or more.
8. Strain, bottle and label the resulting Elixir.
9. Use in very small quantities, as an occasional alcoholic, heart and spirit warming elixir.

Photo credit: Van Gogh Museum
Photo credit: Van Gogh Museum

You will have a chance to taste this Elixir at the second of my Friday Nights at the Van Gogh Museum, on 30th August. The honey for making the preparations at these events, was generously donated by deTraay and the dried herbs by Jacob Hooy. If you have Facebook or not, check out this link to see Van Gogh Museum photos from the event on Friday 2nd August – it was a lot of fun! More information about the plants and where they will go here.

 

Van Gogh Tickets Competition

Almond blossom

On the evenings of Friday 2nd and Friday 30th August, I’ll be inviting visitors of the Van Gogh Museum to learn about and taste some edible and mind altering plants, which Vincent van Gogh used. Myself and a few able assistants will be installed with a selection of his most inspiring plants, some snacks and drinks, in the Atelier (Workshop studio),  just inside the main museum entrance. Join us to sample some urban foraged delights, to learn how to make your own Absinthe, herbal honeys and other interesting things. I’ll give a couple of 15 minute presentations about the Edible Flowers of Van Gogh (7:15 pm) and the Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh (8:15 pm). The rest of the time will be devoted to teaching individual visitors how to find and use local plants. Entrance is free to Museumjaarkaart holders and for everyone else it’s the usual museum entrance price. I’m giving away a couple of tickets: Read on to find out how to enter the ticket competition…

Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh
The use and abuse of Absinthe, by Van Gogh and his freinds, is well known. Wormwood, an endangered but easy to grow plant, is the key ingredient in the drink. We’ll let you sample an easy to make alternative with great taste and far more uses than Absinthe. There are other common plants which had a huge impact on the creativity (and possibly the early grave) of Van Gogh. I’ll talk about them in the second presentation and we will have some of the featured plants for you to see close up.

Edible Flowers of Van GoghVincent_Willem_van_Gogh_127
Most of Van Gogh’s paintings feature plants and flowers of one kind or another. Although many were painted in a warmer climate, most grow here in the Netherlands and many can be foraged from our local parks and streets.  The presentation about Van Gogh’s edible flowers will highlight some beautiful, tasty and useful plants which feature in his work. The plants chosen are easy to find in Amsterdam and are easy to use. You will also learn the foraging rules for harvesting safely, ethically and legally and how to get involved with other foragers.

Eat, Drink and be Merry!
My home is currently full of foraged-flower honeys, strange urban brews and drying bunches of edible plants, just waiting for you to taste them at these August events.  You can find out how to make your own foraged treats, ask us questions about urban harvesting, watch the presentations or just hang around with the beautiful plants. As well as this part of the evenings, there will be music, video and other events going on throughout the museum. So please put the dates in your calander and come visit us at the Van Gogh museum, on the 2nd and 30th of August. And if you come along, remember to say hello!

Lynn Shore Urban Herbology Amsterdam
Photo credit: Grainne Quinn

Free Ticket Competition
To enter the competition for free tickets, please email me (lynn.shore@gmail.com) with the answer to one or both of these questions:

For Friday 2nd August:
Which plant is the main mind altering ingredient in Absinthe?

For Friday 30th August:
How old was Vincent van Gogh when he died?

Winners from those replying correctly, will be chosen at random on Wednesday 31st July and Wednesday 28th August. So if you enter, keep an eye on your email. I’ll post the winners names here also. They will need to turn up to the event with valid ID at a specific entrance, to claim the ticket.