Category Archives: Places

Midwinter Malva

One thing that I really miss when I am at school all week, is a long, relaxed, morning walk. I really need to start weaving more walks into my work week schedule. In any case, I certainly can’t complain as I am now on school holiday for a couple of weeks so started with a leisurely walk today. Taking in the air, sights and plants as I wander for 5km or more through Amsterdam east, is a great way to start the day.

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This morning, my walk took in a long stretch of the Weespertrekvaart. On one side, a cycle path, sport fields, allotments and Amsteldorp (with plenty of Christmas lights at the moment). On the other, a mix of new villas, tower blocks, boats, businesses and the old Bijlmerbajes prison buildings. In between, a wide stretch of canal which a few ducks, gulls and a morning rowing team were enjoying. Between the canal and the cycle path is a footpath and parts of it are edged with reeds and wild herbs.

At this time of year there is a lot of green to be found in Amsterdam but due to midwinter’s reduced light and temperatures, most plants are not in flower or in good shape for foraging. At this time of year, it’s best to look but not touch, unless you find a big area of something quite special which is clearly loving the reduced competition for light, which midwinter also brings.

This Malva patch caught my eye. Not only is the plant quite prolific in places along the footpath, but here and there it can be found in flower. Plants are much easier to identify when in flower so this is great for foragers. Even if you don’t fancy foraging during midwinter, it is a great time to build your knowledge – of plant ID and where the plants like to grow.

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Yesterday in school, one of the classes ran an assembly about different foods eaten to celebrate Christmas around the world. One mention really caught my attention – Malva Cake in South Africa! Malva – in a cake – what a great idea!

I tend to eat malva leaves, of all sorts, in salads or I cook them gently and eat in savoury dishes. They can be chopped up into a tasty falafel mix, fried, stuffed, cooked like spinach and then sprinkled with feta type cheese. The options are endless (so long as you are sure to wash dust off as they can be quite hairy). Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is in the malva family, so is the Lime tree (Tilia spp) and they have ever so unctuous leaves. The malva in this photo looks like Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) to me. In my experience, it has less unctuous leaves than lime and marshmallow but they are mild tasting, very palatable and quite abundant in the greener parts of Amsterdam. More importantly, Common mallow is neither endangered here in The Netherlands (the Marshmallow plant is) nor is it out of reach (as Lime tree leaves certainly are in winter). So I became more and more pleased with this find on the footpath edge. One of my favourite Amsterdam plants is Hollyhock. That is also in the Malvaceae family and the leaves look quite similar to Common mallow. And while I think of it, some other Malvaceae members are cacao, cotton, durian and okra. This family of plants has high economic importance around the world.

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Found these cacao pods growing from the trunk of a Theobroma cacao tree in Costa Rica (2016).

Malva cake sounds great to me and also brings to mind the big packets of dried Malva leaves sold by my local Turkish supermarket (Yakhlaf on Javastraat). I googled recipes for malva cake and was a little disappointed that most contained no malva at all and looked distinctly similar to sticky toffee pudding. I found one reference to a Dutch cake with malva in the name but no actual malva in the recipe. So I am now on the hunt for a recipe which contains enough malva leaf to make a delicious unctuous cake – and preferably without carb-rich flour (as I am trying to avoid carbs). If you know of a recipe, I would love to hear! In the meantime, I will start experimenting with almond flour and malva leaves.

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David Lebovitz’ Malva Pudding Cake (click for link) – I know, it’s not exactly disappointing but where is the actual malva leaf in this mouthwatering recipe? Photo credit: David Lebovitz

Do you have any uses for Malva leaves which you would like to share? If so please let me know in the post comments or through my contact page. Malva leaves seem to be very widely used in other parts of the world and right now, they are looking good in both Turkish supermarkets and winter footpath edges here in Amsterdam.

Forage lightly and happily, my friends!


Next Urban Herbology walk in Amsterdam – Tomorrow! 21st December. Check out my meetup group or What’s app me on 0627596930 if you would like to join the Winter Solstice walk.

My Online+ Apprenticeship course is open to newcomers for just 5 more days (until end of 25th December). Then it will be closed to new members until Imbolc (February 1st 2020). For more information see here or contact me.


A walk alongside the Wye

Last week, I visited my family in the UK. My parents live in Chepstow and my Dad is a great walker so one afternoon, the two of us headed out to a beautiful spot along the Wye valley, just off the Offas dyke trail at Lancaut Lane, a few miles north of Chepstow.

It is the site of an old village, of which the only remains are derelict lime kilns, some interesting earth mounds, stones and a beautiful ruined church.

The setting is outstanding. The ruined church is found down a steep winding path from the road, in a clearing, close to the banks of the River Wye, as it makes a sharp bend beneath steep raw cliffs. It’s a lovely walk, with wild flowers, catkin-laden hazel trees and greenery all around even in February.

St James’ Church, Lancaut is now cared for by the Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust. It was still used monthly until the 1830’s and there’s a displayed photo as you approach, of the walled graveyard and already ruined church, completely packed with church goers. I imagine that those monthly services were quite something!

Dad found this informative blog post, written 12 years ago by Mercurius Politicus. It traces the history of the location and is certainly worth a read. Here’s a pre-1865 photo of the church, taken from that website.

We loved looking at the old gravestones, a couple of which are now used to mark the graveyard boundary. Within the church can be seen two very interesting headstones from the 1600’s which show a heart in the middle of the text. Other engravings around the church seem to match this flowing, curvaceous style. It is quite beautiful. Can you see the ladybirds on this headstone?

We spent some time sitting a top a mound, watching the River Wye flow strongly by, spotting plants, observing birds feeding in the mud on the opposite river bank and wondering if two distant rock climbers would really make it to the top of a cliff face.

I made a podcast whilst walking around the church, looking for signs of the herb Elecampane. If you’d like to listen, click the link. My Dad features quietly here and there, as the guest Yorkshire accent. I must take a second microphone next time 🙂 We talk about Bramble buds, Hazel, Elecampane, the beautiful views and such like.

Episode 3 – Walking around St James’ Church

We found some lovely plants on our walk including the catnip in the photo below, apparently scampering up an exterior wall. The plant doesn’t look much in February, the dead flower stems gave it away, but it will be stunning in a few months time.

I definitely plan to return to this place. It’s a real treasure. The area is part of a nature reserve and is registered as being of Special Scientific Interest. It is said to be home to over 300 plant species so a visit when more of them emerge from the ground is needed.

The derelict church is now used as a place of worship once or twice a year by Tiddenham parish. It is easy to find from the road and has a strong pull.

I’d be very interested to hear in the comments below from anyone who frequents the place or has tales to share about it. Perhaps you’ve worshipped there or have actually found the elusive Elecampane of the monks?

Sandy Edibles at Magneet Festival

Magneet Festival site 2013

Here is a taster of the edible and amazing plants which can be found at the sandy Magneet Festival site, in Amsterdam Oost. This is Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.) NL: Teunisbloem, a useful and tasty plant.

Evening Primrose Magneet Festival

I was asked to lead a foraging walk each weekend, throughout the duration of the month long festival, by the Mobiation Project. This is their home, the Mobi-01. They slowly move around vacant spaces of Amsterdam, living sustainably, in this self made residence. The Mobiators were asked to run the Green Zone of the Magneet Festival this year and have organised a great selection of workshops and events. You can learn how to make solar dryers, solar heaters and many other things from the Green Zone this year. It is really inspiring and well worth a visit. Here’s their Facebook link.

Mobiation Project Mobi-01 Magneet Festival 2013

So each Sunday that the festival is on, I’m giving free guided walks at 4pm, from Mobi-01 in the Green Zone. I’m showing interested people what can be found growing in the sand. At first glance there is not much of green interest but if you look closely you will find treats such as…

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) NL: Bijvoet
Mugwort

Wild Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) NL: Wilde Rucola
Wild Rocket at Magneet Festival

We found many other edible plant species growing in the sand. Burdock (Arctium lappa) NL: Grote Klit. was the biggest surprise for me, I haven’t found it in such a pure sand location previously.

Magneet Festival 2013
Next week I’ll be taking along some local edible plant seeds and wild flower seedbombs, to plant during the walk. It would be great to see a few other plant species find their feet in this unusual site.

 

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.

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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.

Urban Outsiders Exhibition at Huize Frankendael

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I had an invitation to the launch evening, on Friday, of Urban Outsiders at Huize Frankendael. I managed a quick whizz around the exhibits just before the end of that event. It contains some really beautiful things, from a walk in Permaculture style caravan to illuminated flower pictures, to unusual herb photos to interesting branch sculpture. I’m far more earthy than arty but I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back to have a slow look inside.

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I recommend anyone interested in the melding of art and nature to visit Urban Outsiders, at Huize Frankendael by the 4th November. The agenda shows when the exhibition is teamed with other interesting events – such as a breakfast, guided tour and meal.

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The three outside exhibits can be viewed for free but entry to the house (and I really enjoyed the chance to nose around in there!) is only €3.50 for adults (free for children).

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I don’t know if the lady in I spoke to in Merkelbach will ever read this but here is one of those Jerusalem artichokes (NL: Aardpeer)

Labour of Love – VU Hortus Botanicus

Whilst in the American Book Center today, I was told about an interesting event which they will host very soon and may interest you too. There will be plants, cello music, raw food, the book author, photographer and no doubt lots of other people who love plants and beautiful urban gardens.

Labour of Love: Portrait of A Botanical Garden
Book signing

Saturday 25th August
15:00 and 17:00
ABC Spui
Amsterdam

The VU Hortus Botanicus is a very interesting place which is open to the public, Mondays to Fridays 08:00 – 16:30. Entrance is free. It is on the way to Amstelveen from Amsterdam Zuid, very easy to get to and well worth a visit.

Hortus Botanicus – Forgotten vegetables

Next weekend (This weekend 10th & 11th Sept) the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam are organising what promises to be a very interesting weekend for Urban Herbologists.  The event is called “Van aardpeer tot zonnewortel” (literally, from earthpears to suncarrots) and is all about forgotten or old varieties of vegetables.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be shown some of the interesting specimens which have been lovingly nurtured for this event by Hortus gardener Michael Sawyer and volunteer Elodie den Otter. They should provide  real inspiration for those who enjoy eating different vegetables and those who enjoy growing them.  There is also plenty for those of you who are specifically interested in herbs.

The programme of events taking place next weekend is available online at the Hortus Botanicus website (it is in Dutch).  There will be films about seed saving, tasty eating, Growing in Detroit and Rebecca’s Wild Farm and also tours of the garden in English by one of the gardeners.  There will also be more interesting things going on and I am delighted that I shall now be able to attend at least in part.  Later this week, I’ll set up a meetup.com meeting for any of you who would like to catch up with me there. I have just scheduled a meetup.com meetup for Sunday, 10th September at 1.30pm.  Meeting at the lily pond inside of the Hortus Botanicus.  I hope to see you there!

Pembrokeshire Chamomile and Goji Berries

We have been away to Wales this summer; had a fabulous time visiting family and also an isolated barn in Pembrokeshire National Park.  There were too many wild herbs to mention them all and as I am just getting back into the swing of being connected to the world again here a couple of photos…

Behind this beautiful washed up crab is a shoreline variety of chamomile.  It smells wonderful and is much larger than the usual variety.
This is a very small part of an enormous goji berry hedge.  It grows to within a few metres of a windswept beach.



Eostre Herbs in de Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam

I have just been for a lovely walk in Flevopark and apart from masses of gorgeous Ramsons (NL: Daslook) there are not really enough wild herbs up to warrant an organised walk.  I am still really keen to gather a few Urban Herbologists together on Eostre (the spring Equinox, 20th March 2011) so a change of plan!

The new plan is to meet at the lily pond/herb garden area of de Hortus Botanicus, 11.00am on Sunday 20th March.  Any Urban Herbies who would like to join for a chat, a look at the herb garden and maybe a cup of tea in the Hortus cafe, are welcome.  The meetup.com link has been changed to reflect the new plan.  If you would like to see us there you will need to pay your own entrance to de Hortus.  I won’t be leading a walk this time and won’t be taking along any handouts.  That will have to wait until May Day.

I hope to see you there!

Herbes de Provence

D’un Goût à l’Autre
Meal at D’un Goût à l’Autre.

Nyons, in Drôme Provence, France is famous for award winning olives and delicious wines.  During my recent holiday there I enjoyed some great herby meals and bought two local specimens to add to the kitchen balcony. One restaurant stood out because of its use of local herbs. D’un Goût à l’Autre has several dishes on its menu which make an eye catching and delicious feature of fresh herbs.  Continue reading Herbes de Provence