Category Archives: Perennial herbs

Samhain garden musings

A few photos from recent days. Recognize anything there? Any idea of what’s edible and what’s poisonous? This is a beautiful time of year and there is plenty to do in nature, whether that be watching it change or transforming parts of it into foods and medicines. Most important of all, I think, is to actually get out and enjoy it!

It is time to take stock. Time to dig deep and reflect on what’s going well, what’s going less well and what to work on next. I did a lot of thinking about my garden (volkstuin) today. I’ve been quite down about it recently because each time I’ve visited, there’s been very little opportunity to actually work with the plants in the way required, to keep it manageable. Since the start of the whole COVID business, the garden has been getting too out of control for my liking. It is still a wonderful wildlife haven and I love to retreat there but a lot of work needs to be done to make it into the incredible herb garden that it should be.

Grapes at the volkstuin 2020

Everything seems to thrive there. The soil is peat-rich and moist making it a nourishing place for all. Valerian, meadowsweet, sweetwoodruff, lovage and gypsy wort are a few of my favourites there. However, the trees are also nourished so much by the location that their sprawling canopies now give little space for light to hit the ground. Less light breaking through means less healthy ground herbs, so I need to take action before the whole garden becomes a woodland. Woodland is great of course, in fact it is fabulous but I would like to continue growing a wide variety of interesting moisture and sun loving herbs in the main part of the garden, rather than only woodland herbs. There is space enough for those at the entrance of the garden. The intention is for lots of people can learn from these special plants and for them to thrive and be periodically harvested from and used as food and medicine, benefiting those who help with their care.

Blackberry root harvested at Samhain

Winter Work Days
Over the winter, I will be hosting a number of work days at my garden. The idea to bring the garden back up to scratch through winter, to allow light back in so that the herbs can flourish again come spring. If you would like to join me to do some energetic branch cutting, or lay some woodchip paths or prune back the elders, hazels, willows, apple and plum, then you are most welcome to join me! Maybe we will be moving the Fish herb – NL Moerasanemoon (Houttuynia cordata) or Selfheal that so loves to self seed between the terrace slabs or maybe there will be some pulling up of Brambles to utilise their roots, or keeping stinging nettle in a suitable corner or pruning back the Grapevine. And the Daylillies! The list goes on and on. Always something to do and something to learn about! Some great plants will be moved around at times and when there are too many they will be shared. Of course, I will brew up herb tea and soup to keep us going but do bring some bread if you need something more substantial.

Day lily at the Volkstuin

I have a wooden summer house in the garden and that has a woodburner, so we can get warm and shelter when needed. The loo will not be functional in the midwinter so the winter bucket arrangement will come into action when needed [Sorry, that’s probably too much information but better that you realize this fact beforehand!]

Spring and Summer Harvest
Then there will also be gardening days in the garden during the spring and summer, when the leaf and flower harvest can be reaped, plants will be propagated and sunny times in the garden can be enjoyed. I manage the garden along Permaculture principles, in case you are wondering. So in a nutshell that means that yes, it is certainly organic and nature takes the lead. Autumn will bring other treats, and there is always something to do and help with. I hope that this will build into a really mutually supportive gardening community, centered around the herb garden.

Herbal volkstuin – Mid- spring – Sweet woodruff, Wild garlic, Potentilla and Herb Robert

Herb knowledge
It is so important to share herbal knowledge and I very much hope that this helps to encourage more herb gardening and love of herbs. Because my head is always full of thoughts about herbs, you will surely learn quite a lot about them, whilst we garden together but the objective here is to learn through doing.

Dates and location
I will set some dates and advertise them here and then stick to those dates unless we have storms. The volkstuin is in Schellingwoude, Amsterdam Noord. Would you like to join in on making the garden a beautiful productive herb garden so that it can benefit far more people? If so, please get in touch with me!


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

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

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

Prickly Bear Sauce

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:

Olive oil

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.

Free food !

Want to grab a bag of hyper-local organic herbs in grateful return for a couple of hours light gardening? Sign up through the Meetup link to join the River of Herbs volunteer gardening team on Monday morning. Details are on the meetup event information.

I won’t be teaching here – doing that in the afternoon and the walk is full. This is for gardeners – no experienced required – everyone is a gardener because we all need to eat 🙂

Sign ups must be through meet up please and did bring along a bag to take your herbs home.

Some of the herbs available to volunteers in the foraging gardens pantry this week (in varying quantities) are:

Stinging nettle tops

Wild garlic (Daslook – Ramsons)





Ramson mackerel spread

Urbanherbology ramson-mackerel pasteThere seems hardly time to do anything except forage and garden at the moment. Spring has truely sprung and wild garlic / ramsons (Allium ursinum) is on my menu each day! As ever,  I can’t get enough of this herb and have been experimenting with how to stretch the harvest.

Mostly, I have been preserving this spicy-pungent herb in ghee or olive oil. The infused ghee is wonderful, easy to make, versatile as a cooking ingredient and a useful ready to use remedy.  Today though, an even smellier yet wonderful flavour pairing emerged.

At lunchtime, a forgotten smoked mackerel, called out to me from my fridge. As I’m off colour at the moment, I couldn’t face eating the whole thing in one sitting but equally didn’t want to waste it.  So I set about making something simple.  Eight silken ramson leaves, lovingly plucked from the orchards on Wednesday also cried out from my fridge. I blended them together into a paste/dip/sandwich spread and the combination works, so here is my recipe for ramson-smoked mackerel paste:

1. In a bowl or food processor, thoroughly combine the bone and skin-free meat from one whole smoked mackerel, the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, a small handful of washed wild garlic leaves and a generous tablespoon of ghee or butter. (I used wild garlic infused ghee today).

2. Blend or mix to your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt,  pepper and perhaps extra lemon juice.

3. Transfer to a glass storage container. It should keep for a few days if refrigerated.

Do let me know if you try this recipe and if you have other ways for using wild garlic. On April 3rd I’ll be harvesting and processing more wild garlic at the spring apprenticeship gathering. Let me know if you would like to join us! Details are on my events page.





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.


365 Frankendael day 109

Today was the Comfrey workshop. We harvested from a lovely patch of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) in a quiet corner of  Park Frankendael. After torrential rain before the workshop, the sun shone and the plants looked even more verdant than usual. After meeting the plants, off home to drink some 8 hour Comfrey infusion that I set up last night, make some Comfrey ointment (from infused oil), Comfrey Witchhazel gel and to prepare for making a Comfrey leaf tincture. The Tincture and gel instructions are on the workshop handout and will also be in my forthcoming Urban Herbology Essentials book.

So much more can be done with this wonderful herb. Another time! In cities I always harvest leaves alone, so no digging up Comfrey roots today, but plenty of healing unctuous goodness in the leaves. Also a reminder that Russian Comfrey doesn’t contain the much feared liver toxin in it’s leaves.

Thanks everyone for coming along, I really enjoyed it and hope you have further fun and healing using your preparations at home and in setting up your tincture jars. Any problems, just let me know. The next workshop is fully booked. I’m thinking of running a winter warmer lotions and potions 3 hour workshop later this year. If that sounds interesting then let me know.

365 Frankendael day 97

I collected some more seeds today, from edible, medicinal and beautiful perennials in Park Frankendael. The only wild Angelica that I know of there set and spread its seed in the water some time ago but this beauti in the maintained herb garden is just ripe. I harvested just a tiny proportion of the seeds on the plant and will use them for the River of Herbs project. Angelica archangelica is such a gorgeous plant to look at and has so many uses for humans and wildlife. I hope some other people will enjoy growing it in the city.

If you would like to collect some seeds from plants growing in the city or anywhere else, do remember to:
1. Leave most of the seed on the plant for birds and small mammals to eat and use.
2. Leave the seed heads and stems on the plants, they often make excellent look out posts for birds in winter, create beautiful frosted and dew covered structures until the spring and some become hollowed out homes for all manner of bug life. If you must chop off the seed making structures, to access the seeds, it probably indicates that the seed is not yet ripe anyway.
3. Take only from plentiful perennial plants, which are generally able to proliferate from their root stock and seed. If you take from annuals or biennials the forget to sew the seed, or they fail, then the plants you harvested from may have lost all chance to reproduce.
4. Only harvest seed when ripe and allow them to dry off extra well at home before packaging in small labelled envelopes or similar for future use.
5. Sew your seed as soon as possible. Think about the plants natural cycle, when the plant sets seed the seed usually finds its way to the soil and when ready will germinate. Try to mimick this if possible.

My attempt at Skullcap (Sculleraria sp.) seed collection was disappointing. I had missed the boat almost completely on two accounts, firstly someone had cut off heaps of flower stems from the large plant shown here and secondly when I examined more skullcap plants they had already set seed. I managed to collect about six seeds. Next year I must look for them earlier.

I then turned my attention to the tall wild flower meadow (shown above). Too early for seed collection here but right on time to see Goldenrod in full glory,

And Tansy (here’s a photo illustrating why Tanacetum vulgare is known as Buttons in some regions),

Herb by Herb – Part 3 – Comfrey

Once a month a chance to learn in detail about a different common urban herb from either Jennie (who I run the meetup group with) or me, Lynn.

Part three is about Comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum, S. officinalis). A deep healing plant growing all over town, with many uses and a confusing recent reputation. It’s an easy herb to find, identify, process and use. I will take this session in Park Frankendael on Tuesday 7th August 2012. 10.00 – 11.30.

In this short and sweet field workshop, you will learn how to make an infusion, poultice, infused oil and herb gel and about the properties, habitat, folk and medicinal history and current uses of the plant. You will take home a bag full of little herbal preparations and knowledge of how to do it time and time again with everyday materials.

We will try to run each monthly Herb by Herb workshop near the New Moon and the days of the week will vary. The August workshop is earlier than usual, due to the summer holiday. You are welcome to attend all, some or none of the series! Most materials will be provided. You’ll need to bring along a small pair of scissors, perhaps a flask of hot water and 2 small and clean glass jars (such as 90ml pesto jars).
Cost of the workshop is €10. Maximum 5 participants. Cost includes materials and a handout with plant details and preparation instructions.

As we will also make a gel during this workshop, you may like to bring a small used plastic tub.

Please contact me by email ( or through the meetup group if you are interested in joining this workshop.