Category Archives: Trees

April

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

Lime trees – Tilia – Linden in Amsterdam

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

Symphytum x uplandicum in flower

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

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

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

Hawthorn in bloom. Crataegeus monogyna.

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

My Zoom cream. Orange blossom water and olive oil.

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

Yellow petaled Magnolia in Neiuwe Osster Begraafplaats, Amsterdam Oost.

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

Pennsylvania pellitory

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

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

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

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

Rosemary beetle – Photo credit:  Secret garden

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

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

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

Gnarly apple tree – Wishing you a blooming lovely Beltane!

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

Jelly ears – Wood ears

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.

Photo credit: Tony Alvarez

Some were enormous!

Photo credit: Tony Alvarez

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.

Velvety to the touch. Unmistakably gelatinous Jelly ears.

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!

A mature Elder

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.

Magnificent Magnolia

Magnolia is a tree which I fall in love with again, every year. Everything about it enthralls me. From the graceful angles of the branches, the bark, exotic blooms to the glossy evergreen leaves. A huge magnolia in bloom is a show stopper. One such tree arches quietly over the terrace behind Huize Frankendael, in Amsterdam east. Hundreds of visitors must walk beneath it without giving the tree much thought, until in March or April it explodes into bloom. There is no other tree that I would rather sit beneath and gaze up through than that magnificent magnolia in spring!

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Edible and Medicinal Magnolia Petals
The flowers of Magnolia trees are edible and medicinal. In traditional chinese medicine, Magnolia flowers are known as Xin yi hua and are associated with the lung and stomach meridians. I enjoy eating them fresh plucked each year and happily report that they taste fragrant and spicy. I can also report that when I eat Magnolia petal, my sinuses become clear, quite like magic.

Imagine a slightly rubbery super sized rose petal which clears the sinuses a little, when you bite into it and you are getting close to the mouth feel and flavour of a magnolia petal. I like them very much and because a little goes a long way with these large petals, I can certainly recommend them to other urban herb lovers. As you may know, via my apprenticeship and walks, I teach how to harvest interesting herbs in towns and cities, in a safe and ethical way. This entails taking only a little, leaving no trace and really make the most of the harvest. Do contact me if you would like to know more – This is my passion!

Medicinal Bark
Fairly recent research suggests that Magnolia bark extract can help with oral health, stress reduction and several other disorders. In traditional medicine it is reportedly used as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anticancer agent, in the treatment of Alzheimer disease, depression, diabetes, and menopause. All Magnolia species varieties are considered to possess the same medicinal qualities and there are apparently no known side effects – although we know that someone somewhere, could be allergic to the plant, so please be cautious. Magnolia Bark Extract is widely available for sale and Magnolia bark is an ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicines including Hsiao-cheng-chi-tang, Wuu-Ji-San, Heii-san, Shimpi-to, Hangekouboku-to, Masinin-gan, Sai-boku-to, Syosaiko-to, Irei-to and Goshaku-san.

Japanese traditional medicine also prizes both the bark and flowers of Magnolia. Bark harvesting is not something suggested for the urban forager because it certainly leaves a trace and it is certainly not ethical.

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Magnolias in Westerpark

Stealthy Petal Plucking
When harvesting from perhaps the most beautiful of city trees, one would perhaps look both foolish and anti-social to pluck entire flowers. So I suggest that you don’t. Instead, I recommend that when stumbling upon a prime Magnolia specimen in bloom, and feeling the urge to eat it, you do the following:

1. After checking for unwanted observers, wander nonchalantly up to the tree. Are the blossoms within your reach? If not move on to another.
2. If so, reach up as if to smell the fragrance of a prime bloom, pull it gently to your nose with one hand, whilst deftly plucking a single petal from its base, with the other hand whilst simultaneously inhaling the spicy aroma.
3. Tuck the plucked petal in your pocket as you gently release the bloom with your other hand.
4. Move along to another flower, as if to compare its scent with the previous bloom. Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you have harvested three or four petals.

A magnolia flower can miss one petal without much issue. If two or more petals are plucked from one bloom, evidence of foraging shows and that is not the plan. So one petal from a flower, move to another, one more petal and so on. When you have three or four petals, you are done. That is enough to make something very tasty and useful and you will have increased your stealth foraging skills..

Magnolia flower
Untouched – Delicious

Favourite Trees
I tend to forage a handful of petals each year, from 6 favourite Magnolias which are dotted around east Amsterdam. They are all growing in public spaces so stealth foraging is required. I don’t harvest from them if other people are around because apart from it just looks silly. I also limit myself to plucking a petal from two flowers per tree. I first wrote about my love of Magnolia petals on 2012. Since then urban foraging has increased in popularity so I also am careful to only pluck from Magnolias which seem not to have been visited by other foragers.

 


Magnolia Petal Recipes
Things that I like to do with a precious handful of magnolia petals. I hope that you have a go and let me know how you get on in the comments.

Magnolia Petal Pickle
They can be pickled, old English style by simply filling a small jar with fresh petals and then completely filling the jar again with rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar with a little salt and sugar to balance the flavours. I don’t add sugar or salt so I guess my version is simply Magnolia petal vinegar – I don’t mind because it tastes good 🙂

Fermented Magnolia Petals
You may like to ferment them using a little salt and water, in the style of Sandor Katz.
I prefer to lay them in my handy small Japanese vegetable press. I then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and apply the gentle but consistent pressure of the Japanese press for about 3 hours. This produces a very light ferment and it draws out some of the water from the petals (which tastes good too). You can leave the pressure for a lot longer if you prefer, winding the contraption every few hours to ensure the petals are in fact under a little pressure and to encourage the process.

Magnolia Petal Honey
When I first tasted a Magnolia petal and felt its clearing effect on my sinuses, I decided to transfer the petals’ properties to honey. This is soooo simple to make. It creates something which my family and friends find delicious and I hope you will too. If the honey turns you off, try Agave syrup. It works very well but in my experience is less spreadable (being rather runny).

magnolia honey

 

Magnolia petals infusing in honey

How to Make Magnolia Petal Honey (or use Agave syrup)
1. Gather your petals.
2. I rarely wash magnolia petals because I only harvest clean looking ones, which are from way above the ground but unsoiled by birds. You may like to wash yours. If so, then dry them off.
3. Tear the clean, surface dry petals into a sterile small glass jar. I use dishwasher cleaned pesto jars for this sort of thing.
4. Covered completely with runny honey. Use a chop stick or knitting needle to loosen trapped air bubbles. You may need to release the air and top up with honey several times. The jar should be filled to the brim with honey. The air bubbles won’t all leave the honey but prodding with chopsticks, helps them to escape and thus reduces the risk of contamination.
5. When no more air bubbles are escaping and no more honey needs to be added, close the jar tightly with its lid.
6. The constituents of the petals will infuse into the honey over the following days and weeks but the honey will take on a delicious Magnolia aroma and taste within a few hours.
7. Eat in any honey way (smear on bread, add to smoothies, mix with a little vinegar for an elixir, etc) you choose or take a teaspoon now and them to help soothe anxiety, sore throats or respiratory congestion. I don’t bother to strain this honey as I like the petal crunch. You could strain after 6 weeks if you preferred. It seems a waste of those petals though.

Please note that the herbal honey may start to ferment after a while, due to the high water content in the petals. Keep an eye on the jar, if it starts to bubble, the lid must be loosened to avoid pressure building up and the glass jar exploding. Storing it in a cool dark location will help to preserve its shelf life. Eating it all up will also avoid the problem 🙂


I hope that you get a taste for Magnolia petals this year and have a try at infusing them in honey, agave syrup, vinegar, vodka or olive oil. This herb is so beautiful, so giving and so tasty – it would be a pity to miss the fun completely wouldn’t it? I was looking at my favourite Magnolia at twilight this evening. It will open its blooms very soon and I will be waiting and thanking it for every petal.


Do you like it?
Please do add a comment about your magnolia experiences at the foot of the page or fill in the contact form. I would love to hear how you get on with magnolia and what else you are keen to learn about!


Learn Urban Herbology
If you want to learn more about foraging and using herbs in towns and cities, take a look at my apprenticeship course. I have helped hundreds of wonderful people learn about Urban Herbology over the years and I would love to help you on your journey!

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.

Let’s Make Hawthorn Tincture!

What a perfect day!

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I finally found time this morning to have a leisurely wander through the woods of Frankendael, seeking out the most pleasantly scented Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) trees.

I was not disappointed! The flowers and leaves of this heart toning tree always taste good to me. Munched on a late spring walk, not much else lifts my spirits and makes me stand tall as does Hawthorn “bread and cheese”. But the flowers (the cheese) do vary in their tastiness, so if you want to capture their essence, it’s worth taking time to seek out the ones which really appeal to you.

Some of the flowers smell rather unpleasant, like cat pee, others are unscented because their insect-attracting job is done. Just a couple smelled sweetly, really sweetly, like vanilla rice pudding. Those smelled and tasted jaw-droppingly good! So guess which ones ended up in my tincture jar?

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Equipt with a small bottle of vodka and a little glass jar, I made my tincture at the tree. To do it yourself, simply fill a jar well with carefully picked Hawthorn flower clusters and a few Hawthorn leaves (the bread). Then fill the jar again with vodka, brandy or whatever strong spirit you choose. Check that you fill all the way to the brim. Flowers exposed to any air will quickly spoil, they need to be completely submerged in the spirit. Check for bubbles of air and top up if needed.

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I’ll leave my tincture like this, labelled, in a cupboard until the autumn, when I’ll strain the flowers and pour the liquid over a fresh jar of Hawthorn berries. Then after a further six weeks of infusing, my double Hawthorn tincture will be ready for use. It will be infused with the properties of Hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries.

If a regular few drops of that doesn’t warm, tone and open my heart through the depths of winter, then not much will!

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I could use the simple flower tincture after six weeks infusion time but I have enough Hawthorn elixir in stock, to see me through summer and autumn so I shall wait. And we all know that the best things come to those who wait 🙂

Hawthorn is an age old preventaive and remedy for many types of heart disease. It is a heart tonic, offering as it were, food specific to the heart. It is used by many, alongside allopathic (conventional drug based) medicine such as betablockers but of course you should always consult a qualified medical herbalist if considering using it as a remedy for heart disease.

If you’d like to join me for a walk in the park, to learn about tasty and useful plants of Amsterdam, and to set up you’re poem tincture, why not sign up for tomorrow’s lunchtime forage?

Love your Elders!

Love Your Elders – Plant Your Elders!
Sunday 7th April 11.00-12.30

Time to join me to either plant your Elder cuttings from last year, or to learn how to take cuttings and propagate this medicine chest of the European hedgerow. Native Elder (Sambucus nigra, NL:Vlier) grows easily and offers familiar flowers and berries each year. But all parts of the shrub have medicinal, magical and culinary uses. Learn which parts of this beloved urban herb are safe, which parts are toxic and how to make simple remedies, tasty concoctions and fibre dyes from each.
Park Frankendael

As a regular city forager, I think it’s vital to give something back to the land which I harvest from. Of course there are other ways to show gratitude the the Earth but I find that one of the most powerful ways is to add more of the native plants which I use.

€10 per adult
Free for apprentices
€5 if you bring along a rooted Elder baby from last year
Or no cash exchange for a few nice herb seed packets

Includes handout
Please contact me directly (lynn.shore@gmail.com) if you would like to come along.

If you can’t come but want to know how to grow Elder, here’s a link to instructions I wrote last year. Let me know if you need any tips.

365 Frankendael day 327

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Walking home from work today, I found some stunning catkin laden branches, lying beneath a street tree. The male catkins of this tree are very long and very colourful. I decided to take some of the fallen branches home. I then removed most of the catkins (to preserve the energy expenditure of the branch) and split it up into manageable pieces. Some of the lower bark from each branchlet needed to be scraped back and then each was placed in a vase of water. I have hopes that a few of the small branches will send out roots and become new plants.

The street tree that these branches came from is an Italian Alder (Alnus cordata), apparently a popular street tree due to the catkins, its overall beauty and vigour.

It’s possible to find beautiful cones, inconspicuous female flowers and the enormous male catkins, as well as large leaf buds, all at the same time. I was pleased to see that today. Alder is the only deciduous tree to bear cones.

Alder is linked to much folklore and tradition. It’s a wonderful tree with many uses. Look up Glennie Kindred, particularly her Earth Wisdom book, for lots of information about this tree (and others). It produces several beautiful dyes. The leaves are usefully made into a cooling, soothing poultice or compress for swellings. Much like Plantain (Plantago sp), the leaves can cool and soothe the weary feet of travelers, by simply placing them inside of footwear.

Earth Pathways

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I gave an Earth Pathways 2013 Diary to each of my apprentices at the end of last year. It’s a rich, inspiring and beautiful publication, created by a wise group of environmentalists, artists, writers and activists. The diary contains key information and creative ideas for urban and rural herbologists alike. I highly recommend it.

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Last week, I noticed that the willows of my local Amsterdam park had been coppiced. So, I took my secateurs back to the park and “harvested” a small bundle of fresh withies from the pile I found on the ground. This made little impact on the pile, which had clearly been left to fill the gap in a bramble thicket, beside a small lake.

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Page 60 of the Earth pathways diary contains a description by my mentor Glennie Kindred, of how to turn willow or dogwood stems into a useful herb drying rack. It took about 40 minutes of peaceful bending and weaving, with my two year old playing broomsticks around me, to create my version of the willow rack. I’m pleased with it and imagine it threaded with flowers and least stems in a grew months time. Because my withies were quite short, I made a double outer “circle”. This strengthened it considerably and it resulted in a pleasing teardrop shape. For now it hangs on my living room wall and reminds me of my years living in Somerset. Willow weaving seems just as satisfying in the middle of a city.

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I love handling willow and using it as a herbal ally. I find far less taste of salicylic salts, in the tendrils at this time of year but it’s gentle, flexible spirit shines through and I’m sure it will impart something special to my drying herbs come spring and summer. Thank you Glennie and Earth Pathways, for your continuing inspiration!

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More Ginkgo Harvesting!

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Today I was joined by two more groups of eager urban foragers, to harvest some more of the strange fruit which currently fall on several Amsterdam streets.

We harvested from Albrecht Durerstraat mainly. Although the enormous glut of fallers from last week, had already been removed by the council street team, we still found several bags full. There are many fruit left on the some of the female trees, it’s not to late of you want to try and haven’t yet had a chance.

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On my way home from work I noticed more streets which are home to Ginkgo biloba trees. This photo is of Handelstraat. I didn’t walk the street to see if it houses any fruit bearing females. Jennie Akse, who came along today, told me about a lovely female Ginkgo in Beatrixpark which is shedding fruit on the grass.

There are many places to harvest at the moment. People have asked if I know of any Ginkgo on Amsterdam West and I don’t. Of you do, please let me know.

Here’s a link to my post on how to safely harvest and prepare the fruits. It’s the nuts that foragers are after, the soft fruit part is toxic.