Category Archives: 30 day challenge

Day 30 UH 30 day foraging challenge

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Well, we have reached the end of the Urban Herbology 30 day Foraging Challenge! Thank you for your support through messages and photos. They certainly kept me going and I hope that my posts kept you thinking a little about the topic too.
We’ve seen lots of wonderful plants over the past month. Lots has changed such as cherry trees blooming and fading,  hawthorn flowers slowly developing haws, garlic mustard, cleavers and nettles reaching ever upward as tree canopies have greened. Lime leaves are now ready to eat in place of lettuce and hollyhocks will soon be in flower…  I hope that you have been able to sense some of those changes and many others.
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Yesterday was my second community gardening session at Tuin van Darwin. I now feel connected with that beautiful place and hope you will come and visit sometime.  It is very special.

Day 27 UH foraging challenge

20170517_121112Amsterdam was scorching hot yesterday so I headed to the open air pools of Flevobad with my daughter. We cycled through Flevopark to get there and what a green treat that place is at the moment!  It’s absolutely bursting with life. Dozens of herbs caught my eye and as ever garlic mustard is BIG there. Must be something in the soil or the smell of the graffiti artists spray paints.. Whatever it is,  it works!

I also had my first sighting this year of Elderflower so the crazy syrup/fritter/fizz season is upon us!  I’ll be traveling everywhere with scissors and paper bags for the next month. I do this usually but through May and June the scissors will be discrete and sharp, the paper bags numerous and that’s about all you’ll find in my work bag.
Yesterday was also an orchards day. We had a lot of work to do as the plants are growing at least 10cm per day, reaching for light because the fruit tree canopies are fully greened. Stinging nettle was my target. From now until September it crowds the path in the nettle orchard and that’s not very comfortable for visitors. So I took to the path edges with my gardening gloves and golden sycle. It’s actually made from bronze, cuts plants with panache and makes me feel like a real druid ovate!
Only hands are required for foraging but some tools make the job much easier.
Meditation for today: What are your favoured foraging tools?
Today’s mantra: There’s a flowering Elder around the corner with my name on it! It’s also home of a million creatures who need those flowers more than me.
More tomorrow.

Day 26 UH foraging challenge

Day 26 and a busy work day for me so less free time outdoors than I like. But I did teach several classes in the school garden today and for that I am extremely grateful!
Lady's bedstraw: photo credit Carlijn Potsma
Lady’s bedstraw: photo credit Carlijn Potsma
Children and gardens go together; always something to touch,  taste,  explore,  watch and wonder at. Always changes to notice and lessons to learn. Strangely, I notice that adults often think that children are completely different beings to themselves. Thinking that they have completely different needs and interests. Of course we are different in many respects but where plants, nature and wonder are concerned,  we are all the same. It’s there and it’s part of us all.
Pensylvania pelitory: photo credit Carlijn Potsma
Pensylvania pelitory: photo credit Carlijn Potsma
My highlights today were:
1. being shown how to drink dew drops from Lady’s mantle leaves (by a 5 year old),
2. being instructed in how to make a crystal waterfall from its leaves (by a 4 year old who finds English a big challenge) and
3. helping another 5 year old offer the school secretary a salad of Hairy bittercress, which he had carefully weeded out from between our marshmallow seedlings and washed clean.
All of those children have issues which can make school a challenging place for them at times. In the garden they literally bloom before my eyes and build skills which help them to handle their challenges better.  It would be hard to give this job up!
Today’s meditation: What got you totally enthralled when you were a child?  What are your earliest nature memories?  Do you still do that thing, perhaps in a grown up sort of a way?  If not, why not and would you actually like to?
Today’s mantra: Everyone has a smiling little boy or girl inside.
More tomorrow from the orchards of Frankendael…

Day 25 UH foraging challenge

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Euphorbia (NL:Wolfsmelk). Poisonous!

Dear forager,

Have may you noticed how the plants are growing a mile a minute at the moment?  When I walked in Park Frankendael yesterday,  I entered a space that I haven’t visited for over a week. I was amazed by how tall the woodland geraniums have grown. Their flower heads are building fast as the plant energies move upward and the plants prepare for their most fertile phase.
We are entering the peak time for harvesting herbs. The moments before a herb flowers are often its most potent. Some herbs are already flowering and you have sent me gorgeous photos of many of these. But most herbs will flower throughout June and July. At midsummer I will be out with my pocket sized scissors,  paper bags,  hip flask of brandy and clean jam jars – ready to harvest and craft herbs at the moment I fond them at their peak. I will harvest some flower spikes before they have a chance to offer their wears to the bees and butterflies.  But I will also nurture those plants throughout the year and will only harvest what I need, whilst leaving most to bloom.

lady's mantle

Do you have your heart set on harvesting a particular herb and crafting it this summer?  If so,  find out the peak power time of that plant and plan to find it then.

Today’s meditation: How are the plants around you changing right now?
Today’s mantra: I am awake and aware of the life around me.
(PS – if you are one of my apprentices,  there are two gathering days coming up.  First one is Friday 2nd June).

Day 24 UH foraging challenge

Photo credit Dana Marin
Photo credit Dana Marin

The sweet smell of Japanese roses (Rosa rugosa) now fills the air in parts of Amsterdam, as Dana has found today.

These are near prefect urban herbs with edible leaves, strongly scented edible flowers and enormous soft hips set on rugged protective shrubs – a dream for forward thinking landscape architects!
The problems I find with them are 1. the time consuming need to hard prune each autumn and 2. that the landscapers mostly set them close to busy roads!
If you do find them growing in their thousands at relatively clean locations,  consider if you could harvest just a few flowers to set up a honey infusion or something else of help your family and freinds.

Photo credit Elodie den Otter
Photo credit Elodie den Otter
Also today,  delicious dandelions from Elodie!  What a welcome addition to a meal these leaves and flowers offer! If you can find them in a clean location simply enjoy.

Today’s meditation: If I (you!) were a city planner, what would grow where in my home town?
Today’s mantra: Wake up and smell the roses!
Suggested reading: http://urbanherbology.org/2012/09/10/processing-rose-hips/ (and it’s much simpler with Japanese rosehips)
Happy hunting!

Day 23 UH foraging challenge

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Dear foragers,

Welcome to day 23! Not long to go now and new plants showing their faces at every turn. May is my favourite time for gardening and foraging but of course, both are possible right through the year.
A sure sign of May is the Hawthorn in flower. It has so much to offer at this time with its nourishing leaves & flowers.  I’d like you to think of plants which offer their bounty at different times of year.  It’s good to have an idea of what is available to eat during each month. It’s sensible to know what can be plucked through the coldest days and the hottest days (if you really need to harvest then). Often these plants can be used as natural remedies for seasonal ailments such as persistent coughs of spring, dry wind burned skin of autumn.
Today’s meditation: How can I learn 12 plants over the coming year – month by month adding another to my memory bank?
Today’s mantra:  There is a seasonal remedy for every seasonal ailment.
I’m off to enjoy the sunshine now. I hope you’ll have a chance for that too.
More tomorrow,
Lynn x

Day 22 UH foraging challenge

Here is a selection of recent photos from some of the foraging challengers. They have been very busy…

Leonie has found some lovely plants. I thought this looked like Meadowsweer on first glance but the flowerhead looks more like a celery family plant (Apiaceae). That with a red stem sets alarm bells ringing. I think we need some close ups of this one Leoniek.

Photo credit Leoniek Bontje
Photo credit Leoniek Bontje

and this bright flowering plant seems to belong to the Lamiaceae family but what is the name.. Gypsywort has similar serrated leaves but completely different flowers.

Photo credit Leoniek Bontje
Photo credit Leoniek Bontje

Dana has been finding lots of stunning Comfrey at Sloterplas

Photo credit Dana Marin
Photo credit Dana Marin

Peter has been finding Green alkanet in Belfast

Photo credit Peter Warnock
Photo credit Peter Warnock

and a super patch of waterside Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Those dead flower stems from last year make it very easy to find.

Photot credit Peter Warnock
Photot credit Peter Warnock

And Carlijn has been extremely active. Here is Bugle –

Photo credit Carlijn Claire Potma
Photo credit Carlijn Claire Potma

Cleavers

Photo credit Carlijn Potma
Photo credit Carlijn Potma

and Japanese knotweed

Photo credit Carlijn Claire Potma
Photo credit Carlijn Claire Potma

Just 7 days to go and lots of plants to be found! Thanks so much to everyone who has sent in photos.

Day 21 UH foraging challenge

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I really need to catch up on the beautiful photos which the challengers have sent me this week! Tomorrow, I’ll work through them all and add more to a post. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster week but now I’m back in Amsterdam and can happily reflect on good times spent with my family.

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Chepstow has a VERY old castle (1067, so my Dad tells me) and around it grow a lot of beautiful plants. Stinging nettles and wild garlic are the two edible show stoppers around the castle and dell, but there are dozens of other tasty plants. Alkanet and Veronica are growing amongst the cow parsley here.

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Walking through the town, I found Lime trees with leaves almost begging to be nibbled, brambles offering fresh new growth and this perky patch of Pellitory of the wall. I’m always very pleased to find this herb. It does like the protection of walls and it can offer a lot of benefits as well as taste. Best known to me is its talent for nourishing the urinary system. I stumble into Pellitory in the older parts of Amsterdam but Park Frankendael is home to a massive colonie of its cousin,  Pensylvania pellitory. I’ve found it to be very useful too but it has an infortunate reputation in some areas due to its synchronised emissions of pollen. Pensylvania pellitory looks very similar to its cousin but lacks any redness and had an air of glassiness (and it’s conveniently called Glaskruid in Dutch).

 

 

Day 20 – UH foraging challenge

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I’ve been in the UK with my family hence no day 19. Here are a few green momentos from the trip…

Above,  a handsome Yew tree.

What things this beautiful tree must have witnessed over the years and what quiet comfort it offers to those who gaze upon it. May it continue to do so for millennia to come.

Next, Stinging nettles with tasty nutty seeds hanging – already. Offerer of protection, strength and vigor.

stinging nettle and logs

And lastly,  a small symbol which happily catapults me back in time:

Stoke Gifford brick Bristol c1900

Formed from the red clay of north Bristol; so thick, staining and pure that it can be scooped out of the ground with bare hands, then moulded and baked. Real sticky clay. This brick is from the house where I grew up in Nowhere (a tiny in between place, now part of Stoke Gifford).  I’ve always found it wonderful for houses to be made from the land on which they stand.

My first foraging experiences were around that house and oh how I enjoyed them! Plums, gooseberries, blackberries, lupins, marrows, willows and lilac. Their scent and flavour come back in a flash and yes, lupins are poisonous.  Faithful dogs, hungry goats, rabbits and grazing cows… Lying in sunny fields of moon daisies and poppies, reading poetry, biology and Laurie Lee. Snow drifts, baths by the fire and a cold leaking roof. Buried conch shells, old farm machinery, half dry brooks, skeletons,  deep wells, roman treasure and music…

Oh how fortunate a childhood I had!