Category Archives: 365 Frankendael

Lynn’s Urban Foraging Rules

Here is an outline of my personal foraging rules, for picking edible plants in urban environments. 

Above all, be considerate, careful and moderate whether harvesting from your own plants or those growing in public spaces. Be:
Accurate
Light
Clean
Legal
Enriching
Safe

Hollyhock in flower bud AMsterdam

1. Accurate Harvest
100% CERTAINTY OF IDENTIFICATION
Know the plant, know the area, know look-a-likes, poisonous plants, local endangered species, grow the plants, get to know them intimately, learn all you can about them, what will you use the harvest for (no waste), which animals and other plants does it coexist with, how does it change the land it grows in (soil retention, nutrient mining, impairing growth of other plants etc.).

Start with herbs that you are very familiar with and use at least two good field guides to ensure correct identification. Foraging guides are often good for suggesting how to use the plants but should not be relied on for ID purposes. There are some guidebook suggestions on my books page. ID at the harvesting location and again back at home before preparing. Use a loop lens (jewellers) to help accurate ID.  Latin names change less frequently and are more reliable than common and regional names, so make the effort to learn them gradually. Look up all the ID features of the plant.  If in doubt, don’t pick or use a plant.

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2. Light Harvest
Spread harvest, pick very sparingly (less than 10%), choose areas of abundance, overgrowth, I don’t harvest roots or bark (unless recently felled for the bark). Reduce any possible negative impact upon your body and the environment. I harvest just a pinch most days, over harvesting can and does lead to unnecessary rarity and extinction.

Pick sparsely to help conserve the health of the plant, its appearance and the creatures which it supports. Take time to do this, perhaps a year or more before becoming confident that it really is what you think. Never strip all the leaves, berries or whichever part you are interested in, from a plant, however tempting. Take only a little from each plant, leave plenty and avoid harming plants by rough picking. Likewise, flowers or seeds of annual and biennial plants, shouldn’t be picked; their seeds are needed for their survival.

Never pull up whole plants or harvest any part of a rare plant. I don’t harvest roots of wild plants. It is a certain way to destroy a plant, is time consuming and roots generally harbor more toxins than other plant parts.

Rosehip Amsterdam

3. Clean Harvest
Beware polluted soil, air and plants, some accumulate heavy metals, toxins more concentrated in the roots, least in nuts apparently, bug free environment is concerning, unusual growth, signs, be aware, manicured areas, pavement cracks, under power lines and use your instinct in addition to all of this. Then clean your harvest well, above dog-spray height when possible, avoid obvious areas of pollution (and old lead in soil). Most city councils now have policies of not using chemical fertilisers or plant pest control sprays but this is not always the case. It is wise to check the local policy and to find out the legal position on foraging from local public spaces. Council ecology teams are usually easy to contact and should be able to explain the local situation. Seek out the greenest and cleanest areas that you can find. There are unwelcome forms of pollution in both urban and rural areas; fertilisers, animal waste, chemicals, engine fumes and garbage being just a few. Avoid harvesting where pollution is highly likely, such as along busy roadsides, railway verges, building sites, non-organic farmland and industrial zones. Look out for clean, untreated planting areas, away from busy roads.

The best urban foraging grounds are usually within large green spaces and parks. It often helps to pick from as high as you can reach, this can minimise collecting harvests which have been soiled by passing people and animals, though it will still require proper cleaning. Avoid any material which looks dirty, unhealthy or unusual. When harvesting near clean free flowing water, only collect plant parts which have not been submerged. Harmful waterborne parasites can easily transfer to human when affected plants are eaten. Allow time and space for bugs to crawl out. Wash under running clean water. Suitable containers (tubs for berries, paper bags for flowers etc.).

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4. Legal Harvesting
Foragers need to consider local laws, what is morally acceptable, leave flowers for insects and , no trespassing, stealing, ask and probably allowed, don’t pick what was deliberately planted, Never harvest plant parts from individuals without first seeking their permission. It can be tempting to pick ripe fruit and herbs whilst passing doorstep pots and private street gardens but it is so disheartening to the owners when they come to harvest their own tended fruit and find that a passer-by has beaten them to it. In the UK for instance, all wild flowers are protected.

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5. Enriching Harvest
Leave the area better than you found it. Sow seeds, plant cuttings, grow Elder babies, bring on rare plants at home from ethically sourced seed then plant out in your own patch. Or plant them out in appropriate public spaces.

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6. Safe Harvest
Try anything that is new to you, in very small quantities, whether as a food, tea, internal tonic or skin preparation. Here is a useful method to use to test your reaction to a new plant. About 20 minutes should be left between each step. Watch out for any signs that your body reacts badly to the plant. If this occurs – stop.
Smell, lips, gum, tongue, chew, cook…
Label at collection site, each plant in a different bag. Don’t store dubious or known poisonous plants with edibles, for fear you or your family will eat them. As with shop bought plant food, eat whilst in great condition.
Beware of local hazards such as Lyme’s disease and water borne parasites.

Young basal rosette foliage claytonia perfoliata miner's lettuce winter purslane

365 Frankendael day 365

A year ago I decided to show you a taste of what can be picked and eaten from the streets and parks of Amsterdam, every day for a year. That year came to an end today. It has been quite a journey!

There was never a day without edible or medicinal herbs growing wild. As the year moved on I found more and more herbs, fell in love with some such as Hollyhock and learned secrets about others. Whilst on holiday, friends in Amsterdam were often kind enough to email photos to me. The Christmas holiday was difficult, Amsterdam had miserable weather so fewer photos from friends. In place, I added a batch from my holiday in Tenerife.

I am very grateful to Joop Eisenburger, Lina Kremin, Elodie and Herman den Otter, Dennis Breedijk, Lynne Dunstan-Wadsworth and Dana Marin and others for their beautiful photos, whilst I was away from time to time.

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So what is around today on day 365? It was an apprenticeship group meeting for me so friends to share the discoveries with.

Above is Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). Just braking into flower in some parts of park Frankendael, this patch is still perfect for the pot.

Below, Fumitory. Renowned in some regions as a cleanser of radiation from the body and more well known as a tonic for the digestive system.

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Next is Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) NL Hartgespan. Returning from its winter underground hide. Beloved, bitter herb.
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Here is Pennsylvania Pelitory, I was so pleased to learn of its urinary tonic effect last year.

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Primrose (Primula vulgaris). This plant will be focused on in my next project – growing and using native herbs in public (or private) spaces. There is not enough Primrose to pick in Amsterdam, so why not grow some more?

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Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus). Orange sap for herpes and dissolving skin growths. So many more uses for this herb but be careful, it is caustic.
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Horsetail (Equistitum arvensum) flowering, ahead of its foliage – so useful for brittle nails due to the high silica content.

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Soapwort, also just emerging from the soil. Still used by some musea to gently cleanse ancient fabrics. It is a wonderful herb for many skin complaints and grows easily in a pot. It’s other common name, Bouncing Bet, aptly describes it’s flowering beauty in summer.

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Russian Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x). Bone set in old country tales, rapid wound healer and more for us today. It smells and tastes of Borage and Cucumber, is gooey inside and is so easy to use on your body and your compost heap!
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I’m so happy to find this plant. Really happy! It is Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum). It is an endangered species in the Netherlands, this is the first patch of wild Wormwood I have found in Park Frankendael.
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Some of my apprentices gathering Bread & Cheese from a beautiful Hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna). May Day here we come!
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Here is Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). One of the best eating wild plants in town. Pick just a leaf per plant when you find it and it’ll treat you to delicious meals until autumn. Pick a whole plant and you’ll really miss out later on!
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And Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria). I love this plant but most gardeners try to rid their patch of it. A carrot family member, it tastes of parsley, clears gouty, sciatica and rheumatic joints and I’ll be eating it daily from now until early winter!
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There were far more plants today but now it’s time to stop.

So a beautiful day, a beautiful project (to be continued in some form but not daily), amazing plants on our doorsteps and wonderfully enthusiastic people to share them with. Many thanks to everyone who has been involved on some way and especially Frank for his tolerance. I’ll now have a little rest and then organise the photos into something useful. Also time to finish my book on making remedies.

If you’d like to walk with me and learn about the plants to be foraged in Amsterdam, there is a chance on Sunday 26th May.

365 Frankendael day 364

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a day less than a year, today.  Hard to look at any plants without thinking of how to use them. I think that there are worse things to get hooked on though!

Today, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), small leaves at the moment but plenty of it around.

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Also Geranium species are getting stronger everywhere. They are evergreen in this climate but the energy is definitely stirring in them at the moment – meaning they taste better and have more potency.

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Also, new beautiful and incredibly useful Plantain (Plantago major) plants everywhere, if you look carefully.

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And lastly today Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis agg). Bitter, tasty, medicinal, everywhere, free!

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365 Frankendael day 363

Garlic Mustard seems to be everywhere at the moment, and Stinging Nettle and Ground Ivy! I didn’t take very many photos today but here is a pavement crack full of minty, flowering Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacae):

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I picked a small handful to make tea, from a lovely clean woodland edge.

And here is a very windy photo of Cleavers (Gallium aparine), which is also everywhere I look at present, on the ground at least. Soon it will start to scale up shrubs and wire fences, becoming very visible to everyone.
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I didn’t take any Nettle photos today – was to busy picking them. Plenty of them are ready for making infusions, pasta and whatever else you fancy.

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Here above is Burdock (Artica lappa, NL: Klit). An extremely useful herb. Well worth learning what you can do with it. I’m not one for harvesting roots in the city but all parts of the plant are useful to some degree. Here’s a useful Burdock link.

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And lastly, Dock (Rumex sp). Where I come from, everyone knows that rubbing Dock on a Nettle sting, takes the firey pain away. But there are far more users for this edible plant. At this time of year, and if you don’t suffer from Gout, Rheumatism or other uric acid related ailments, you may fancy cooking a dock leaf or three as a sour tasting vegetable. It contains oxalic acid, as in sorrel and rhubarb. So it tastes sour and shouldn’t be consumed too often.

365 Frankendael day 362

Very pretty Maple tree, in flower close to Amstel Station.

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And I was really happy to find a tree pit full of Winter Purslane / Miner’s Lettuce (perfolium) along side the park today.

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See how similar the Miner’s lettuce looks to this other plant at first glance. Both were growing in the same patch of dirt. But the leaves are a little different and crucially, the flowers all have a different number of petals. This third plant today is a Speedwell ( Veronica) species.

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365 Frankendael day 360

In five days time, I’ll have been charting the edible and medicinal herbs of this little corner of Amsterdam, for one year. It has been eye opening to me and has brought me lots of unexpected gifts.

One of these is my apprenticeship programme. Today the first group meet for the seventh time. We took cuttings of the medicine chest Elder shrub (Sambucus nigra),

Cleavers (Gallium aparine)

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Beautiful and useful Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)
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Found Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) yet again.

Comfrey (Symphytum uplanicum x)

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Looked at Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna),

Munched on samples of Common Horehound (Marrubium vulgaris),
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Sniffed the unmistakable scent of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfare)

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and ever so bitter Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).

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We looked at simple to make Ivy (Hedera helix) shapes.

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Ideas for balcony Moon Gardens.

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And after our session I found Garlic Mustard.

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365 Frankendael day 359

I visited Delft today and was pleased to notice just the same useful “weeds”there that I am used to finding here in Amsterdam.

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This tree planter arrangement caught my eye. It uses wire mesh and small additional lips pod garden wire, to hold pot plants against a street tree. I’m not sure how the mesh was originally attached to the tree but it now seems to cut into the bark in places which is not at all healthy for the tree. The planted hybrid Primroses could easily be substituted for non hybrid varieties of numerous herbs.

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And here is one of my herbal plant pots. This is a healthy and useful Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), growing beside my front door.

365 Frankendael day 358

We had a lovely walk to Jeugdland in Oost Amsterdam today and founds lots of wonderful herbs along the way and at the playground.

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Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) NL: Bijvoet.
This is the first I have found this year and as it’s a regular part of my diet I am delighted that I’ll be able to eat it fresh (rather than dried our in vinegar) from now until the autumn. This plant is a little too small to harvest from but it won’t be long until the leaves are well established. This one was especially easy to identify because some of lasts years dried stems and give away foliage were still attached to the plant.

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Elder (Sambucus nigra) NL: Vlier. Here it us growing out from beneath a bridge.

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Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfare) in flower.

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And Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) NL: Douzendblad. Thousands of succulent, medicinal and edible (for some, in moderation) leaves, along Valentijnkade. I suspect they are enjoying the warmth of the brick walk beside the old Jewish cemetery. These are the biggest and best looking I’ve seen since last year.