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:
I met Dana Marin of Amsterdamian.com several years ago through the River of Herbs project. She is a beautiful soul who loves herbs, crafting and gardening. She also loves Amsterdam and runs the Amsterdamian.com website which you must visit!
Last summer Dana joined me in the Frankendael Orchards to catch up, take photos and forage. It was lovely, a lot of fun and included me falling of the bench in this photo, into the plants!!
Dana’s interview with me is now published on Amsterdamian.com. If you fancy some background about urban herbology, ethical urban foraging, city witch-iness and to know what’s driving me at the moment, hop on over to Dana’s beautiful website!
This week, I am with my family in the UK. We began the visit on Tuesday with a stroll around the harbour area of my birthtown Bristol. What a pleasure to be there! In addition to the whole harbour area being very spruced up since I lived there, the weather is exceptional for this time of year; beautiful sunshine, stunning skies and it is warm – well for February anyway!
After a peek at the SS Great Britain, visiting a great whole food store (which sells oxalis tubers to eat!) and filling our bellies with fish and chips at Wrapping Warf , we wandered around the Arnolfini and Watershed areas.
I took a few snaps of edibles which I noticed along the way. The place is very tidy, and popular so most of the plants that I found are resilient perennials. Just look at this little beauty: Ivy Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis), sometimes called the Climbing Sailor which makes it so suitable for this nautical location! What lovely geranium-like rubbery leaves. I do enjoy a nibble on this sort-of-cress-tasting-plant when I find it growing abundantly. Today was neither the time nor place so the plants spotted in Bristol, carving out a quiet existence in the ship shape hustle and bustle, were left in peace.
Now, along this old railway track – a remnant of the old coal dock, I did find a lovely (if small) selection of urban edibles including Herb Robert (Geranium robertum), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgare).
And here some of what I believe is Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum). Very pretty, clustered chickweed-like flowers, bouncing in the breeze, a top leafless stalks. I find this a stunning little edible. Darned tasty (if a little hairy on the tongue) and very fertile. So, if you can access one in a location that it flavours, you will not go hungry.
The only place that I found around the harbour which was worthy of some urban herb harvesting was on the sloping path that runs towards the little ferry (to the SS Great Britain). There is a quiet green patch, full of brambles, stinging nettle and other lovelies. The plants are starting to build their foliage now so best left for now but in a month or so, that patch should be brimming with nettle tops and bramble buds. I find Bramble leaf buds a great source of fruity-tannic flavour, vitamins and minerals. By shrewd nibbing-out of buds, you can control the growth of a bramble patch in seconds whilst building up an interesting wild tea in your caddy.
So that was my little February Bristol Harbour edibles wander. I am in Chepstow now, thoroughly enjoying the sounds, sights, taste and company. Will try to make a compilation of Chepstow forage-ables, before the week is out.
If you want to learn about the edibles growing near you, how to ID, safely & ethically forage and how to include them in your life, take a look at my course. I would love to help you along your urban herbology journey!
Three beautiful blades of Wild garlic / Ramsons / Daslook (Allium ursinum), plucked from the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael today. I made some pungent daslook sauce from these, by blending them with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar.
And here are a couple of year old wild garlic bulbs which I removed from the orchard path. The reason for this is discussed in the podcast. Have a listen and let me know your uses for the plant and if you have had any success growing it. The paths are edged with fallen branches. In this photo you can see how the plant spreads into the paths.
I only forage wild garlic when there are huge swathes of it and the leaves are a few inches long.
I’m off to make some dinner using a little of that sauce now. Perhaps you would like to listen to my latest podcast, about ethically foraging Wild Garlic and how to use it.
This morning, I led a small group walk around Park Frankendael and one of the adjoining streets. There are so many edible and medicinal plants growing here at the moment, it’s a real delight to see!
A few of the plants which we found were Mugwort, Elderflower, Hedge woundwort, Valerian, Indian strawberry, Daisy, Yarrow, Lime, Origano, Horsetail, Marshmallow, Comfrey, Sweet cicely, Catnip, Skullcap and Tansy.
Upon returning home from the walk, I’ve laid aromatic Tansy stems under my doormat (against basement odours and summer bugs), hung Meadowsweet stems to dry for a tummy soothing tea and drizzled Elderflower honey over chestnut, humus and cucumber crackers. Wild garlic seed heads are infusing in olive oil and a jar of Icelandic Fjällagras & Mallow flowers graces my kitchen. In other words – Life is good!
Heart felt thanks to Jurtina from Reykjavik for reaching out to me last week and asking for the walk. It was a pleasure to walk with you, Aline and the girls!
This was the closest I could get to orange flowers today as I wandered the Amsterdam King’s Day street market. Perennial wallflowers look bright and cheerful and are edible (depending upon their location of course). They belong to the cabbage family (Brassicacea).
So, what have the challengers been finding? Here’s another lovely plant record from Hannah McDonald showing hollyhock, rosemary and plantain.
Day 5. Had a lovely morning in Park Frankendael, weeding sycamore seedlings and cow parsley from the orchards. Found the hostas looking beautiful and gathered cleavers, wild garlic, ground ivy and lemonbalm with one of my past apprentices.
Then it hailed and was cold so we drank hot chocolate.
Tomorrow is King’s Day so I really should hunt for some orange flowers.
At the moment, my phone is over loaded with photos from challengers and won’t do what I want. I’ll add some to this post later…
Here are some lovely images from my foraging challengers. I’m so impressed by their efforts!
Hannah (who is working on illustrations for my books!) has been sketching her finds whilst wandering Amsterdam.
Peter is currently trying to ID this mustard type brassica.
And Elodie has been considering the edibility rating of thistle…
Dana has found a herb she has known about since childhood (not for eating) – greater celandine / stinkende gouw – with the yellow flowers. It is a traditional topical remedy for several skin complaints.
Is great to see people branching out from the usual foraging favourites!
I was at work today so took a lunchtime walk past lots of green spaces. Here’s some purple deadnettle growing opposite the Amsterdam Hilton.
Have just noticed that this is my 600th blog post on Urban Herbology – Thank you for reading it!
A friend and I harvested quite a lot of daslook / wild garlic (Allium ursinum) today in Amsterdam. This plant is on the Netherlands endangered plant list but it grows like a weed in some parts of Amsterdam and is frequently foraged. One of the reasons for my running the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael, is to have a place where ethical foragers can carefully harvest this plant, legally without getting into awkward situations.
We were sprinkled with cherry blossom confetti as we harvested. A beautiful experience! If you would like to help out at the orchards sometimes and learn more about herbs, let me know. We are there (almost) every Wednesday morning – year round.
And what did the challengers get up to today? I’ll update with some of their day 3 foraging challenge plants and photos later today…
So, they have reported back to me with notes and photos of Japanese knotweed, dandelion, mugwort, motherwort, daslook, spring/Himalayan balsam, valerian, winter purslane, cherry blossom, stinging nettle and more. Here is a beautiful photo from Carol Poye, of Claytonia perfoliata (winter purslane / postelein).
I love the taste of this plant and never cease to be amazed by it’s appearance. Just look at the leaf shape and how the flowers seem to emerge from their centre. What a special plant. I am not surprised that this is grown as a crop salad in the Netherlands.
Here is a substantial patch of Japanese knotweed which Ann Doherty photographed. What a sour tasting edible stunner this is and yet what a brute it can be!
I remember looking at an old house for sale in Somerset, many years ago and Jap. knotweed was growing into that house through one meter thick stone walls and a thick concrete floor. That house had stood looking like a Midsommer Murder’s location for centuries (it was very pretty) but Japanese knotweed brought it to it’s knees. The plant is native to Japan where it is apparently kept in balance by other local plants. But here in Europe, it does not have such competition so quickly spreads, smothers other plants and finds barriers such as concrete little challenge to penetrate. I have long found it rather worrying to have this plant growing all over the place here in Amsterdam. For years it has been spreading here and the costly related problems in countries such as Canada and the UK are well known, yet little has been done about it here. I wrote a post about it in 2012 – take a look at the healthy knotweed specimen in the Hortus Botanicus! I guess that the green managers of Amsterdam felt that a balance of nature would arise and that the problems abroad were perhaps exaggerated. Having seen them first hand, I find it all rather worrying.
Finally, there is a new local map of the spreading invader, restaurants are starting to serve it, there is mention in gardening magazines but I find this recent awareness raising all rather late in the day. The plant continues to grow in great robust smothering swathes throughout Amsterdam parks and elsewhere. It erodes the waterway banks, penetrates so deeply and widely into the soil. The smallest flinter, on a trowel or spade, in boot treads etc will cheerfully regrow. Of course, all plants have a value but I would like Japanese knotweed to stay away from my building and from the beautiful biodiversity of Amsterdam. If you find it and fancy a taste, be totally sure not to leave any part of the plant hanging around. Cleanly cut the part you want (young and tender shoots are best), prepare it and any left overs should be burned. Amsterdam household waste heads off to the municipal incinerators, that’s the best route for Japanese knotweed. Don’t leave left overs, trimmings etc in your compost heap or worm bin. Here’s a simple recipe which I made up for the plant in 2012. I haven’t really eaten it since writing that post. The taste was good but perhaps thoughts of that crumbling cottage spoiled my appetite.
So with Japanese knotweed in mind, let’s journey on to day 4…
A few years ago I challenged myself to blog every day for a year about the edible plants which I find in Amsterdam. I loved the experience! Now, I want to challenge you!
The 365 Frankendael project taught me a lot and helped to spread the word about ethical urban foraging. It was a nourishing experience on many levels.
My 30 day challenge is to encourage you to find something edible growing in your town, city, suburb or village every day.
Take a photo or make a quick sketch.
Find out a little about the plant.
Maybe try to do something useful with it.
Tell me about it.
I’ll support you as much as possible by answering enquiries about the plants you find and by suggesting how they can be used. I’ll also send you a little inspirational email each day (only if you’d like that). No pressure, no requirement to eat the plants or even pick them but a lot of encouragement to find out more about the edible plants which grow around you.