This week’s winter warming herb is a strongly scented evergreen shrub which many people grow in urban gardens. There are a few Rosemary shrubs growing along my street and I am not alone in enjoying a small amount every week or so, in my meals.
If you are able to find some Rosemary, growing near you, I’d love to see a photo and learn what you like to do with it.
Rosemary is in the aromatic Lamiaceae family. It is known for its ability to stimulate the mind and digestive system.
So we are into week 2 of my Winter Foraging Challenge. Thanks to those who tried to find the nourishing leaf buds from Tilia trees last week. Some of you sent me photos of your foraged finds. No one sent me a Lime bud photo but in hunting for them, Stinging nettles, Elder and Dandelions were found so that’s very positive! I have included Agnesa’s Elder bud photo as these are really common at the moment, they do resemble Lime buds in some ways (colour, size, position on bark and timing) but they are not edible and are useful to learn about. Elder leaves can be very helpful additions to ointments and oils so worth keeping an eye on these and returning in the spring.
This week’s plant is the Common mallow (Malva sylvestris). I’ve found quite a lot of healthy looking plants around town lately so I hope you get lucky with them too. Here is a single leaf. Notice that pinky-purple colouration at the centre of the leaf? That’s really characteristic and helps with ID. Breaking the leaf or stem also gives another ID clue – transparent mucilage! It oozes from the broken plant cells.
I harvest just a couple of leaves (along with the long leaf stalks) from large clumps of this herbaceous plant, wash well, chop finely and add to my smoothies. They contain plenty of mucilage and although they look world’s apart, Common mallow actually belongs to the same plant family as last week’s Lime tree (Tilia spp.).
If you find any, I’d love to see a photo or two!
At this time of year, flowers on Malva are few and far between but you may find one and if so, it will look something like this one. Does it remind you of hibiscus? That’s because the plants are closely related. Hollyhocks too. I am a big fan of this plant family and will be foraging it occasionally, throughout the winter.
I’d like to offer you all a little winter-warming challenge. Come forage with me, however near or far away you are! Let’s track down some nutrient loaded plants, cook up a few treats and stir some strange brews to ease us all through the darkest part of the year.
I’ll add ideas here each Tuesday, of plants which can be found fairly easily and suggestions of what to do with them. If you find them, it would be great if you could send me a photo so that I can upload them and we can all see what we’re finding and creating. Fancy joining the challenge? Here we go for this week with:
Winter warmer #1: Lime tree buds They grow out of the trunks of these fabulous city trees. Several species of Lime (Tilia spp.) do really well in towns and cities so they are widely planted. Over 17,000 grace the streets of Amsterdam alone so I’m sure that there’s one not too far from you. When in leaf, you will know them from their heart shaped pale green leaves but at the moment, most of their leaves have fallen or are ready to fall so we don’t forage them.
Where to find them The buds however, are available year-round, if you know where to look. They grow out of the Lime tree trunk, from burrs or simply from low branches and twigs and they contain the leaves which will emerge next spring. So they are tiny, concentrated nutrient bombs and I like to forage a few when I am out walking in autumn and winter. Lime has a habit of being able to grow leaves all down its trunk, so occasionally you will find one with the leaf buds within easy reach.
How to forage them Select buds above waist height from large Lime trees. Snap one off, without causing further damage to the tree, clean it off and have a nibble. They need to be chewed for a while, in order to release the constituents. If you like them, take a few home in a paper bag.
How to use them Lime buds make a great snack to nibble on and they also taste lovely as a tea. They contain lots of mucilage which releases from the cells when chewed or soaked for a while. That’s very soothing for the respiratory system. Lime leaves have been found by many to be helpful for coughs, colds, fevers, headaches, inflammation, as a diuretic, general tonic, to calm the gut and to soothe nerves. These little winter gems are also packed with a gentle nervine. In general, Tilia is thought of as soothing, relaxing and promoting feelings of happiness.
Of course, be careful and follow the foraging rules. Occasional people have an allergy to any sort of plant. Lime belongs to the Malvaceae family, which contains lots of incredible plants and many are considered safe to eat but everyone is different. So as ever, take care and enjoy your foraging.
Find any? Did you manage this week’s challenge? Did you cook up anything with them? What did you think of the experience? I am very intrigued to know.
It would be lovely if you would send me a photo and I’ll add it to next Tuesday’s post. Please send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been busy with all sorts since my last post. There’s a little competition at the end of this one for those able to get to Amsterdam who fancy trying for a free Herbology Walk in Amsterdam oost. Work (school) has been lively. We’re fully open and yet the rest of the world seems to be closing up. Interesting times for all!
Am loving helping new Urban Herbology students on my courses – some are working so quickly on the Crafting Course, it’s great to see their enthusiasm!
I’ve been enjoying many walks in Amsterdam’s green spaces and was honoured to speak to a group at the Vrienden van Vrankendael’s celebration in Huize Frankendael’s coach house recently, about my involvement and hopes for the park. The guests were invited by the Vrienden van Frankendael and I spoke about the River of Herbs gardens. The Friends of Frankendael also featured us in the first article of their special 30 year celebratory magazine. The article is called Het eetbare park – The edible park. I’m very grateful to have been interviewed by them and especially humble to be so welcomed in the park.
Increasing capacity for multifunctional, sustainable urban edible spaces and community gardens is so important. City parks and planners can help enormously with this. I love discussing options for these spaces, with people who can help it to happen on a bigger scale.
Marisa, one of my apprentices, graduated from the full course, in the woods, during one of the Witching Season gatherings. She has worked really hard on the course and I’m sure that good green things will continue to come from it! Marisa runs a fabulous vegan skincare company called Primal Essence and I love her products. Finally, they are available in Amsterdam!
I’m now enjoying offering walking & talking consultations in Amsterdam and look forward to supporting more clients with personalised herbalism, reflexology and yoga. Details are on the Consultations page.
I thought that you may like to see a few photos from the past month or so.
So what have you been finding? Personally, I’m most pleased with the delights of the Virginia creeper grapes and Chinese Hawthorn, this season. Also the invisible strength building qualities of Michaelmus daisy.
Most people are writing to me about mushrooms this autumn. I must expand my confident-to-forage-and feed-my-family-fungi repertoire! Those shown above are for their beauty alone. I did eat the Jelly ear this evening. The others remain on the woodland floor, logs and benches where they belong – invisibly connecting life and death. Perfect organisms for teaching us about Samhain.
Update: 02/09/20: This series of events is already fully booked. If you would like to be on the waiting list, please email me and I will let me know if places open up.
Have you also noticed that the Witching Season has begun to creep in here, in Amsterdam? Seeds and berries are maturing, leaves are yellowing, pumpkins are ripening and the smell of soil sometimes completely fills the air. The wind can be fierce and yet the air is still warm, the rain may hammer down for hours and yet the sun still has plenty of power.
I adore this time of year. For me it is a time of deep connection to nature, before the time of greater seclusion. And, as we gradually move from the Autumn Equinox to Samhain (Hallowe’en), it becomes ever easier to connect with the many dimensions from which this world is woven, and to make peace with our need for quiet through the coming months.
Throughout this Witching Season, I will be holding three small gatherings in Amsterdam, to help others to find ways to nurture their nature based spirituality through the autumn and winter. We will explore a number of local magical herbs, tune into the powers of nature, develop a moon practice to help you become more empowered as each month turns, and celebrate the very different qualities of Mabon and Samhain. We will walk, connect, enjoy some simple peace-filled ritual and outdoor crafting together.
The number of places available for these gatherings will be limited. The total cost per person is €45. Each meeting will be two hours long and will embrace whatever weather is present! They will take place on weekends, in Park Frankendael, Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer (or other special places very close to the park). We will start the gatherings late afternoon and end at about twilight.
I have been very busy the past few weeks, getting the Urban Herbology Foraging and Crafting Courses set up to run independently, for people who want and need these skills for increased self-reliance and community resilience, but who don’t want to do my full Apprenticeship course in one go. Both courses are now recognized and accredited by the Complementary Medicine Association, so I am very pleased. People can follow these alone (one or both) or they can build up to all 5 courses, which make up the Apprenticeship.
So that has taken up a lot of time behind my screen however, I have been outside a lot too. And, what beautiful things I have seen and what lovely people I have met! Here are a few of them:
Street food Today I led a small group walk in the center of town, looking at interesting herbs which the local council frequently plant besides roads. Above you will see Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) and Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa). Absolute edible and medicinal crackers! Not that I suggest the Amsterdam population goes out foraging all these from council plantings, but what I do suggest is that people get to know what’s growing near them and how they could be used in small amounts.
Street weeds We also found some wonderful street weeds. I find that a street will have one predominant weed species, growing in many neglected plant pots, street gardens, between bike racks and in paving cracks. See if you notice the same… Sometimes I find a street lined with Gallant soldiers (Galinsoga parviflora) (apparently loved as guasca by Latin American cooks for potato dishes – thanks Mayda!), sometimes Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria officinalis) an age old remedy for the urinary system), sometimes Herb Robert (look it up – it’s an awesome herb). These are surely a gift from the gutter gods. I urge everyone to get to know their street weeds. You never know when they could help you out of a tight spot.
In the tree pit shown above, we found heaps of Gallant soldiers, two prime Shepherd’s purse plants and a few other special plants.
Fungi This seems to be the fruiting bodies of Giant polypore (Meripilus giganteus – Thank you Peter!) and what a gorgeous specimen the photo on the left preserves. Found these are at the base of a mature Beech tree, in woodland at the end of a lovely herb walk. The base of the tree is spiraled by clumps of specimen of this fungus, each one at a different stage of decay. This type of fungal fruiting body decays very quickly. Quite a site to behold.
I am not a mushroom expert so I am not going to tell much about these except that I have read, if this is indeed Giant polypore, when super fresh and cooked to perfection, it tastes like cardboard and is mildly poisonous. Umm – I will move on to other wild treats me thinks!
Fine taste This afternoon, I showed some of the staff from Restaurant Merkelbach around the plants which surround their workplace. This is also where the River of Herbs orchards are to be found and it is lovely to share that space with such super people. Walking with them, this afternoon reminds me of how inspiring it is, to meet people with great taste and such sharp culinary imagination! I look forward to learning what they make with today’s finds.
I am delighted to tell you that Urban Herbology Education is now a Registered Training School with the CMA (Complementary Medical Association). The Urban Herbology Foraging Course is now Accredited by and Registered with the CMA and the other courses within the Urban Herbology Apprenticeship course are to be evaluated by the CMA very soon. So the UH Herb Crafting, Wheel of the Year, Herb Growing and Healing courses should also be accredited by and registered with the CMA before long.
The Complementary Medical Association is an international non-profit organisation, established in the UK in 1993, which is the most highly respected membership organisation for complementary medical and natural health-care professionals and training schools. I am so pleased to have received their seal of approval for the course which in turn should help graduates of the Urban Herbology Apprenticeship course to gain further recognition for their learning within the course.
I have started a map to help my students and others to find herb gardens, foraging spots, community gardening projects and other interesting herbal places. I live in Amsterdam Oost so to start with, most of the map points are clustered there but I hope that it will steadily grow as more people add interesting medicinal and edible herbs to the map. I also want to map more places where Urban Herbologists can learn about plants and nature in general. Hopefully we can build it up for other cities and parts of the world. Let’s see where it goes.
If you would like to add points to the map, which show finds outside of private gardens, either send details and a photo to: email@example.com or ask me to have editing rights, so that you can post your own favourites. I want each point to have the Scientific plant name, local name and English.
Please remember that this is for educational purposes and that no responsibility is taken for incorrect points on the map. The aim is purely for people interested in Urban Herbology to find more interesting plants and places close to where they live.
At present the map layers are:
General (useful herbs, edibles, medicinals in open ground) Trees (with edible / medicinal uses in open space) Private Collections (museum gardens, botanical gardens etc) Community Gardens (where you could get involved with some local schemes)
I hope you find it interesting and useful. Let me know any feedback.