Category Archives: Uncategorized

Magnificent Magnolia

Just want to reblog this – I first wrote about Magnolia in 2012 and updated the post in 2019 with the video and some extra info. A lot of people are reaching out to me about the tree this year. I am worried it is being over harvested! Please read about how little you need, to make really great foraged treats from this tree. It is so sad when I see photos of people encouraging whole flowers to be picked – there is no need. Anyway, enjoy the post (click at the end, ther’s a lot hidden including the recipes) and let me know your thoughts…

Urban Herbology

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!


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…

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It’s a great time to try out my Urban Herbology Apprenticeship course! Try out the open units when you take a look inside. If you are looking to be empowered with safe herbal knowledge, increase your self-sufficiency and want to dive in and join, the programme is very flexible and there is no fixed obligation. This is a real course run by a real person with lots of experience and passion for getting you living in harmony with nature, wherever you live.

The course covers:

herbal crafting
ethical foraging
herb gardening
wise woman healing
wheel of the year
food and ferments
herbal remedies

There’s a lot in there! When the 4 core modules (first 4 listed above) are completed, a certificate of completion is awarded stating the skills gained in the course. We have a FB group, Zoom chats fortnightly, face-to-face workshops and walks in and around Amsterdam.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sweet Midsummer

I haven’t posted anything for a while although have been out in the plants a surprising amount, especially considering I’m now classroom bound five days a week. Yesterday was midsummer so I held a small gathering in Park Frankendael. I felt so honoured to be surrounded by such lovely people and freely the urge to share a free photos and words about it.

We gathered early, soon after 5pm under the grandest Lime trees in the park. I laid down an old, well loved and patched gold-threaded Indian quilt on the grass and we spread out the food. By Lime trees, I mean Tilia, linden. Amazing trees, here’s a post I wrote 8 years ago about them if you’d like to explore some of their numerous gifts and folklore.

Sameena came prepared as ever for some ceremony. This time with a sweet ripe melon, orange and apricots. She scooped out enough of the melon and Livvy poured in sunshine coloured fruit juice. This sat in the centre of the quilt, we sat circled around it age then Sameena added a slice of dripping orange and an apricot for each of the group.

We joined hands and shared thoughts about the sun at midsummer. One by one the group swelled in number so extra slices of orange and more sharing of thoughts.

After, we supped from the melon bowl and ate the orange and other foods. Such a simple, homespun and effective ceremony.

I’m dramatically reducing my stocks of herbal concoctions at home right down; pairing it right down to nothing more than I need for one season. My library is also being shared so more people can benefit from it and my energy has more space to expand – More on that from this lovely new post by apprentice and illustrator Hannah McDonald.

I’ve been holding onto some magical homemade mead for quite a long time so last night was the perfect opportunity to crack them open and enjoy. I believe that there’s little happier in the glass kingdom than a bottle of home crafted ferment, being steadily shared between freinds. First to be sampled was a very low alcohol but high energy Elderflower mead. The colour was just right for the bright early evening sun. Later, as the strength of the sun waned, a deep red heady and potent concoction was downed, sip by sip.

Photo credit: Sameena. Midsummer 2019 – Livvy, roly-polys and daisies.

After some wonderful tree song singing courtesy of Grace, lime leaf munching, pistache shell ephemeral creating, catching up on thoughts, roly-polys and eating, we packed up camp and took a stroll through the River of Herbs orchards, just in time for the sun to set over the Limes. How wonderful the herb gardens look too! Full of frogs, scents, flowers and energy. The River of Herbs Monday morning team are doing such an amazing job of caring for them. More help is always welcome to get in touch if you’d like to be involved. I look forward to joining them more during my summer holiday.

We explored the newly crafted fairy homes, harvested a little Motherwort and Bay and observed the Lotus blossoms in the small pond, close up over the time that we were there.

All in all, a beautiful evening with beautiful souls. We’re hoping to meet again for Lughnasa. If you’d like to join, keep an eye on the Meetup group or get on touch.

Wishing you a sweet, wonderfilled midsummer.

Easter Monday Walk: Amstel to Frankendael

20190408_142155.jpgMonday 22nd April (Bank Holiday)
Amstel Station to Park Frankendael Walk
14.00 – 16.00

This Easter Monday walk will take you on a free-food journey from Amstel Station through delicious residential streets to the foraging gardens (that I run) in Park Frankendael. Learn how to ethically forage the delicious treats which grow around us in Amsterdam!

If you would like to join this walk, please sign up via the listing.

Spring beauties

Here are a few images from the recent 7 Day UH Foraging Challenge and also taken on the walks I’ve led this month. March has been beautiful and fresh plants are everywhere! If you would like to challenge me to a few days – a week – a month – whatever – of finding tasty urban plants to forage in the town or city where you live, let me know! I did this for 365 days, several years ago. There is always something to forage in cities, why not give it a try! Let me know through the comments / contact form if you would like to. Instagram was a good place to hold and #urbanherbology #7daychallenge the photos. So if you use Instagram it’s even easier.

Edible Ribes bush, alongside my daughter’s Athletic club. I don’t wait for the berries, the leaves taste great and make a delicious nutritious tea (and remedy).

Wild garlic at the back (Allium ursinum) with a poisonous bulb flower at the front.

A copse of Magnolia trees in Park Frankendael, Amsterdam. Love these trees!

Magnolia blossom – Delicious when foraged sensitively.

I took some walkers into the orchards yesterday.

Gallium odoratum – Lady’s bedsraw – Ooh, I hope it’s in flower to make Maybowl this year!

Herbs growing beneath an orchard, part of Fruit 4 Sport project in a sports fields of Watergraafsmeer. Purple deadnettle, stinging nettle, daisy.

I was so happy to find two huge plants of Miner’s lettuce / Spring beauty / Winter purslane (Claytonia perfoliata), close to my school. I plucked them from a council flower border and we ate them over the week. Delicious!!!

Here she is – Certainly worthy of the name Spring Beauty (Claytonia perfoliata).

Wild garlic, Daslook (Allium ursinum), has been creeping into flower here for a couple of weeks. The most sought after foraging herb around at this time of year. As I type this, I’m off to dig up some bulbs from a path in one of the River of Herbs orchards, to give to children on my Foraging & Fermentation course at school. They are big fans of Allium ursinum and want to grow it.

Forthythia – The flowers are edible but they open when not many flowers are available to wildlife. They taste good though and this is mine and my daughter’s birthday flower 🙂 It is generally looking amazing for the Spring Equinox.

This is a Euphorbia species. A striking plant, growing outside of the law courts close to my work. This whole species is poisonous. It bleeds a white latex sap when the stems or leaves are damaged. Foragers should know the poisonous plants as well as they know the edible plants.

I went to the orchards today to dig some of the wild garlic out of the paths. It is so successful in this area that it clogs some sections of the wood chip path. These are going to shady tree pits and to my school foraging group.

The River of Herbs orchards gardening group meets every Monday morning, behind Huize Frankendael, address: Middenweg 72, Amsterdam 1097 BS. Do join them any time, especially if you’d like to get involved and help out.

In this short video, I’m plucking out flower buds on their stems, from the path edging wild garlic. This prevents it getting out of control next season.

And in this one, outs just to show the difference a bit of wild garlic recall can make to the paths. There should be a clear path right up the the gauze leaf bin…

Last but not least, two lovely orchard regulars…

Join the team!

I want to share this post from the River of Herbs with you today. The team of volunteer gardeners needs enriching! Please share with green fingered friends or come along yourself 🙂

River of Herbs


We are urgently looking for volunteers to join the River of Herbs orchards team – would you like to join us?

Because our numbers have dropped recently due to changes in volunteer work days, we now have a tiny team and we need to expand!

Could you spare a couple of hours a week to help with light gardening with this friendly group?

We work organically, along Permaculture principles and in harmony with the local ecology and landuse partners

The orchards house old fruit trees and were set up as ethical foraging gardens in 2014 by Lynn and a fabulous team of enthusiastic nature lovers.

The four orchards are full of beautiful edible herbs, mushrooms, fruit trees and bushes and countless wildlife.

We like to experiment with interesting plants, share food from our foraged harvest and generally have a good time together.

Regular gardening restarts on

Monday 4th March,


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Imbolc Foraging Podcast

I am working on the Urban Herbology courses at the moment. As well as creating a lot more content and member forums, I am adding podcasts and videos to the units of study. I am having a lot of fun with it!

Here is a short podcast made today, in Park Frankendael. I had a 10 minute wander in one of the Orchards and found some tasty treats.

To book a place on my next walk or workshop, see my events page.


It’s time to slowly come out of hibernation and soak up the sensations of early spring. Walking around town today, the smell of rising sap was palpable! Bulbs are up, the weather is mild and I feel happier to pluck. Imbolc is upon us.

I find this a very exciting time if year. Nature is always full of promise but faith is needed as this time of the year. How will those plants rise above the cold ground and swell? How will those bugs find the energy to buzz around us again?

From Imbolc until midsummer, nature seems to gradually build up to a frenzy of activity and productivity. This time allows us to see how plants look as they rise out of the soil. We can see the first true leaves of cleavers, the cold tolerant blades of wild garlic and the irresistible (non edible) dancing snowdrops.

I’m soaking up every ray of sunshine this Imbolc, the bright moonbeams of the blue moon and most of all the sights and sounds of emerging plants.

What is delighting you this Imbolc?

Midwinter moss watching

The shortest day is just behind us and the weather in Amsterdam is mild, dark and misty.  I’m looking forward to longer, brighter days.
It’s pleasant to reflect on life and be able to forage at this muddy time of year.  I’m foraging a little when the urge strikes me but not much. The plants really need a rest and I do too.

Mosses, liverworts and lichens are catching my attention these days, far more than anything else. Some are edible (in theory) and many have a multitude of uses. For me, they represent calm; deep, earthy, cool, calm  I’m enjoying looking at them a lot. Sometimes through a magnifying lens, or through a camera but mostly just by getting up close, tuning into these ancient simple plants, looking closely at how they do things and smelling the air around them. And don’t they just smell great!

I’ve developed such a love of these green beings that I am planning space for them in my garden, rather than herbs.  I’ve also been making moss gardens in old bonsai pots. My next workshop will be about kokedame (moss balls with plants growing in them). It’s a quietening phase.

Here’s a lichen, with wonderful spore trumpets, growing crustily on an old cherry tree in Frankendael. Such a pretty life form. I could study it all day!

If you also share this love of small green simple plants, I’d be delighted to hear how you celebrate them.

Stijlish Sunday gardening

Thanks for the photo Mahaut Vidal!

3pm til 5 pm this Sunday (25th November) – Celebrating the old Stijl Tuin behind Huize Frankendael. 

The day after, gardening contractors will dig up what’s left and begin to restructure the garden. Edward Clydesdale Thomson, artist in residence is organising gluwijn, hand tools, plant care advice and a good send off for the plants. The Yew trees will be moved to the local cemetery de Nieuwe Ooster Begraafplaats  (which is also a national arboretum) so we won’t be touching them but everything else can go. That’s the mature Box hedging (buxus), Catnip, Day lilies, Japanese anenomes, Acanthus, spring bulbs, Artemisias and more and more and more. 

The following day, restructuring of the garden will begin. The Stijltuin behind Huize Frankendael is an officially listed historic garden and whilst keeping the original design intact, new plants are to be added. 

Join us on Sunday afternoon if you can!