It’s now mid winter in the northern hemisphere and here in east Amsterdam I have been busy with 6 of the Urban Herbology Winter Foraging Challenge. Several people have been reaching out and asking for more suggestions, of what to forage at this time so I am making a video and will post it later this week. Let’s see if anyone can find this little beauty, this week.. Chickweed (Stellaria media):
This is one of my favourite winter foraging plants. It has tiny, fresh green heart-shaped leaves, tiny white star-shaped flowers, a line of single fine hairs down the stem midrib of the plant. Those can be seen only by sharp eyes or through a hand lens so Chickweed identification provides urban foragers a great chance to get their hand lens out and look scientific. Chickweed grows close to the ground, often in convenient clumps from which we can tear off a small handful, without making a visible impact. One key feature of Chickweed midwinter, is that it looks so fresh and verdant. Not much else here looks so bright and pumped full of chlorophyll at the moment. It looks (and often is) far fresher and more full of nutrients than lettuce in the shops and this is my winter salad of preference.
When you tear open the leaves, it smells fresh and does not ooze a white latex sap. If you should find a little plant, looking quite like Chickweed and yet it does ooze white sap, then you have probably stumbled upon Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus). Please don’t eat it at all and be sure to wash the sap from your skin as it is a classic garners skin irritant.
The photos this week are of a lovely clump of Chickweed which grows in one of my balcony plant pots – so nicely away from dogs, walkers and road spray. I didn’t plant it, it simply found the place and grows really well there. We get a few city birds which settle on the balcony railing to eat found seeds and bugs so perhaps one of them dropped the seed a while back. In any case, I welcome Chickweed and add a spring or two to my food, a few days a week. And in case you are wondering, yes Chickweed is a favourite of birds. They are sometimes found having a nibble. Always wash your foraged finds well, harvest ethically and very lightly and enjoy the bounties that urban nature provides!
It’s still looking tasty! Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a wonderfully nutritious herb and is easy to incorporate into the diet.
It is also easy to find and identify. Pick the freshest, youngest looking tips at this time of the year. This body building, protien rich herb doesn’t worry about lock downs. It grows happily in all sorts of conditions and is one of my favourites. Stinging nettle is my fifth Winter Foraging Challenge herb.
It’s getting chilly and dark here in Amsterdam and already we are on week 4 of my Winter Foraging Challenge. Thanks to Louise for the comment and photos about Rosemary last week 🙂 Let’s see if anyone can find this little beauty, this week.. Crane’s-bill geranium:
There’s a lot of variety within this lovely, fragrant group of plants and many are planted deliberately in towns and cities. Examples being Geranium lucidim, Geranium rotundifolium and Geranium pyrenaicum. The pretty flowers are seldom seen at this time of the year but they keep their foliage through winter (although it is less appealing than in spring / summer) and a leaf or two make a great addition to winter meals.
Look out for large clumps of palmately-lobed leaves, atop long almost woody leaf stalks. The leaves are fragrant when rubbed or bruised.
It is the roots which are traditionally used in herbal medicine but I tend to only harvest the leaves. Some of the constituents found in Crane’s-bill roots are: tannins, gallic acid, starch, pectin, and resin. If you are interested to learn more, here is a useful link.
I look forward to finding out who can locate this little winter wonder herb and if anyone is brave enough to have a nibble…
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
A few photos from recent days. Recognize anything there? Any idea of what’s edible and what’s poisonous? This is a beautiful time of year and there is plenty to do in nature, whether that be watching it change or transforming parts of it into foods and medicines. Most important of all, I think, is to actually get out and enjoy it!
Reflection It is time to take stock. Time to dig deep and reflect on what’s going well, what’s going less well and what to work on next. I did a lot of thinking about my garden (volkstuin) today. I’ve been quite down about it recently because each time I’ve visited, there’s been very little opportunity to actually work with the plants in the way required, to keep it manageable. Since the start of the whole COVID business, the garden has been getting too out of control for my liking. It is still a wonderful wildlife haven and I love to retreat there but a lot of work needs to be done to make it into the incredible herb garden that it should be.
Everything seems to thrive there. The soil is peat-rich and moist making it a nourishing place for all. Valerian, meadowsweet, sweetwoodruff, lovage and gypsy wort are a few of my favourites there. However, the trees are also nourished so much by the location that their sprawling canopies now give little space for light to hit the ground. Less light breaking through means less healthy ground herbs, so I need to take action before the whole garden becomes a woodland. Woodland is great of course, in fact it is fabulous but I would like to continue growing a wide variety of interesting moisture and sun loving herbs in the main part of the garden, rather than only woodland herbs. There is space enough for those at the entrance of the garden. The intention is for lots of people can learn from these special plants and for them to thrive and be periodically harvested from and used as food and medicine, benefiting those who help with their care.
Winter Work Days Over the winter, I will be hosting a number of work days at my garden. The idea to bring the garden back up to scratch through winter, to allow light back in so that the herbs can flourish again come spring. If you would like to join me to do some energetic branch cutting, or lay some woodchip paths or prune back the elders, hazels, willows, apple and plum, then you are most welcome to join me! Maybe we will be moving the Fish herb – NL Moerasanemoon (Houttuynia cordata) or Selfheal that so loves to self seed between the terrace slabs or maybe there will be some pulling up of Brambles to utilise their roots, or keeping stinging nettle in a suitable corner or pruning back the Grapevine. And the Daylillies! The list goes on and on. Always something to do and something to learn about! Some great plants will be moved around at times and when there are too many they will be shared. Of course, I will brew up herb tea and soup to keep us going but do bring some bread if you need something more substantial.
I have a wooden summer house in the garden and that has a woodburner, so we can get warm and shelter when needed. The loo will not be functional in the midwinter so the winter bucket arrangement will come into action when needed [Sorry, that’s probably too much information but better that you realize this fact beforehand!]
Spring and Summer Harvest Then there will also be gardening days in the garden during the spring and summer, when the leaf and flower harvest can be reaped, plants will be propagated and sunny times in the garden can be enjoyed. I manage the garden along Permaculture principles, in case you are wondering. So in a nutshell that means that yes, it is certainly organic and nature takes the lead. Autumn will bring other treats, and there is always something to do and help with. I hope that this will build into a really mutually supportive gardening community, centered around the herb garden.
Herb knowledge It is so important to share herbal knowledge and I very much hope that this helps to encourage more herb gardening and love of herbs. Because my head is always full of thoughts about herbs, you will surely learn quite a lot about them, whilst we garden together but the objective here is to learn through doing.
Dates and location I will set some dates and advertise them here and then stick to those dates unless we have storms. The volkstuin is in Schellingwoude, Amsterdam Noord. Would you like to join in on making the garden a beautiful productive herb garden so that it can benefit far more people? If so, please get in touch with me! email@example.com.
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.
Walking & Talking or Online Consultations in Amsterdam Oost and Beatrixpark. Combining a variety of natural therapies to help you to achieve an optimal state of health and well being.
About the therapist Lynn is British (born 1972) and has lived in Amsterdam since 2004. She began working as a complementary therapist in 2000, teaching Yoga to groups and running a private clinic in her Somerset cottage. Since moving to Amsterdam, Lynn has been helping urban people to connect with nature as a way to enhance their health and well being. She runs popular herbology walks, workshops and courses about ethical herbal foraging, crafting and living in harmony with urban nature. Lynn has a special interest in facilitating mutually beneficial connection between city residents with urban nature. River of Herbs is a local volunteer group which she launched in 2004, to enable city people to learn more about herbs through gardening and foraging. She can be found tending the herbal foraging gardens with that group, some Monday mornings, in Park Frankendael just behind Huize Frankendael.
Lynn holds qualifications in the following: Herbalism / Kruidengeneeskunde, Netherlands 2020, USA 2012 and UK 2003 Precision Reflexology (working on hands or feet), Association of Reflexologists MAR, UK 2001 Yoga Teacher, British Wheel of Yoga, UK 2002 Holistic massage therapies, India 2004 and ITEC, UK 2003 Social and Therapeutic Horticultural, Coventry University / Thrive, UK 2016
Lynn is fully registered with the Complementary Therapies Association (CMA), Association of Reflexologists (AoR), the British Psychological Society (BPS) and Association of Foragers. These professional bodies provide quality assurance to clients and support to members who uphold rigorous standards. These professional standards include high levels of qualification, Continuing Professional Development, upholding codes of conduct and being suitably insured. Lynn is also a corporate member of the Herb Society and has vast expertise in the field of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). She holds a Master of Public Health degree, Post Graduate Diploma in SEND and BSc(hons) in Genetics and is a member of the Permaculture Association. As a complementary therapist, Lynn is not allowed to diagnose medical disorders but actively encourages collaboration with each client’s medical team, to help reach their goals more effectively and to ensure safety.
What to expect The aim of Urban Herbology consultations are to set you on a path to address the root causes of imbalances in the body and mind. Lynn takes a Holistic and Functional approach to health. This involves considering how the body and mind functions as a whole, within the situation that you are currently in, rather than simply offering a quick fix to temporarily calm symptoms.
Intake consultations usually happen outside, in urban green spaces and last approximately 1.5 hours. During this time, you will walk and observe nature with Lynn whilst she gathers a detailed personal history from you and then discusses a natural treatment strategy which will address lifestyle factors, exercise needs, possible herbal and nutritional advice and possible physical therapy. Depending upon your personal needs, you may leave the consultation with a yoga-based home exercise plan, a simple home reflex points plan, along with herbal, diet and lifestyle advice. Due to Lynn’s extensive experience with wild local plants and therapeutic horticulture, you may also be directed towards some local “weeds” and nature-based activities, as part of your treatment plan.
Whatever the outcome, you will leave the consultation as an active participant in your path to optimal health and vitality.
If you are currently taking any medications, supplements or herbs, you should bring these along to the consult. If you are receiving treatment for any persistent or serious condition, Lynn will need to know about that, and your conventional medical team will need to be in agreement with your consulting her.
Who can benefit? This personalized therapeutic approach is suited to individuals who want to improve their health and vitality. It is most suited to individuals with non-life threatening conditions which are not responding as well as hoped to other approaches. Examples of areas which are most likely to be assisted by this approach:
Stress reduction Emotional support Anxiety and depression Pain reduction Circulationimprovement Enhancing overall well-being Tension headaches Arthritis and rheumatism Digestion and nutrition issues Insomnia Menstrual problems Back pain and muscle issues Immune system support Skin disorders Hormone health
Costs Intake Walking & Talking consultation:€75 (approximately 1.5 hours) Follow up Walking & Talking consultations: €50 (approximately 45 minutes) Follow up online or telephone consultations:€40 (approximately 30 minutes)
Mini online or telephone consultations are available. They last around 10-15 minutes and cost €20. These are only appropriate for minor issues and symptomatic relief/advice e.g. cold and flu. Please note that full (intake or follow up) consultations are default and mini consultations are only offered after explicit discussion.
Walking & Talking consultations generally take place in Amsterdam Oost (e.g. Oosterpark, Park Frankendael), Beatrixpark or Schellingwoude.
Note: The consultation cost does not include the price of any herbal preparations that are recommended following a consultation. These are charged separately or are purchased independently by the client.
Prescriptions for herbs – When I am able to fulfill herbal needs, I will send you home with a bag of the appropriate herbs or tinctures. Other-times, these will not be in stock so I will advise on where to find or purchase the herbal supplies locally.
To book an appointment for your Urban Herbology consultation, with Lynn Shore, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 06 275 969 30.
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.