Tag Archives: Amsterdam


Galanthus – Snowdrops at Imbolc. Photocredit: Olivia de Graaf

What a special time of year! This, although it may not feel like it with frost on the ground, is the very beginning of spring. As you wander through city parks and green edges, at the start of February, notice just how many signs of spring there are about us. Wild garlic / Daslook is now up, standing young and proud. Cleavers has started to spread, seeking taller plants and fences to scramble up, and stinging nettles (which never really seemed to go away this winter) are looking delicious!

I enjoyed sharing some of my favourite winter urban foraging plants with you over the past few months. Those still hold true as we gently move into the spring which we will all recognise, full of flowers and fresh leaves. I will start sharing ideas for spring cleansers over the coming weeks. A lovely and helpful herbal pastime, is to eat a little herbal foraged cleanser, every day between Imbolc (start of February) and Alban Eilir (Spring Equinox). So today, I’ll be looking to add a little bit of one of those mentioned herbs, to my food or drink. And will aim to do so until the 20th March.

Celebrating the turning year
I enjoy celebrating the changing seasons alone and I also greatly enjoy marking them with like-minded friends. Yesterday, a group of us shared an online celebration of Imbolc, following the basic format of druidic seasonal ceremonies – interesting via Zoom but it somehow works. I am setting up a group to keep this going, under the very helpful umbrella of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The group is called the Meadowseet Seed Group. The intention is for people in Amsterdam who are members of OBOD, to have the possibility to meet in person, within the city, to celebrate each of the eight seasonal festivals together.

The intention is for the seasonal celebrations will be outside in Amsterdam and for full moon meditations to be mostly at the same time each lunar cycle but conducted physically apart. At some of the celebrations, as yesterday, other folks who are not members of OBOD but are interested in the spiritual path will be welcome to take part also. If you are an OBOD member in the area and are interested in joining the group, or would like to attend some of the seasonal celebrations, please contact meadowsweet.amsterdam@gmail.com.

#2 Common Mallow

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.

Elder leaf buds emerging from the Elder bark (Photo credit: Agnesa)

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.

Malva sylvestris – Amsterdam, late November

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.).

Patch of Malva sylvestris, growing with Yarrow

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.

Malva sylvestris (Photo credit: http://kocaelibitkileri.com/malva-sylvestris/)


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.

Learning to gather nettle seeds and flowers Green mindfulness

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.

Lungwort in flower – Appreciating spring

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.

Bee hives in Amsterdam – Hidden gems – Far from the crowd

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
Circulation improvement
Enhancing overall well-being
Tension headaches
Arthritis and rheumatism
Digestion and nutrition issues
Menstrual problems 
Back pain and muscle issues
Immune system support
Skin disorders
Hormone health

Dog rose hips under a hoary frost.
Dog rose hips (Rosa canina) under a hoary frost.

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.

winter jasmine in flower, under snow
Winter jasmine in flower under Amsterdam snow.

To book an appointment for your Urban Herbology consultation, with Lynn Shore, please email urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com or telephone 06 275 969 30.

Urban Herbology Map

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: urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.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.

Lilac Wijn

For English click here
Excuses, ik heb je enigszins misleid. Dit bericht gaat eigenlijk over het maken van Lilac Mead en Lilac Honey, in plaats van Lilac Wine.

De reden voor mijn bedrog is dat ik elke keer dat ik langs een lila boom kom, denk aan mijn moeder, onze oude tuin, haar beste vriendin Francis en Jeff Buckley. En lieve Jeff Buckley zong adembenemend goed Lilac Wine, dus als ik over Sering schrijf, kan ik dat alleen maar bedenken en vandaar de misleidende titel.

Het horen van het lied brengt me terug naar een tijd dat ik de hele dag naar hem zou luisteren en elke pauze zou vasthouden. Als je ook een beetje romantisch bent, raad ik aan om de track te spelen terwijl je mijn instructies voor het maken van mede leest. Ik kan niet goed ademen terwijl ik naar Mr Buckley luister (ik schijn met hem mee te ademen) dus vergeef me alsjeblieft als ik zo nu en dan mijn draad verlies …

Laten we eerst wat lila honing opzetten

Ja, de bloemen van de Sering struik (Syringa vulgaris) zijn eetbaar. Deze plant komt uit de Olijffamilie (Oleaceae) en je merkt misschien dat de bloemen lijken op die van Liguster (Ligustrum vulgare).

Sering is gemakkelijk te herkennen aan de grote trossen van vierbladige bloemen, elk met een kleine buis, die het verbindt met de bloemclusterstelen en de nectar bevat. Sering bloemtrossen hebben een sterke geur en zijn over het algemeen ongeveer 15-20 cm lang. Volwassen Sering bladeren zijn hartvormig en ongeveer 10 cm lang, terwijl Liguster kleinere bladeren heeft, een kleinere gestalte in het algemeen en veel kleinere witte bloemtrossen.

Liguster wordt vaak wild gevonden en wordt geplant om een dichte haag te maken. Sering wordt soms buiten tuinen gevonden, maar wordt vooral gekweekt vanwege de ongelooflijke bloemen en de aantrekkelijke dikke stelen. Ik klauterde altijd rond en picknickte met slakken in onze oude Lila struik, als kind.

Syringa vulgaris

Ja, alle kleuren van Sering bloemen werken hiervoor. De geur is het belangrijkste eigenschap, een beetje kleur is een bonus. Het is het beste om de witte, lila of paarse bloemen te oogsten terwijl ze in topconditie zijn, maar zoals je kunt zien op de afbeeldingen hieronder, gingen sommige van de bloemen die ik vandaag heb geplukt gedeeltelijk over. Maakt niet uit – het is gemakkelijk om de beste onderdelen van de rest te scheiden.

Ik weet niet hoe het met jou zit, maar mijn materialen voor het maken van mede zijn momenteel niet steriel en mijn beperkte kastruimte in het appartement zit boordevol ingeblikt voedsel en gedroogde bonen. Dus terwijl de lila bloemen een week of twee in honing trekken, kan ik een kleine gistingsfles en waterslot vinden en steriliseren en ruimte maken om de fermenterende mede te bewaren. Ik woon in een appartement in Amsterdam, dus er is weinig ruimte en ik brouw in kleine hoeveelheden.

  1. Oogst voorzichtig en legaal 1 of 2 volle sering bloemhoofdjes. Met legaal bedoel ik, gebruik een schaar of snoeischaar en vraag toestemming. Neem maar een beetje. De drie koppen die ik vandaag heb geoogst waren van drie zeer grote sering struiken.
  2. Leg de bloemen, bij voorkeur op een lichtgekleurd oppervlak, tien minuten uit om eventuele insecten aan een plakkerige dood te laten ontsnappen. Scheid vervolgens alle dode of onbetrouwbaar ogende bloemen van de trossen.
De paarse bloemen ruiken nog steeds geweldig, maar sommige bloemen in de tros zijn voorbij hun beste

Kies elke kleine bloem uit de trosstelen. Zorg ervoor dat je de nectary niet op de stelen laat staan, die moet in de honing gaan. De nectary bevindt zich aan het begin van de bloembuis, net waar deze het groen raakt. Knabbelen en je proeft de zoetheid op dat punt van de tube.

De geur die vrijkomt tijdens deze verwerkingsfase is geweldig – als je van de geur van sering houdt.

Plaats de afzonderlijk geplukte bloemen in een schone glazen weckpot of jampot. Ik heb vandaag een pot van 2 liter gebruikt en je kunt zien dat er nog veel ruimte over is, wat handig zal zijn als ik over een week of zo water toevoeg.

5. Giet nu voorzichtig ongeveer 500 ml / 2 kopjes vloeibare honing (bij voorkeur lokale honing) over de kleine bloemen en zorg ervoor dat ze volledig bedekt zijn. Zachtjes maar grondig zachtjes om ze in de honing gedrenkt te krijgen. Je hebt zoveel mogelijk contact nodig tussen de honing en de bloemen.

6. Gebruik een schoon, slank, puntig voorwerp, zoals een stok of breinaald, om rond te prikken en eventuele opgesloten luchtbellen uit de mix te verwijderen.

De bloemen zullen naar de top van de honing stijgen als er luchtbellen ontsnappen. Dat is prima. Zorg er gewoon voor dat die bloemen in honing zwemmen en dat je controleert of alle luchtbellen zijn ontsnapt.

Bloemen stijgen op met de kleine luchtbelletjes
  1. Laat het mengsel intrekken zolang je het kunt verdragen om te wachten. Het basisproces duurt niet lang (een dag), maar naarmate je langer wacht met deze stap, krijg je een veel interessantere mede. Ik vind dat een paar weken voldoende is om een aangename complexiteit van smaak te ontwikkelen in de honinginfusie. Houd gedurende deze tijd, indien mogelijk, dagelijks de infuserende honing in de gaten. Controleer of de bloemen helemaal met honing doordrenkt zijn, vooral tijdens de eerste dagen, anders kun je bruin wordende bloemen vinden – een zeker teken dat zuurstof de bloemen bereikt en rotten mogelijk maakt. Sommige mensen houden ervan om de verzegelde pot een week lang elke dag ondersteboven te houden om het probleem te voorkomen. Ik ben er meer ontspannen over, maar ik zorg er dubbel voor dat er de eerste paar dagen geen lucht in het mengsel achterblijft en dat de bloemen doordrenkt zijn met honing.

NB: Als je alleen de geïnfuseerde honing wilt, zeef dan de bloemen van de honing op dit punt in het proces. Giet het mengsel door een kaasdoek / mousseline. Bewaar de doordrenkte honing in een schone pot en gebruik de gebruikte bloemen in desserts of voeg een theelepel toe per kopje gekookt water voor thee. Anders composteer je ze. Ik bewaar graag wat doordrenkte honing en gebruik de rest voor het volgende mede-recept.

Nu voor het gist!

  1. Voeg na voldoende infusietijd gekookt en vervolgens afgekoeld (tot kamertemperatuur) water toe aan de honingbloemeninfusie. Verschillende culturen staan bekend om het maken van mede van verschillende honing: waterverhoudingen. Hoe hoger de honingconcentratie, hoe hoger het uiteindelijke alcoholgehalte. Ik heb liever een milde mede

Voor deze voeg ik 3x het volume honing toe, in water. Omdat ik ongeveer 500 ml honing heb gebruikt, zal ik ongeveer 1500 ml water toevoegen. Dat zou de pot vullen, dus ik zal er waarschijnlijk iets minder aan toevoegen. Mogelijk hebt u op dit punt een grotere weckpot nodig. Ik hou van de 2-liter exemplaren, omdat ze een behoorlijke hoeveelheid brouwsel kunnen zetten zonder al te veel opslagruimte in beslag te nemen.

  1. Roer nu alles goed door en blaas lucht en natuurlijke gisten de jonge mede in. Gebruik hiervoor een schone lepel. Er zullen natuurlijke gisten zijn over je Sering bloemen, maar deze stap moedigt meer aan en het stimuleert een beter brouwsel.
  2. Bedek de pot met een doek, bijvoorbeeld een schone mousseline en houd deze op zijn plaats met een elastische band rond de rand van de container. Dek het deksel niet volledig af. Het idee is om te voorkomen dat vliegen binnendringen en gisten in de lucht bij het brouwsel te laten komen.
  1. Wacht een week of twee en houd het in de gaten voor microbiële actie. Schuimvorming is hier een goede zaak. Het geeft aan dat gisten in opkomst zijn en de geïnfuseerde honing beginnen te fermenteren, waarbij alcohol en kooldioxide worden geproduceerd. Roer het elke dag goed door, minstens één keer per dag om meer gisten in te rijden. Mede heeft gist nodig!

NB: Als de lokale moerasspirea rond deze tijd in bloei komt, voeg ik een bloemhoofdje van twee toe aan de mix. Moerasspirea bloemen zijn bedekt met lokale gisten en helpen echt bij het fermentatieproces.

Witte schuimende moerasspirea bloemen, van de kruiden van een vorige brouwsel

Gedroogde moerasspirea zal het doen, maar ik hoop dat je het ermee eens bent, het is veel minder Jeff Buckley dan ronddwalen naar een lokale beekrand en een sterk geurende bloei plukken die bekend is bij de druïden en sluwe mensen van weleer en bij sommigen nog steeds bekend om hun plaats in bruidsboeketten en midzomerkronen. Verder gaan…

  1. Ga door met stap 10 totdat u tevreden bent dat er een goede hoeveelheid actie in uw mengsel zit. Als je helemaal geen schuim hebt, bovenop de vloeistof, heb je niet veel gist en krijg je niet veel van een mede. Geef het dus meer tijd.
  2. Als er genoeg opwinding is in uw met stof bedekte weckpot, haalt u de bloemen eraf (en composteert u ze alstublieft). De vloeistof is je onvolgroeide mede. Behandel het vriendelijk. Het heeft nu een gistingsfles nodig met een luchtslot en dat moet een mooi geschrobde en steriele gistingsfles zijn.

Ik gebruik gistingsflessen met een inhoud van 2 liter van de Brouwnarkt.nl. Ze zijn geweldig voor mijn behoeften omdat ze klein genoeg zijn voor mijn appartement en het groen getinte glas voorkomt dat het meeste zonlicht binnenkomt en mijn gisting doodt. Hierdoor kan ik ze op hun beurt uit de kostbare kastruimte houden en op een plank waar ik ze kan volgen (ook bekend als ze elke keer als ik langskom en Lilac wijn voor mezelf zing).

  1. Pas de luchtslot aan zodra de onvolgroeide mede in de gistingsfles zit. Deze moeten meestal voor de helft met water worden gevuld. De rol van de luchtslot is om frisse lucht en insecten buiten de fermentatie te houden en tegelijkertijd bellen van CO2 te laten ontsnappen.
  2. Laat het zo zitten, zonder ermee te roeren of ermee te rommelen, tot het een heldere week niet meer borrelt. Dit kan een paar weken zijn, het kan een paar maanden zijn. Wees geduldig. Goede dingen komen aan degenen die wachten.
  3. Een lange periode van niet-borrelen geeft aan dat de fermentatie is gestopt. Dit kan echter tijdelijk zijn, bijvoorbeeld bij lage temperaturen. Pas dus op dat je niet te opgewonden raakt en te vroeg flesjes maakt, want je zult merken dat hogere temperaturen later in het jaar ervoor zorgen dat het proces opnieuw start. Als dat in uw afgedekte flessen gebeurt, krijgt u waarschijnlijk een puinhoop van lekkende mede en mogelijk enkele exploderende flessen.

Ik heb de neiging om de luchtslot op mijn voltooide mede maandenlang te laten staan. Zolang het luchtslot voor de helft gevuld is met water, kan er niet veel misgaan. Hierdoor kan de mede rijpen.

  1. Ten slotte wordt het afgewerkte deel in flessen gesifoneerd, zoals een sterke glazen Grolsch-fles met drukdop. Hiervoor bewaar ik een meter schone aquariumslang.
zijn ene smaakte erg goed – zelfs na 7 jaar wachten. Elke fles is een verrassing!
  1. Drink onmiddellijk of bewaar om de mede te laten rijpen.

Ik denk dat mede geweldige dingen zijn en ik hoop dat jij het ook leuk vindt. Laat me weten hoe je verder gaat met het recept als je het probeert. En als je van de lila tonen van meneer Buckley houdt, luister dan opnieuw. Misschien is er een lied dat Lilac mede heet? Laat het me weten!

Ik bied een kruidencursus voor diegenen die geïnteresseerd zijn in het gebruik van lokale kruiden en in harmonie met de natuur leven, terwijl ze in de stad zijn. Voor meer informatie, stuur een e-mail of bekijk de informatie hier. De cursus wordt online gehouden met wekelijkse zoombijeenkomsten, 1:1 wandelingen en workshops die opnieuw starten wanneer de corona situatie verbetert. De cursus is beschikbaar in het Nederlands en Engels.

Chalk and talk

Voor nederlands klik hier

Lately, a few friends and family have nudged me about this botanical street chalking that’s going on in Europe right now.

Ann from City Plot gave me a nudge last night which has proved the final straw –  it’s clearly time that we start to join in the fun!

Anyone in?

Here are a couple that we did today across town…

Green alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens)

Nothing like a name tag to help people realise what’s growing under their noses as they walk around the streets.

Smalle weegree (Plantago lanceolata) Ribwort

Many of us know the value of the plants which most people call weeds. We are passionate about people realising what can be done with plants growing around them and looking after the plants which naturally grow in forgotten spaces.

Grote weegree (Plantago major) Plantain

Mostly, we won’t want to harvest or forage from pavements but those urban herbs and veggies can be a source of free seed, cuttings, starter plants and teaching plants.

Lindenboom (Tilia sp.) Lime tree

Here’s a Greater celandine which I pulled from a pavement crack last week and now grows on my roof for a home remedy and teaching plant. The yellow sap inside has several uses.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) Stinkende gouw

It you’re not sure of the name of the plant, feel free to send me a clear photo by What’s app or email and I’ll send you the plant name. 06 275 969 30 urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com

I’d love to see your labelled plants too and will happily post some photos here, and on the Urban Herbology FaceBook page.

Rosemary beetle

I had a pavement garden put in by the city council, beneath our Amsterdam apartment, soon after we moved here 13 years ago. Such pavement gardens are narrow strips, right up against the buildings, were the pavers get lifted and removed, making the sand beneath available as a planting area for residents. You need to draw up a plan and get written permission from your neighbours, when you request a new one – It was quite exciting I can tell you. Well, my neighbours approved my idea and after the council workers set it up for me, I poured in a couple of bags of compost and planted it up with Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), Rue (Ruta graveolens)and Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia). Everything in there grew really well, even though the little plot faces full south, is under a bay window and gets little rain. It was a lovely, simple Mediterranean herb garden. The herbs were resplendent and many neighbours would snip off a little Rosemary through the growing season, to add to their cooking. That shrub was enormous and very healthy.

Then last year, things started to go rather pear-shaped in the geveltuin. The mature Rosemary had some damage. More than a little damage, in fact it looked decidedly nibbled all over. Only a few flowers pushed through and the plant looked increasingly bedraggled. We also noticed very pretty, metallic striped beetles on the Rosemary sometimes. Often, when we brushed against the shrub, some of them would shoot off and bounce off the pavings making a characteristic crackling sound. We didn’t realize back then but our Mediterranean herb garden was under attack by the Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana).

Rosemary beetles don’t feast alone! Photo credit: RHS

This week, enough was enough. The Rosemary looked barely alive and as neighbourhood Rosemary bushes were starting to really bush out with lush deep green new shoots, our looked downright grey. To make matters worse, the Purple Sage was almost gone, the Rue totally desiccated and the Lavender was a shadow of its former self. The beetles were more plentiful than before and my herb garden was no more.

Know your enemy
I read up on the Rosemary beetle and planned my counter attack; Hard pruning, taking a few insurance cuttings, enriching the soil and removing the thick blanket of dead leaves (which I was building up beneath the shrubs, out of laziness really). Finally a good drenching with water.

Part way through the pruning operation

Operation Revamp
As you can see in the video, I shook out the shrubs onto a bright blanket, placing tumbling beetles and larvae in a glass jar which became enormously interesting to local kids. We had about 30 bugs in there by the end. The leaf layer was totally cleared and I hard pruned all of the shrubs. The Rue had to go, sadly as I loved it and few people seem to grow it these days. However, I was delighted to find that it had spawned a few babies, growing between paving slabs so I hope they will make it in the newly prepared plot. My daughter and I scoured the geveltuin and surrounding area for more beetles and larvae before giving the remaining plants a really good watering and then enriching the soil slightly with a bucketful of spent compost (which I collect from my old rooftop pots). Later, I added a couple of lupin seedlings which I had on the roof, a few radish and beetroot seeds, some potted tulips from the kitchen balcony and some self-seeded Lemon balm, which was growing across the street in the gutter. A cheap and cheerful geveltuin makeover! The project took a few hours and I am satisfied with the result.

Rosemary beetle. Photo credit: Secret garden.

It took me a couple of years to give in to the fact that these pin-stripe armored beetles were beautifully munching through my herb garden and that I was providing them with perfect overwintering conditions. From now on, I intend to keep the plot more open and airy, more species rich and attractive to predatory and pollinating bugs and I will water the plants regularly, especially when they appear to be under pressure. I also plan to place a bird nesting box on the street tree across the pavement and will feed the plants with comfrey & nettle tea, when the mood strikes me.

In the hope that I can help others to spot Rosemary beetle and deal with it more quickly, I made a short video, which you can see here. My daughter and I had fun editing this one so we hope that you find it useful.

Squish or Release?
So what happened to the collected beetles and larvae in the glass jar? Well, I did squish one on the pavement in frustration, the day before the clean up operation and I felt really bad about it. Killing them didn’t feel right at all and I knew well that these bugs were here for a while and I had allowed them to get out of control. I needed to help nature to restore beetle balance. After a chat with a gardening friend, I decided that the best solution was release these little beasts into a more bio-diverse area, away from aromatic herbs and where natural predators could feast on them or they had a chance to escape and live among other species of insects. This morning, we took them to a grassy area, close to water and let them go.

Have you got a beetle problem? If so, how are you dealing with it? What would you have done with the captured beetles? Do you have other herby-pesty problems and can you think of better ways for people to keep their herbs healthy? Do let me know as I would love to hear!

Jelly ears – Wood ears

I’m back at work in school now so not too much time to write posts but I just have to share these images with you. I took an ex-student into the woods for a walk and chat last week and we found these amazing Jelly ear or Wood ear fungi on a mossy old Elder tree. The scientific name for these ear shaped beauties is Auricularia auricula-judae.

Photo credit: Tony Alvarez

Some were enormous!

Photo credit: Tony Alvarez

Jelly ears are one of just a few fungi that I get excited about when out foraging because they are so straightforward to identify and I love to pick, cook and eat them!

I harvested a couple whilst out on that walk and went back for more with my daughter, a few days later. We found them on the mossy Elder but also on older dead trees which now have no bark so I couldn’t identify those tree species (but they are certainly not Elder).

I harvested a small paper bag full, dried most in my oven on a very low heat and cooked up the rest in a curry.

I’ll rehydrate these in a cup of water for 15 minutes or so, when I’m ready to slice and cook them.

Velvety to the touch. Unmistakably gelatinous Jelly ears.

Jelly ears don’t have a strong flavour and they smell of the mossy woods which they come from. They have this particular crackle-crunch when cooked and munched and I really like them. They are not crunchy or crackly when fresh however. When on the tree, they are totally gelatinous, unmistakably ear shaped, have a velvety upper texture, a another under texture and are pure jelly in the middle. They can be pulled carefully off the wood rather like a bit of turkish delight. I like everything about them!

A mature Elder

Jelly ears are mostly associated with rotting parts of Elder trees (Sambucus nigra) but are also known to grow on other tree species.

I’d love to know your thoughts about these ears of the woods. Have you tried them? Do you like them? How do you like to cook them? Let me know your thoughts.

Herbs for Amsterdam Homeless

Click to hear the narration of this blog post

In October 2019, I took three teenage boys and another senior teacher from my school (The British School of Amsterdam) to Cooking in Another Kitchen (Koken in een andere keuken) at De Stoelen Project, in Amsterdam Oud West. This involved cooking for 55 people at what is said to be the best (most effective and sought after) homeless shelter in Amsterdam. Each week, through the open season, homeless people queue up outside of the shelter on a set day, to request tickets to enable them to stay a few nights at the shelter. A night at De Stoelen Project comes with a cooked meal, a safe place indoors to sleep and washroom facilities. The people who receive tickets are only allowed a few days per month at the shelter, to allow for a rotation of visitors. The tickets are in great demand each week.

I heard about De Stoelen Project several years ago when Henny Heijmans, the project leader, came to speak at my River of Herbs evening at Pakhuis de Zwijger. I am sorry to say it took this long to actually book a date and volunteer there but, having been there once I intend to return often and with gifts. 

Photo credit: De Regenboog

The Schedule
The day made a big impression on us all. It began by our small group traveling to the project from school. The Stoelen Project is located under the multi-story car park on Marnixstraat. We checked out the kitchen facilities and our shopping list with our Stoelen Project coordinator, Mark, and then headed off to an Albert Heijn supermarket. They kindly donated all of the pasta for our menu. Then off to the Yakhlaf supermarket on Vlugtlaan, which kindly gave us an incredible price on everything else for the meal. We were advised by the project to budget about €200 to be able to feed 55 people. I think we spent approximately €70, thanks to the generosity of Albert Heijn Museumplein and Yakhlaf Supermarket. 

After shopping, we returned to the Stoelen Project and set to work; cleaning veg, chopping and cooking the food. The project does provide menu ideas and clear guidance on the quantities of ingredients that volunteers will need but the boys in our group had pre-planned the following menu:

Pasta pesto
Baked apples with cinnamon

They did a great job and created a really tasty and nutritious meal.

The day was packed, purposeful and a lot of fun. We were able to serve our meal to the “visitors” as we got all of our washing up done pretty quickly and the cooking was well-timed. Serving up in the dining hall (which doubles as the night shelter) was probably the most impressionable part of the day. The visitors who came to the shelter that evening to eat were of all ages and backgrounds. The atmosphere was extremely calm and I certainly felt very humbled by both the regular volunteers’ commitment and the genuine need of the visitors for a place of sanctuary.

We learned from one of the regular volunteers, Eva, how close many Amsterdammers are to being homeless. In some cases, all it took to become homeless was a family breakup or an unexpected redundancy. So many of us are just a few missed paycheques away from homelessness.  

Photo credit: De Regenboog

It is still difficult for me to write about this as I clearly remember feeling so ridiculously lucky to be taking a warm tram home that night; Traveling to a safe home, in a safe neighborhood. Knowing that I could change out of my clothes without fear of harassment. Knowing I would stay warm that night, and the next night. Knowing what time I would wake up tomorrow and where I would be heading after breakfast. Knowing I had clean clothes to put on. Knowing I could shower. Knowing I would eat well. Knowing that the law is basically on my side, I have rights and am fundamentally safe and loved.

My daily concerns are minuscule compared to those of the visitors at De Stoelen Project.

The Homeless Issue
No one knows exactly how many people are homeless in Amsterdam. Apparently, there are enough beds for each homeless person here to be off the streets at night, so they have a dry place to sleep. But those beds are not available year-round and there are not enough. Drunkenness, theft, drug use, screaming, agitation and sexual abuse are common reasons for homeless people choosing not to visit the shelters. This is a complex and uncomfortable issue for society.

Close to home
One of my great-uncles was homeless in the UK. I remember meeting him once when I was young – such a loved, respected and intelligent man. I don’t know why he stepped out of regular society and lived as a man of the road. Perhaps he had some mental health issues, as do many homeless people. I doubt that I will ever know why his life took that turn but I am sure it was not a simple decision. When I was about 8 years old, he came to our home in Bristol out of the blue one day to see my mum, his niece, and her young family. It is a long time ago but I clearly remember how we wanted to shower him with love, shelter, food and anything he needed but he didn’t want it. Or he just couldn’t face it. For whatever reason, he needed to go and so he went. I never saw him again.

We all know that times have changed and so have some of the reasons for increased homelessness but every homeless person has a family somewhere and reasons which prevent them to returning home. 

Spread the word
In January, my volunteering group is going to give an assembly at school about our day at the project. We want to share something of the experience with the other kids and teachers at school but mainly we want to raise funds and offer some practical assistance to De Stoelen Project. We asked the volunteers and leader what they most needed from us. Yes they can always use financial contributions but we were surprised to learn that they would really appreciate the following items:  

The Project Needs:
Brand new men’s underwear
Brand new men’s socks  
New toothbrushes

Photo credit: https://www.lighthousesaskatoon.org/

No Beans, Please!
We asked about the foods that other groups choose to cook up when they take a turn at catering for the 55 ever-changing visitors. Apparently, most groups try to keep things cheap and nutritious but this generally means beans on the menu. Now beans and rice, or chili and rice sounds rather good to me but as Eva explained, beans are so effective at getting the gut moving, that the visitors need to stay near to a WC for the day following the meal. This is a big problem for homeless people. I certainly have not seen many homeless people lining up for a public loo and I can’t imagine them getting into the loos in shops and restaurants. So, the advice of Eva and Mark was to keep meals bean-free, please! Keep it simple, tasty and nutritious. 

Fresh basil on Japanese knotweed pudding

Grow and Donate Fresh Herbs
I asked if they would like fresh herbs and the unequivocal response was, Yes, please! So here is the second part of my appeal.  Come spring 2020, I would love for Urban Herbology readers, walkers and apprentices to consider gifting not only new undies and toothcare to De Stoelen Project but also to grow simple, well-known herbs in pots for the project. I want us to supply them with fresh herb pots every week – Basil, Parsley, Mint and other familiar, easy to use culinary herbs. The herbs need to be familiar because the teams who run the kitchen each day are not necessarily skilled cooks or herbologists! And, really unusual tastes are going to make the food taste odd to the visitors, so they may not feel able to eat it. Simple herbs which the volunteers can throw into the mix will boost available nutrients for the visitors, liven up the meals and add extra love to each plate. What a gift that would be. If we get loads of donated herb pots, there could even be one per table in the dining room, for the visitors to pluck from and add to their own food. 

Homegrown Mint

Book a date
Here is the agenda link for Keuken in een Anderen Keuken. Book a date. You need a small group of friends or colleagues. (The website has English pages too). The kitchen is great. It is new, has industrial-sized pans and apparatus and accommodates 3-4 cooks. You also need about €200 to buy your menu. I suggest you raise that money, get a good deal on the ingredients and donate the rest of the money to the project. The Stoelen Project has salt, pepper, some dried herbs and so on, in the kitchen. You can check specifics and leftovers from previous groups (such as cinnamon which we needed) when you arrive – before shopping. 

Please share
If you like this idea and want to get involved, please share this post with your network and keep in contact through the comment box below. If there is plenty of interest and support we could be delivering fresh herb plants and the other items regularly. 

Let’s try to stock De Stoelen Project (and homeless shelters everywhere) with as many fresh herbs, clean socks, underwear and personal care items as they can handle!

If you book a date at Cooking in Another Kitchen, I would also love to hear about it! 

Wishing You All A Cool Yule And A Happy, Healthy New Year!

Update 26/12/19: Thanks for the positive feedback since I published this post yesterday. One person that I heard from, tells me that De Stoelen Project also desperately need extra volunteers to sleep over at the project. The commitment is apparently two nights a month through the season that it is open. For details, please contact De Stoelen Project directly.