Tag Archives: Amsterdam

7 Day Challenge

Push Your Boundaries
Voluntary hardship is an enriching thing. It takes us to new places and teaches us much about ourselves. I challenge you to make your life a tiny bit harder for just one week, for the benefit of your health, your knowledge, your self-reliance and our community. And that community is the planet.

Harvesting just a fraction of your food outside of the supermarket is easy to do in most towns and cities but most of us don’t do it. You could probably find and support a local farm which sells great organic veg, without too much time or trouble. You could probably find an independent grocery store selling local produce. You could probably find someone who wants to garden share and grow some of your own veg. If you do any of these, great! But let’s take it a step further.

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Unsprayed pansies taste great!

Awareness
I want you to become:
Aware of what grows around you.
Aware of how clean your neighbourhood is, or could be.
Aware of how edible plants could be the backbone of urban planning.
Aware of how to (at least partially) feed yourself for free.

 

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Mugwort flowers and plantain seeds cook well, mixed in with rice (Photo credit: Apartment therapy)

Which Plants?
Think about adding a little something hyper-local, free and special to your breakfast smoothie. Or weave a free and local food into your lunchbox, to dazzle your colleagues at work. I want you to go out, forage something safe and tasty, clean it – and eat it – every day for a week. That’s not asking for much is it? I suggest plants that you can easily ID, maybe stinging nettle, dandelion and bramble buds. Check it’s the real thing (send me photos to check if you like) and then get sensitively plucking.

Identification Help
Need some help with plant ID? Ask me for help via the contact form or why not start with my Dandelion Plant Profile? Send me a quick message (bottom of page) and I’ll send you the Dandelion Profile as a pdf, along with a hello and some encouragement of course! The profile is from my online Urban Herbology Apprenticeship, a course for people who really want to embrace the urban wild. I am taking on a handful of local apprentices this season but the online part of the course is available year round, wherever you live.

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Magnolia flowers

Thinking Food
I suggest that you think of a plant that you purchase and consume very often. Something that’s always on your list and which has probably been grown under greenhouse lights or shipped across at least one continent to reach you. For me, this would be spinach. It’s easy, it’s bland, it’s cheap enough and I buy a big plastic bagful each week. I keep it in the freezer and I throw a handful into my smoothie almost every single day. I barely think about it. Where has it come from? Is it sprayed? What nourishment does it really provide?

Alternatives
So how to replace the spinach? My first thoughts are of stinging nettle tops, full of goodness and growing in most neglected street corners. Dandelion leaves, with there nutrient rich bitter tang, grow close to my local bus stop. Chickweed. That tastes great and grows as a weed, in some pots on my roof. Those three are all low growing plants. Not the best in dirty locations, fine if you have some clean patches to forage from.

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No dog spray on these leaves! Photo credit: Apartment therapy

Aim High
If you want to play it safer and forage above dog pee height, I suggest looking for Bramble patches and reaching high for some of the new leaf buds. Or Magnolia petals, currently ready to burst open here in Amsterdam. Just one petal will do the trick, there’s no need to take more. Or how about Hawthorn leaf buds? They are easy to spot for some, not for others. Aim for plants which are easy to identify, safe and clean. Always wash your plants at home and remember that birds spray higher than dogs..

Hawthorn Crataegus monogynum
Hawthorn in flower

Build Knowledge
Look up your foraged plants and build up what you understand about them. If you are not confident or experienced enough to eat these plants, at least learn about them. What are the look-a-likes? Are they used as medicines? What nutrients are they thought to contain? How do different cultures eat or utilise this plant?

Keep It Clean
“Hang on a minute Lynn, I’m not eating plants from a dirty patch of land in the middle of my town, just because it’s growing there!”

If these are your thoughts then great! Come on in and join the challenge! You have even more to gain from learning about your immediate environment and how we should improve it. We should be living in spaces that are clean enough to eat from. If we are not, something needs to change.

Whatever the situation around your home, there will be ways to edible-ise it. Maybe you request seagull proof flaps, on local street bins to stop the litter being thrown out by birds each morning? Maybe you could encourage some changes at work or school, in where the canteen sources it’s ingredients from? Maybe you could ask the owner of that vacant lot, if you and some friends could grow veg there for a season?

Improvement in urban conditions doesn’t usually happen spontaneously – We need to make it happen.

Nettle and Sweet Woodruff
Stinging nettles and Cleavers

Voluntary Hardship
At least for 7 days*, let’s take away the convenience of being able to add a handful of supermarket spinach leaves to the morning smoothie and let’s think of some alternatives. Let’s go a little further for our green leafy friends. Let’s not get sick: Pluck safely, cleanly and wisely. Don’t pluck if you are unsure – But let’s learn!

Urban Herbology’s 7 Day Challenge is an opportunity to re-calibrate how we think about food. Are you in? If so scroll down, complete the contact form and I’ll send you a couple of messages to see how you get along (I don’t spam people). Or simply keep in touch with the post comments.

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A tasty bramble bud

Take action
Right now, think of a food which you can switch for urban wild edibles.
Tell me in the comments below, or via the contact form, what you plan to do.
Ask me for the Dandelion Profile sheet and learn more about these plants.

Stay in touch and send me any images of your foraged finds and meals. It’s just 7 days!

It’s only 7 days* – You can do this!
Together, we can make urban living cleaner, safer and more tasty!

*Needless to say (but I will), I hope you will enjoy this challenge immensely and will make ethical urban foraging a habit ūüôā

 

Foraging Wild Garlic

Three beautiful blades of Wild garlic / Ramsons / Daslook (Allium ursinum), plucked from the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael today. I made some pungent daslook sauce from these, by blending them with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar.

And here are a couple of year old wild garlic bulbs which I removed from the orchard path. The reason for this is discussed in the podcast. Have a listen and let me know your uses for the plant and if you have had any success growing it. The paths are edged with fallen branches. In this photo you can see how the plant spreads into the paths.

I only forage wild garlic when there are huge swathes of it and the leaves are a few inches long.

I’m off to make some dinner using a little of that sauce now. Perhaps you would like to listen to my latest podcast, about ethically foraging Wild Garlic and how to use it.

Green spirit

Gardening is good for you. Whether inside or out, spring, summer, autumn or winter, it is not difficult to see why. Being in contact with earth, plants, air and water feeds the soul, tones muscles, lifts spirits and aligns us acutely with the cycles of nature. As research about biophilia, horticultural therapy, woodland bathing and related topics mounts, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the importance of gardening in the city.

Some of my earliest memories are of gardens Рgrowing lupins and marrows, following snail families, the smell of radishes, cut grass and just pulled potatoes, cress heads, apples, maggots and bee stings, blackberries, sweet blackberries, weeding, muddy nails, stone scratched skin, daisies and rose petal perfume. I think that I have been a gardener since birth. And I think that you have too.

People speak about gardeners having green fingers (or thumbs), about knowing what to do with plants, about experience, having a feel for it and so on. Experience amongst gardeners is most certainly wide ranging but I am sure that we all have green spirit within us and that spending time in nature helps it to grow. I love to see that spirit grow within those around me. It can manifest as a quiet self confidence, improved physical coordination, lightness of touch, imagination, appreciation of others, interest in life, a desire to learn more and a need to be to nature – often. When green spirit reaches the level needed, I see people literally blossom. It radiates from them, they appear bigger, bolder and more connected to nature. It then touches those around them and invariably causing the creation of more beautiful green places and a deeper respect for nature. Green spirit is a wonderful thing!

Bench crafted by Bobby van Vliet

Due to my somewhat selfish desire to fill the world with green spirit, I began a project in 2012 called River of Herbs. The aim was to help more people, plants and wildlife to flourish in the city. Over the years, I have run free courses for individuals, schools and groups, in the name of the project and I have trained and built up experience in Horticultural therapy. The aspect of the project which I have loved most is the herbal orchards of Park Frankendael. I adopted them from the city council in 2014; four fertile patches of land, occasionally mowed, care homes for old fruit trees, shady retreat for dog owners. They are behind the grand old Huize Frankendael. Beneath the trees were about 20 sorts of wild plants, some edible, some not, all ‘weeds’. The aim was to create a garden base for River of Herbs, to teach people about wild herbs – how to grow them and use them. From the start the orchards have been blessed by incredible volunteers. Some come and go. Some come, connect and stay for a long time.

All of the volunteers amaze me. ¬†We have welcomed research students, chefs, job seekers, couch surfers, retired people, dog owners, cat lovers, busy people, tourists, translators, writers, ¬†teachers, ¬†herb people, psychic people, IT people, number people, tired-out people, life/law/loved – struggling people, new people, local people, energetic people, artists, actors, ¬†jewelers, designers, whirlwind people, tranquil people, mature people, young people… so many people have volunteered and made their mark on the orchards. Together, we have laid paths, grown herbs and good friendships.

Japanese wineberry taste so good!
Japanese wineberry taste so good!

Lots more edible and medicinal herbs have been added to the orchard ‘borders’. Saffron, Sweet cicely, Japanese wineberry, Valerian, Motherwort and Sweet violets are probably my favourites. ¬†We have planted cherry trees, made Elder cuttings, nurtured seedlings and re-homed poisonous plants. We have built benches, a willow hut, a barefoot path, stung our arms and legs on nettles more times than I like to remember and drunk a lot of herb tea. ¬†We have worked together in the green, we have made a community garden and green spirit radiates from each of the volunteers. And how many of these volunteers arrived calling themselves a gardener? ¬†None. Well actually one, ¬†a wonderful chap who helped us to lay woodchip paths in 2014. But that’s not many is it?

Volunteers River of Herbs orchards July 2017
Volunteers River of Herbs orchards July 2017

The measure of a good gardener is not how well they clean their tools, how long their runner beans grow or how weed-free their flower borders are. To me, the measure of a good gardener is how far green spirit radiates from their being and strives to improve the world.


 

River of Herbs orchards are open to the public 24/7 all year round. 

We generally meet there every Wednesday morning, 10.30 – 12.00 unless the weather is stormy.

Address – Behind Huize Frankendael (Middenweg 72, 1098 BS Amsterdam).

Email Рriverofherbs@gmail.com or urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com 


 

 

Let’s Grow Elder Babies!

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is arguably the most useful herb that grows wild in Western Europe. It is used for many remedies, is steeped in folklore and history and on top of that the flowers taste great and the berries are delicious when cooked! It is a native hedgerow shrub here in Amsterdam, some areas have lots whilst others have none. I’d like to help increase their distribution in Amsterdam, with your help.

I’m organising this through my Meetup Group as several of the group members are interested in getting involved. The “meetup” will involve taking small cuttings from existing strong bushes and planting them in pots of soil to take home and keep an eye on for two years! (If you move I’ll adopt them). After that time and with a bit of luck, the Elder babies will be viable for planting out in local hedgerows. A while later there should be a nice increase in Elder.

No gardening experience required, just a bit of enthusiasm and community spirit!

I really hope that at some of my blog followers will also like the idea of getting involved. I see foraging as a journey in conservation, take little, be compassionate and give something back to the Earth in thanks. Many foragers or wild crafters of herbs do give little gifts to the soil as they harvest, like a pinch of tobacco, herb tea, even blood, but if I were an Elder I think I’d prefer some friends!

I’ll set a date nearer the time and of course it can be repeated throughout July to October.

If you would like to join us then either join the Meetup group and RSVP to the event or just email me directly. Lynn.Shore@gmail.com

Sunday 15th July 2012 – Urban Herbology Walk – Park Frankendael


Maybe it will be hot, maybe not but whatever the weather there will be lots of herbs around in Amsterdam, on July 15th. To help more people appreciate some of the edible, medicinal and interesting herbs, growing within the city, I’m offering another Urban Herbology Walk, on Sunday 15th July 2012, from the main gates of Frankendael Park.

The walk will start at 11am and every one interested in finding out about wild herbs, which can be found in central Amsterdam, is welcome to subscribe.

My previous walks have been great fun to organise and very well received.  We will take a relaxed look at the bounty of summer herbs to be found in and around the park. The walk will last about 90 minutes and will probably end at the lovely cafe/restaurant Merkelbach, situated just inside the main entrance of the park.

Cost per participant will be ‚ā¨8. Maximum 12 places. Previous walks have been oversubscribed so if you wish to join me you must contact me beforehand. Please email Lynn.Shore@gmail.com or call me on 0627 596930.

During the walk you will…
Receive a useful handout, to refer to after the walk
Learn how to find and identify some safe, useful, local herbs,
Learn how to harvest with respect for the environment,
Learn how to use herbs safely in several different ways,
Receive some tasty Urban Herbal recipes.

And of course you will get the chance to meet other folk who like to know a little more about what’s growing beneath and above them!¬† If it sounds interesting to you then please contact me.

I really hope to meet you on 15th July!

Foraging in De Baarsjes

My thanks to Olia, Robin and Elodie, for inviting me over for a lunchtime forage, in a beautiful wild patch of De Baarsjes! We found lots of super edibles including Mugwort, Garlic Mustard, Plantain, Elderflower, Lime, Hops, Rosebay Willowherb, Wild Strawberry, Cinquefoil, Cats tail, Ground Elder and more.

We brewed up a flask of Elderflower tea as we walked and shared it, as we munched on homemade bread and just plucked herbs, here close to Metro 50 station de Vlugtlaan.

Olia & Robin joined my last herb walk from Amstel Station and they are based at a fantastic creative centre called Novel. Also Elodie, my friend and frequent foraging buddy.

What a great lunch!

Flevopark Strawberries

Last weekend we visited the children’s farm on the edge of Flevopark. There is a lot of planting going on there and they are using some great Permaculture style ways to increase productivity and reduce consumption. Here are two which really caught my eye..

A Strawberry planter, much better than the conventional ceramic pots which dry out in no time and cost a small fortune. I think it looks stunning.
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A runner bean frame which has an old bicycle wheel at the top.
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The kinderboerderij is a very special place. Here’s a nice mix of some sort of brassica, poppy and other herbs, growing in the controlled wild of the area. They just looked so pretty…

8th June 2012 Urbanherbology Walk – Park Frankendael


There is a lot of interest in wild plants at the moment. Perhaps because there is so much green around us, here in the city. To help more people appreciate some of the edible, medicinal and interesting herbs, growing within the city, I’m offering another Urban Herbology Walk, on Friday 8th May 2012, from the main gates of Frankendael Park.

The walk will start at 11am and every one interested in finding out about wild herbs, which can be found in central Amsterdam, is welcome to subscribe.

My previous walks have been great fun to organise and very well received.  We will take a relaxed look at the bounty of midsummer herbs to be found in and around the park. The walk will last about 90 minutes and will probably end at the lovely cafe/restaurant Merkelbach, situated just inside the main entrance of the park.

Cost per participant will be ‚ā¨8. Maximum 10 places. Previous walks have been oversubscribed, it is essential that those wishing to join me book ahead. Please email Lynn.Shore@gmail.com or call me on 0627 596930.

During the walk you will…
Receive a useful handout, to refer to after the walk
Learn how to find and identify some safe, useful, local herbs,
Learn how to harvest with respect for the environment,
Learn how to use herbs safely in several different ways,
Receive some tasty Urban Herbal recipes.

And of course you will get the chance to meet other folk who like to know a little more about what’s growing beneath and above them!¬† If it sounds interesting to you then please contact me.

Herb by Herb – Part 2 – Ribwort

Once a month a chance to learn in detail about a different common urban herb from either Jennie (who I run the meetup group with) or me, Lynn.

Part two is about Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata). An amazingly simple looking plant, found right under your feet, with a multitude of uses. It’s a great herb to cut your teeth on, regarding how to make an infusion, poultice, infused oil and ointment. I will take this session in Park Frankendael near the New Moon in July 2012. 12.00 – 13.30.

In this short and sweet field workshop, you will make all of those things and learn about the properties, habitat, folk and medicinal history and up to date uses of the plant. You will take home a bag full of little herbal preparations and knowledge of how to do it time and time again with everyday materials.

We will try to run each monthly Herb by Herb workshop near the New Moon and the days of the week will vary. You are welcome to attend all, some or none of the series! Most materials will be provided. You’ll need to bring along a small pair of scissors, perhaps a flask of hot water and 2 small and clean glass jars (such as 90ml pesto jars).
Cost of the workshop is ‚ā¨10.

Please contact me by email (lynn.shore@gmail.com) or through the meetup group if you are interested in joining this workshop.

365 Frankendael day 29

Hop (Humulus lupulus – what a latin name!) is entwined about a meter up last year’s dead stems today and looks far healthier and more vigorous than any cultivated Hop plant I have seen. I am really looking forward to seeing whether or not its flowers are as impressive.

Mugwort is growing beautifully on wasteland near a Frankendael bus stop. It is helpfully showing the silver underside of a few leaves in the breeze.

This member of the Hawthorn species reminds us clearly that Hawthorns are members of the Rose family.

Valerian officinale is almost ready to flower in wetter areas of the park.


And Agrimony plants are making themselves more obvious is some drier sunny areas.

Also today, towering Pink Purslane (Montia sibirica) is in flower. It looks similar in structure to Winter purslane (Montia perfoliata, which is low growing and currently growing like crazy along the Centuurbaan fence of Sarphatipark. Often called Miner’s Lettuce it tastes great!) However, Pink Purslane is said to have a nasty acrid aftertaste and should be avoided by foragers. It’s such a beautiful flower at this time of year that it’s good to know it tastes bad!