I caught the bus to work this morning and was able to check out my usual Fat Hen (Lamb’s Quarters, Chenopodium album) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) collection spot. Here it is, a few days post council mowing. Fortunately there are lots of intact Mugwort plants in adjacent unmowed areas but the Fat Hen is no more. I’ll keep my eyes open for another patch of them as I really enjoy their flavour.
Here is poisonous White Bryony (Bryonia alba), flowering faintly as it grows over a hearty looking Bramble. I didn’t have much time for photos today so thought I’d look up the uses of White Bryony in one of my favorite old herbals – Mrs M. Grieve’s Modern Herbal. The link above is from a useful online version of that book. It was used historically as a purgative for people, cattle and horses. It is a powerful irritant and cathartic, i.e. it makes people throw up very violently and is not a plant to be dabbled with. I love the reference in the book to scoundrels of old, digging up the roots and placing them in moulds to allow them to grow into imitation Mandrake roots. If only their modern day counterparts had that much skill with plants! I really like the look of this plant and if I didn’t have a child or cat in my home I’d probably harvest some and use it in some way, but certainly not internally. All parts of the plant are poisonous.
Today is the Summer Solstice, Midsummer’s Day and I am having a lovely time! Myself, Livvy, Isobel, Esther, Isobel and the two babies, harvested leaves and flowers from some of the Lime trees (Tilia sp.) Which form the main avenue in Frankendael Park. It was so pleasant to share the Midsummer harvest with other like minded people. We cleaned the honeydew from the leaves, in a bowl of fresh water, made tea in flasks of boiled water and sandwiches from the harvest and some Lime honey.
I’ll be doing this again on Sunday in a different location, but I think there is nothing quite like the burgeoning green energy of Midsummer’s Day. The plants seem to be about to pop with the amount of goodness within them and some of them have certainly sprung suddenly into flower today.
I found lots of Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) just in flower, today and harvested some for a tincture. Likewise, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is in perfect form for tincturing. These and Lime are the three summer herbs which I love the most so I spent time with them today.
I was also pleased to see that some of the Mullein plants in the park have quietly started to flower and patches of Feverfew close to Frankendael park are also standing out. The Plantain (Plantago major) leaves are currently enormous and I will be tincturing some of them and their flowers in the days to come along with Lime tree leaves and flowers.
If you tend to see Midsummer as the end of the lightness and you morn its passing, perhaps try and see it in a different way. More as a time to thank the Sun and light for all the transformation it has provided and welcome in the gradually approaching darkness. The darkness can teach us much about ourselves, it gives a chance to reflect inwardly on what has happened in the preceding time and encourages us to appreciate the light, when it returns.
Very early this morning I was out tasting dew that had collected in this Teasel’s “water cup”, the part of the leaf that joins the stem. There had been a heavy morning mist over most of Amsterdam but by the time I got to the park it had been burned through by the midsummer Sun. This Teasel (Dipsacus sp.) had quite a lot of water stored in it’s “cups” or “traps” this morning. There are different ideas about why the plants are adapted in this way. Some think that the cup shaped leaf joints serve the purpose of trapping insects, perhaps to prevent them climbing the plant, perhaps which the Teasel then somehow digests and absorbs. The trap/cup which I chose was high up, fresh and insect free. The water within it tasted delicious and set me up for the rest of my cycle. Teasel is increasingly valued as a useful herb to help counter the effects of Lyme’s disease.
Next is the beautiful, if unextravegant, flower head of a small Mugwort plant (Artemisia vulgaris). This plant really is my Midsummer favourite. So many uses, so common, so inconspicuous to most, so tasty and so much interesting associated folklore. This plant grows as a welcome weed, beside a park planted tree. Just notice the moon-like silvery grey undersides of the leaves. A beautiful contrast to the dark green upper sides.
Lastly today is Brassica oleracea, Wild Cabbage. Yes, it tastes of cabbage! No need to harvest the whole plant though, this one is good as a cut and come again plant – cutt a leaf off now and again throughout it’s season. Very tasty and convenient!
Here’s a basic outline of how to make the Mugwort Teabread from the late Maida Silverman’s book, “A City Herbal. Lore, Ledgend, & Uses of Common Weeds.” The book is available from the publishers; Ash Tree Publishing, Woodstock, NY. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in city foraging and herbs.
I posted Information about adding Mugwort to my usual bread recipe previously but I made this Teabread for the Mugwort Workshop today and some of the participants wanted the recipe. I have slightly changed the ingredients to match what I used today and am not reproducing the recipe exactly. To see it in full, have a look at the book from a library or perhaps purchase a copy, it is full of lovely and tasty ideas.
2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Mugwort leaves
1/2 cup grated firm cheese (I used goat cheese)
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread evenly in a small or medium, greased bread tin.
Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes, until an inserted sharp knife comes out clean.
Turn out onto a rack and eat warm or cold.
This recipe is extremely easy and I like to make it regularly when Mugwort is plentiful. You could easily adapt the recipe to miss out the egg and or cheese, should you want to.
Today was the first Urban Herbology Herb-by-Herb workshop, introducing Mugwort to a small group and helping them to experiment with making tinctures, infused oils and other herbal preparations. So my photo for today is simply of the remains of our Mugwort (and Wormwood) harvest!
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) which is dark green on the top leaf sides and silver grey beneath, is very closely related to Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) (silver-grey all over). Mugwort is a very common scrubland herb and Wormwood is currently quite rare, here in the Netherlands at least. The Wormwood we harvested today comes from my front pavement garden and the Mugwort comes from behind my local bus stop, alongside Frankendael Park.
Both are edible but both who should not be consumed in quantity. At this time of year, the active chemicals within the plant are at their most potent so only small amounts are advisable for consumption but both do give a wonderful and unique savory flavour to cooking. Mugwort is considered a powerful dream herb but as the workshop discussed today, this is most likely due to the fact that it is a slight irritant. It is thought to simply keep the Mugwort “consumer” in a slightly lighter sleep state than normal and so they are more likely to remember their more vivid dreams. Whatever the reason, I really like both of these herbs and use them for various applications throughout the year. I’ll post the Mugwort Tea bread recipe, as requested, seperately in a moment.
Thank you again to the lovely people who joined me for the Mugwort workshop today!
Today a few photos of beautiful flowers from useful plants and a tasty Fat Hen plant.
Firstly a front on photo of Soapwort, Bouncing Bet or Saponaria officinalis She is just coming into bloom at the moment and isn’t ready useful to many people these days but is still made into one of the most delicate cleansing natural soaps for heirloom lace and woolen articles.
Next, above, those delicate and delicious purple flowers of Geranium.
Here above is a familiar Poppy flower. The seeds of this annual plant are so precious to it that it’s not acceptable to harvest them in places such as this, where they stand out due to their scarcity. But, if you find dense swathes of them growing and can positively the plant without doubt, it may be worth considering sprinkling a few onto a home made loaf of bread.
Here’s the Fat hen plant which I harvested a few leaves from today.
I also picked a 5 cm top of a Mugwort stem, ready to make some savoury bread to share at the Herb by Herb Mugwort Workshop. I’m really looking forward to working with this plant tomorrow morning. Whatever the weather, at midsummer there is also plenty that can be learned from Artemisia vulgaris, the plant that shimmers like the Moon and nourishes our bodies and spirits.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is one of my favourite herbs, particularly at this time of year. It grows as a tall, bushy, common weed in cities. It is easy to identify by appearance and scent and I love to add it to cooking, several remedies and household herbal products. After one of my recent Herb Walks, two of the group reported back that they had incorporated some Mugwort into homemade bread. Today I had a go at the same, adding a good heaped tablespoon of fresh, chopped Mugwort leaves to my usual bread recipe. I think it tastes very nice and I’ll use it this way again. Mugwort bread is not as dramatic tasting as using Mugwort as a vegetable but it is pleasantly savory and quite aromatic. It also seems to add to the moistness of the bread. Very agreeable. I have just enjoyed a few slices, loaded up with peanut butter, not a bad combination!
I’ll add my bread recipe another time but there are plenty to find online and in cookbooks. I make mine with half Speltflour and half Wheatflour, 4 cups in all, plus 1 teaspoon dried yeast, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 3/4 cups water. Simply add the chopped herb at the start of the dough making process.
Mugwort used to be a popular culinary herb but has fallen out of fashion. The herb is bitter and aromatic and can be substituted for similar, more familiar herbs such as Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) and Sage (Salvia officinalis). As with all familiar culinary herbs, it should be used in small quantities and introduced gradually into the diet, keeping an eye out for personal reactions. You should also be aware that Mugwort is said to be unsafe for ingestion during pregnancy (although in China it is sometimes recommended to prevent miscarriage).
So if you like making bread and you have properly identified some Mugwort near your home, maybe give Mugwort bread a try. Thank you Daniel and Amalie for the tip!
Yesterday was our seventh anniversary, here is what we cooked: Scallops, marinated in the juice of half a lime, a sprig of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped and a small nugget of fresh ginger, squeezed. After cooking in the marinade, the scallops and sauce were laid on wilted spinach and Elderflowers were sprinkled on top.
Next came grilled lamb cutlets served with a caprese salad and most importantly, Mugwort vegetables. The taste of a top of almost flowering Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) infused into mixed vegetables, as they cooked in one of my magical cast iron pots. It was served sprinkled with detached individual Red Clover flowers. Mugwort (Cronewort, Artemisia vulgaris, NL: Bijvoet) is extremely tasty and aromatic when cooked in this gentle way. Just a splash of olive oil, finely chopped leeks softened then chopped aubergine and courgette added to the pan. Lid on and simmer gently for ten minutes or so.
Umm, now that’s Urban Herb Love!
It has rained all day and it although I got soaked through, it was a real pleasure to be out photographing and foraging this Full Moon morning when hardly anyone else was about in Park Frankendael. I managed to harvest some gorgeous Elderflowers, Ribwort, Red Clover and Mugwort, without anyone casting me a glance of suspicion or sympathy!
Here are today’s photos:
Firstly, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), it is abundant on in some parts of the park. Here is a lovely patch with a dozen or so plants.
Next is Foxglove (Digitalis). What a beauty and so useful in times gone by particularly. This is a poisonous plant and I think too rare in Amsterdam to harvest even if you knew what to do with it.
Now for my favourite of the day, Willow. In fact two copiced Willows, one containing a lovely Garlic Mustard plant and the other just looking stunning, with light shining through a gnarled old trunk. Perhaps it’s because Willow is such a water lover, or perhaps it’s the full moon energy, or perhaps neither but all the Willows in the park looked quite strikingly beautiful today.
Here’s the gnarly one:
Next is Elderflower. Most flowers are in full bloom right now but some of the earlier bloomers are already going over and setting seeds within tiny berries. Remember that Elderberries always need to be cooked to be safe and palatable. The flowers are different and can be eaten raw, although most prefer them cooked or infused, for various purposes.
Here is an Elderflower well on the way to making berries.
Lastly, beautiful rain filled Teasel (Dipsacus sp.). This plant is well known to Chinese herbalists but less so to those in the West. It has traditional applications in the treatment of muscle, tendon and join injuries and disease.
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 one is about Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). An amazingly mystical, powerful and yet underused plant, usually found in neglected places. Cronewort, the Dreamherb, is a great herb to learn crafting techniques on, such as how to make an infusion, oil, tincture, dream pillow and more. I will take this session in Park Frankendael on Monday 18th June 2012. 10.30 – 12.00.
In this short and sweet field workshop, you will make (or prepare for) 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 receive a simple pack list when you subscribe. Cost of the workshop is €10.
Please contact me by email or through the meetup group if you are interested in joining this workshop.