Tag Archives: black horehound

365 Frankendael day 347

More molehill collecting for me today. I’ve been busy repotting some balcony herbs and took the risk of sowing a few seeds. So more soil was needed!

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Some of the molehills in park Frankendael are very sandy, others are full of organic matter. Here’s a sandy one – just right to add drainage to the organic soil I bought from Albert Heijn. The little Plantain (Plantago major or media) in the photo was completely covered by the hill until I scraped the top soil away. Just that one molehill filled an empty 5 litre soil bag. Plantago media is an endangered species in the Netherlands, so if that’s the plant I’m extra happy. Either way, my molehill antics provided free soil for me and a freed herb for the park!

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I’ve found lots of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) today, both in the park and other parts of town. I’ve been collecting some of the flower heads to make Coltsfoot honey. They smell amazing when just picked and it’s easy to see why they are a great cough remedy. They are easiest to find in grassland close to water. They look like Dandelion from a distance. But close-up they look like strange Asparagus type scaly things, shooting up as spears through the soil and sending flowers to face the sun before producing proper leaves. Very difficult to mix them up with anything else.

So what else today?

Violets (Viola sp):
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Young shoots of Rosebay willowherb:

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More Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) NL:Hartgespan. If in doubt of this plant (but certain it’s a square stemmed Labiate) nibble a tiny bit of leaf. If the extreme bitterness literally knocks your socks off, it’s Motherwort!

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Primrose:

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And some lovely buds and shots from which I made a refreshing immune system boosting tea,

Lime tree buds (Tilia sp). Reach for a too high for dogs twig, maybe on a burr such as this. Snap off a fresh tip bud (after checking its OK with the tree of course) and just pop it in your mouth. After a little chewing your mouth will be full of unmistakable Lime tree goo! It’s great stuff for all manner of ailments and makes me feel very happy to know the tree, every time to do it. I can’t really understand why everyone else in the park doesn’t do this. There is some information I wrote a while ago about Lime, for those wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Bramble (Blackberry bush) – just the soft green shoots.

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Added to my Spring brew (and still really tastes great hours later as I write this and enjoy the second pot) was of course a leaf or two of my new herb friend Common Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).

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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) remains in pungent foliage.

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And finally today, a real taste of the foraging weeks to come – Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria). Just a few plants coming through today but it’s up! I absolutely love this herb (though it’s often a real pain to gardeners). It’s common English name is Goutweed because it helps clear the body of uric acid amongst other things. I love it because it makes me feel good and tastes rather like Parsley. It can be eaten, used medicinally internally and applied externally in things such as salves and compresses. Learn more about it at the June Embrace Your Weeds workshop which I’m running with City Plot.

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Now back to my pot of Spring Shoots Tea…

365 Frankendael day 343

Today in park Frankendael, I found my new herbal friend. I thought this was Black Horehound (Ballota nigra) but now am sure that it is Common or White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare), a very hairy and equally useful plant!

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It is growing next to an old faithful friend, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

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Its the first time I have seen Motherwort in Amsterdam this year. I had a little taste and wow, it’s so strong, bitter and useful! Looking forward to tincturing this plant later in the year. The two plants above, can look very similar at first glance. Both have obvious leaf veins and a similar texture but their properties are very different and the deep invaginations of Motherwort’s leaves will become more obvious by the day.

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Above, Witch Hazel flowers are going over at the moment. It will be difficult to tell this shrub from others once the extraordinary flowers are gone.

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And these flower buds are truly a taste of heavenly things to come! This is Magnolia. The plant is said to have been brought to Europe by Chinese medics or Europeans who realised its place in traditional Chinese medicine and fancied it for themselves. But these days it’s simply grown as an ornamental. In park Frankendael there is a small stand of different Magnolia sisters, which bloom sequentially, offering a long period of beautiful blooms. It is an extremely useful but underused herb. I enjoy making Magnolia petal infused honey and now have my eyes peeled for the first Magnolia blooms of the year…

365 Frankendael day 342

Perishingly cold in Amsterdam today but most of the local plants don’t flinch at this strange weather! Here’s a small sample of what you could be harvesting or eating from Amsterdam streets and green spaces today:

Today perennial Russian Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) plants are standing proud again. I’m very pleased about this as I’d like to try placing a Comfrey leaf beneath my potato plants this year. My spuds are almost ready to be planted out, just in time for the Comfrey fertiliser!

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Hollyhock plants (biennials) are looking strong and almost ready for some leaf harvesting. I’ve got lots of plans for this plant this year. An interesting herb to help soothe bronchial congestion and infection.

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This lovely plant (in Sarphatipark, next to the railings along Centuurbaan) is Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane (Claytonia perfoliata) and delicious it is too! This is the basal rosette of young leaves. Just wait until the little white flowers come in abundance – they grow out of the centre of the mature leaves. Quite amazing!

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A Butterbur species (Petasites sp), in alien-like flower. Edible in small quantities, contains a liver toxin. It will have massive kidney shaped leaves soon, less interesting to the forager and then more likely to be dangerously confused with other very irritating plants. Now is the time to be interested in this plant.
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Beautiful (not edible) Bluebells, just coming up beside a Lime tree trunk and an up coming Garlic Mustard perennial plant.

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This purple flowering perennial is Red Dead-nettle ( Lamium purpureum). Edible, nutritious and gently medicinal.

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Below is flowering Chickweed (Stellaria media)
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Here is Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). Mouth wateringly delicious, if you like the taste of garlic, and with the benefits of garlic, though probably less effect on vampires as it’s milder in strength. Now’s the time to try it if you haven’t already.

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Next, a Mallard duck checking out Park Frankendael’s Japanese spring delicacy – Fuki (Petasites japonica), before checking out my telephone and trying to eat it – or me, not quite sure which. The beautiful yellow flowers look like primroses from a distance. Primroses are also in flower in the park right now but shouldn’t be touched as they don’t multiply very well here.

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And last but not least the plant which I found recently and thought was Black Horehound (Ballota nigra). It could also be Common/White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) I’m measuring this patch each day, waiting patiently for it to be big enough to harvest for a tincture. For the first option, its Latin name, Ballota, comes from its unattractive scent. Its not so bad and helps to identify the plant. It can be used to lift the spirits, act as a mild sedative, ease morning sickness, nausea, gout, bronchial congestion, nervousness, menopausal ailments and many more conditions. I’ve been munching it in the park each day I see it and find it really quite palatable, the smell doesn’t seem so strong or distasteful. Those who named it Ballota must have smelt not so many foul odours! Or perhaps I’ve smelled lots in the chemistry lab so am not so bothered anymore… Or perhaps it is Common Horehound instead? Either way, the two options are edible and I’m really looking forward to trying the tincture and feel that it may become a staple for me during times when I’d usually reach for Motherwort but also feel the effects of cold dampness and chestiness. An infused honey will be the second thing I make from this plant.

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365 Frankendael day 185

An early start for me this morning. Cathy Leaung kindly invited me onto her morning radio show – The English Breakfast. So off to the Salto studios I went and had a very enjoyable time, sharing Mugwort Bread, Hawthorn Elixir, Four leaves ointment and Rosehip Honey with Cathy and her co-presenters.

Here’s a link to the interview. You may need to turn the sound up a little, to hear me clearly as I kept turning away from the mic to speak to the co-presenters. The link will remain active for a month or so.

I have given them a voucher to give away in a competition, for a free Herb Walk with me, either the Halloween walk or a private one. Names will be pulled from a hat at the end of today. You need to look at my post from yesterday (21st October 2012) and tell English Breakfast Radio which herb I was talking about in that post, via their Facebook page.

On the way home I found the following herbal lovelies…

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

He is the underside of the Mugwort leaves, beautifully silvery.

Here’s a pretty, poisonous but useful Greater celandine (Celidonium majus).

And lastly a beautiful labiate which I need to properly identify (was in a rush to get home from the interview). I think it is most likely to be Black Horehound (Ballota nigra).
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