Tag Archives: butterbur

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!


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.


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!


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.

Beautiful (not edible) Bluebells, just coming up beside a Lime tree trunk and an up coming Garlic Mustard perennial plant.


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


Below is flowering Chickweed (Stellaria media)

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.


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.


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.



365 Chepstow day 304

This was Frankendael park, Amsterdam as I set off for the UK this morning…


This is Butterbur, growing in a hedgerow opposite my parent’s Welsh home this afternoon…


This flower smells intoxicatingly of vanilla or almonds. I love the smell, it reminds me of home and the exciting arrival of spring. The leaves of the plant are said to have been used to wrap up butter in times gone by. It is a sure sign for me that the seasons in this part of Wales are a little ahead of Amsterdam. Butterbur (Pestites vulgaris) has several historical uses, including being a diuretic, helping alleviate migraines and as a useful treatment for wheezing.

365 Frankendael day 24

On my wander through the woods of Frankendael today, I saw a beautiful woodpecker sat on a park bench! No time to photograph it but maybe this park will turn me into a bird spotter, by the time this project is through!

Another exciting discovery today was made thanks to the Meetup group. Yi wondered if I knew of Butterbur (Pestites sp.) and if it grew here in Amsterdam. She likes to eat it when at home in Japan. I wasn’t aware until then, that Butterbur and it’s immediate relatives, are edible, tasty and are reported to have health benefits.

Butterbur throws up very strange looking flowers on thick stalks during spring, a while before it’s foliage appears. When it’s often massive leaves do appear, they all come from the rootstock rather than a leaf stem. Leaves can be 60 cm or more across and are very easy to spot as they are unmistakably kidney-shaped and come out of the soil not a central plant stem. There are lots of them near the old entrance of Frankendael. I await Recipe advice from Yi’s Mum, before deciding just what to do with the plant but a google search for Fuki, it’s Japanese name will provide you with lots of ideas. If you live in the UK you may be familiar with the vanilla scented relative called Winter heliotrope. I can still remember my delight and disbelief when I first sniffed its flowers in Somerset, many years ago. I had no idea it was edible at the time.

Now onto another huge-leaved perennial, which many will be familiar with: Burdock! Arctium lapa shown above, is a truly enormous plant with a mighty rootstock, prized particularly as a liver tonic. Dandelion and Burdock is a delicious drink, I remember well from my childhood. Dandelion is also a super liver tonic. Now Burdock is not such an Urban Herbology favourite as it’s very difficult to dig up and what a mess of parkland it would make to do that! However is a good herb to know about in case you happen upon a huge patch of them in the countryside or a bottle of tincture in a herbal supplies shop. When Giant Butterbur and Burdock coexist you should notice Burdock has pointed leaves and Butterbur kidney shaped leaves. burdock leaves grow out from an upright central plant stem, the burs eventually grow out of the top of this central stem, on their own stem.

Here above is a sign that there’s a Burdock closeby. Dried burs from last years growth.

Other wild beauties today…
Soapwort bolting up after done extra sunshine and showers. Yes, it is soapy, well the roots at least, and can be used for cleaning. It contains saponins but such a pretty flower is better left in the soil.

Euphorbia close up. Extremely toxic and irritating to skin.

A type of Mullein, in bud. This plant will be well over a meter high very soon. It’s flowers can provide an earache remedy.

Lastly, a member of the Brassica family, I thought possibly Creeping Yellow Cress although it’s leaves are slightly stubbier than that. It tastes uncredibly strong! I then wandered into the labelled herb garden of the park and found a very similar looking plant called Barbarakruid (Barbarea vulgaris, Yellow Rocket Cress). I think that’s the most likely candidate. It tastes like super strength Rocket. Umm!