Tag Archives: Daisy

#8 Daisy

It’s week 8 of the Urban Herbology Winter Foraging Challenge! This week I have been foraging Jelly ear fungi from local Elder trees and making orange-jelly-choc’s from them. Delicious! My daughter will show us how to make them on this Friday evening’s zoom, for my course students. Details of the courses are here. Start and stop whenever you like!

Photo credit: Weed fun

This week’s features winter foraging herb is the humble yet beautiful Daisy (Bellis perennis). You can easily tell from the classic ray and disk flowerhead arrangement, that this is a member of the huge Asteraceae family.

Now, that plant family is one of the most common sources of plant allergen in humans, so go careful with it. It tends to cause contact dermatitis in those who are sensitive and the most notable allergens in the Asteraceae family are a group of chemicals called sesquiterpene lactones. Those secondary plant metabolites are present in the leaf, stem, flower and possibly also in the pollen. Individuals who know they are sensitive to those chemicals, or the Asteraceae family, should steer clear of handling and eating Daisy. People diagnosed with the issue some years ago, may know the Asteraceae family as the Compositae family.

Daisy plant – Perennial, humble, powerful and robust

Bellis perennis is often known as common daisy, lawn daisy or English daisy. The Dutch name is Madeliefje. It is a small perennial herb that is native to almost the whole of Europe. It has a long history of use in folk medicine in the treatment of various diseases, such as rheumatism and as an expectorant. There is evidence that during the ancient Roman times, army field surgeons used to gather up daisies, from along the roadsides, extract the plant juice, and use it to soak bandages which could be used to dress battle wounds. There are many other references to Daisy in old herbal texts.

Pushing up daisies – January cemetery walk, Amsterdam

In homeopathy, Bellis perennis remedy is used for deep wound healing, including post surgical healing. If you would like to make a flower essence, you will certainly catch people’s attention as the flowers of Daisy look so pretty, floating atop a bowl of spring water.

All of the daisies in my muddy, wintery photos today, lack any tinge of pink on the under sides of the petals but that is a common feature for foragers to look out for, when identifying the plant. One old story explains how that pink tinge came about:

“Rose, the queen of the flowers, had a party and all the flowers were invited. One little flower was left out, however – it was shy of its modest appearance and was happy to whisper its congratulations from afar. But the wind carried the flower’s words to the queen, who assured her that there was no need to be ashamed: Its dress was spotlessly white and it had a heart of gold. This made the little flower blush, and ever since then the tips of its ray-florets have been pink.”
Extract from Aegean Edibles website – it’s an interesting website to investigate.

Daisy manages very well under frequent pressure. These are along a graveyard path.

Daisy grows only to a small height of 2 – 3 centimetres, when in bloom and is very tolerant of trampling footsteps, so we often find it growing in lawns, paths and well trodden edges. At this time of year, it stands out to me because it is surviving in quite bare ground and also in ground where only Plantain and Ribwort (Plantago spp.) are usually to flourish. Interestingly, those plants also share some of the therapeutic properties of Daisy. At this time of year though, if we get a cold winter, the plantains dive undergound.

Someone got there first..

Crush a smooth fleshy leaf of daisy, or its flowers or even the underground roots and a pleasant green aroma is released as the sap inside is freed up. Bellis perennis has been found to contain many active constituents, including at least ten different saponins. The active constituents in this plant grace it with many healing properties. Daisy is known to be anti-inflammatory, astringent, digestive, antispasmodic, healing, laxative, purgative, antitussive, demulcent, and expectorant. I consider it a humble, ever giving, herbal medicine chest. There is increasing anti-cancer evidence, for Daisy but this plant shouldn’t be used as an anti-cancer treatment. Chewing leaves for mouth ulcers or making a salve from the flowers and leaves, is more the level of self-treatment that I think about, with daisy.

Perky Daisy foliage – January 2021

To eat daisy – eat only a little. This is a potent medicinal herb. You will need to forage in a clean patch of land. And you need to be non-allergic to it (see above note about the Asteraceae family). All this mention of allergies, makes it seem that many foragers will be allergic to Asteraceae plants. The reality is less dramatic than it may sound but we should be aware that it could happen.

There is not much chance of foraging for daisy above dog-pee height, as it grows on the ground but it can be grown in pots and it will grow as easily in clean soil as in trampled doggy spots. It does best in areas where the surrounding plants are not so tall and heavy that they completely shade the daisy out. So low cut grass – lawns – are perfect territory for this humble, edible and medicinal weed.

The flowers can be added to soups. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Make sure they are clean, whatever you do with them. I find that the leaves taste pretty good as a salad ingredient, surprisingly good actually. Try the flowers or leaves as a tea. Dry them for later use.

If you don’t fancy your chances with eating daisy, you may like to try making a poultice of Daisy leaves, to use as an astringent, anti-inflammatory wound healer. Daisy is also renowned as an effective agent to calm bruises and to prevent them from forming. You could make an oil infusion and then thicken up the oil with some form of natural wax (beeswax, soya wax etc). Or infuse straight into a butter (literally butter or something more fancy such as shea butter).

Do let me know how you get on with your winter foraging. It is great to feel others are doing similar things!

365 Frankendael day 51

I harvested a little Russian Comfrey today, to make a healing foot ointment. The plant is still in flower but the leaves will stay contain many of the active constituents. Also plucked for the table were a small number of Daisy flowers, some Ground Elder, a little Garlic Mustard and a few pretty Pelargonium flowers. The Ground Elder itself is still on top form for foraging although it is starting to become quite dirty in some locations, due to bird droppings and general honey dew dripping from aphids and ants in the trees above. So I would say that by now it is just past it’s best and I need to focuss my forager’s attention elsewhere.

Here are today’s photos:

Here is a White Dead Nettle, setting seed alongside the Middenweg and the park. I think you can quite clearly see how the flower and now seed clusters encircle the square Labiate family stem, quite unlike the unrelated but often mistaken Stinging Nettle. Both plants are edible.


Above is German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) growing close to the White Dead Nettle.


Above is Brassica rapa Wild Turnip. It smells of cabbage when picked and the flower heads remind me of broccoli. It was growing close to a patch of very young Fat Hen (Lambs quarters) but both were unfortunately in a bit of a dirty location so not for the plate tonight.ill certainly keep my eyes open for both tomorrow though as they are perfectly in season at present and make very good eating when cooked. All parts of Wild Turnip are edible and tasty.

I was also very pleased to spot some Calamints in flower for the first time this year. Photos of those tomorrow hopefully.

365 Frankendael day 25

Today, daisy, magnolia, pine cones and ribwort during an after work wander between the two Frankendael tram stops.

Daisy (Bellis perenis)has quite a number of historic uses. You can eat this herb as a salad or a pot herb but in places like Frankendael it’s highly likely that your harvest will have been quite heavily soiled or trampled. Have a look at the Uses section on the linked Wiki entry about this plant for details of how the Romans used its astringent qualities to assist soldiers.

Tasty Magnolia is still in flower here in Amsterdam. This photo is of a flower on a young tree within the park, so these particular flowers won’t be on my plate. There are plenty of other mature trees overhanging gardens and in public spots which you may be able to locate using boskoi. Before now I have collected leaves straight after a strong wind or shower. That’s a nice way to avoid upsetting anyone who thinks you are just spoiling the beautiful display by plucking blooms.

Above are a few Pinecones, found by my daughter, which I had completely forgotten could yield great food, in fact one of the least polluted and most nutritious- Pinenuts! And they are another harvest to acquire from fallen plant material rather than plucking. The tree these fell from is shown next…

I’m not sure of the species but I have already had a peak inside the cone and there are some tasty looking nuts within.

Lastly, trusty Plantago lanceolata, Ribwort. I harvested from several really juicy looking plants today, ready to make a foot oil tomorrow morning. The link above goes to day 2 of the 365 project where I gave further info and links about the plant.

Beltane Herbs

May Day, also known as Beltane in the Pagan calendar, is traditionally a day steeped in herbal lore. May 1st marks the end of the colder months and heralds the start of summer. It is a fire festival day where fires were burned on hill tops to encourage the sun’s warmth down to the earth. Beltane is half way through the Pagan year, it is strongly linked to fertility and many enduring customs pertain to this.

Not far from my childhood Bristol home, there still stands rather a phallic Maypole, on Iron Acton Common. Villagers will no doubt be dancing around it this Sunday and spectators may not realise that as those pretty ribbons are intertwined around the pole, a symbolic birth canal is being made around the phallus.  That part of the custom certainly passed me by as I enjoyed being an infant school May Queen.   In Minehead, Somerset and several Cornish towns, Hobby Horses (or Obby Osses) will be raising dawn sleepers, with raucous dancing and music over the few days following May Day.   The reason for this also evaded me whilst I lived in Minehead and tried to enjoy a good lie-in. I am pleased these traditions live on.

So back to the Beltane herbal customs and tasty treats…

  • May Dew: At sunrise on Beltane it is customary to rush out into the garden or fields and wipe your face in May Dew, particularly dew gathered on a Hawthorn tree.  This is thought to have magical properties, including the ability to beautify the complexion for the coming year.
  • Hawthorn: This beautiful and helpful herb tree is known by some as the May Tree.  Hawthorn boughs were often harvested at Beltane and the flowers used as gifts and to beautify homes.
  • Herb Gathering: Herbs start to flower a-plenty at this time of year hence Beltane is traditionally a time to go out with family and friends, a simple picnic, a basket and gather some wild herb flowers.  If you like the idea of this, please remember that annuals rely solely on those precious flowers to create seed for next year’s plants. Leave plenty, harvest just a few (perennials) and avoid rare and protected plants.  Try to use the herbs you harvest in some way or give them away to someone in need.
  • Flower Garlands: It is also customary to make beautiful flower garlands on May Day.  Why not choose plentiful daisies and dandelions?  Both are useful herbs, you may like to use when you get home or toss your flower garlands away with a wish, into flowing water.
  • May Bowl:  This is a delicious drink made from Woodruff (Galium odoratum – it looks very like cleavers (Galium aparine) but it is in flower at the moment, looking like swathes of sugary white froth across woodland floors – when you can find it!). Here’s the simplest recipe I know (many variations are available if you have a taste for it):
    8 cups of white wine
    2 cups of fresh, clean Woodruff – chopped, preferably in bud or flower
    1 tablespoon of grated orange zest
    sugar to taste. Pour the wine over the Woodruff and chill in a sealed glass container overnight. Strain off the Woodruff and add other ingredients. Drink in clear glasses, May Bowl is a beautiful pale green color and tastes fragrantly of Woodruff.
  • Oat Cakes (Bannocks): An old Scottish custom is to make a Beltane Oat Cake and to share it between friends who would stand around the Beltane fire and each break off a small peice of the nobbly cake.  They would then cast it over their shoulder whilst saying a line, asking that something precious be protected by something usually linked with it’s destruction (such as chickens or sheep to be protected by the wolves or foxes).
    Here’s a simple recipe (and photo) for Beltane Oat Cake taken from RampantScotland.com. They look very tasty! Traditionally this food would be cooked in the embers of a Beltane fire, a heavy based frying pan or oven will work well instead.

“Beltane Bannocks from Rampant Scotland.com
Ingredients

4 oz (125g) medium oatmeal
2 teaspoons melted fat (bacon fat, if available, butter or ghee will work well)
2 pinches of bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 tablespoons hot water
Additional oatmeal for kneading

Method
Mix the oatmeal, salt and bicarbonate and pour in the melted fat into the centre of the mixture. Stir well, using a porridge stick if you have one and add enough water to make into a stiff paste. Cover a surface in oatmeal and turn the mixture onto this. Work quickly as the paste is difficult to work if it cools. Divide into two and roll one half into a ball and knead with hands covered in oatmeal to stop it sticking. Roll out to around quarter inch thick. Put a plate which is slightly smaller than the size of your pan over the flattened mixture and cut round to leave a circular oatcake. Cut into quarters (also called farls) and place in a heated pan which has been lightly greased. Cook for about 3 minutes until the edges curl slightly, turn, and cook the other side. Get ready with another oatcake while the first is being cooked.

An alternative method of cooking is to bake them in an oven at Gas5/375F/190C for about 30 minutes or until brown at the edges. The quantities above will be enough for two bannocks about the size of a dessert plate. If you want more, do them in batches rather than making larger quantities of mixture. Store in a tin and reheat in a moderate oven when required.”

Additional note – 1st May 2011 – I made this recipe this morning and added too much butter so I couldn’t form a dough, it became more a crumble. Determined not to waste the mixture, I cooked it gently in a small heavy frying pan and then combined the rich oatmeal with some framage frais, feta cheese and finely chopped tomato.  It became a pate type consistency and was really very tasty.  It was also possible to shape into balls.