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.
Today a lovely elderflower on the Hugo de Vrieslaan edge of the park. There are Elder shrubs all over the city and now is the time to covet those in the cleanest spots. Each day for the next couple of weeks elder blossoms will burst open, inviting local insects to do their thing and foragers and herbalists to get harvesting! You only need a flower head or two to make a great addition to a meal. As I have mentioned recently, only seven flower heads are required for a hearty quantity of Elderflower Champagne. So if you want to pick elder flower, be nice, thi about how many you really need and spread your harvest between healthy well flowered shrubs. In years gone by, Elderflower lovers would know which local Elders yielded the sweetest flowers. These days I think it’s more a matter of where there are healthy shrubs in the least polluted areas. I’ll certainly be out and about in clean spots, with my paper bag and scissors, over the next few weeks.
It is possible to confuse Elderblossom with other flowers (such as distastful and smelly Ash blossom). Look closely at the photo here (which is deliberately large) and others in good guide books. Notice the way the inner male parts (stamens loaded with pollen) of the tiny flowers protrude between the petals. Notice the colors of the parts of the flowers. Elder blossom is a creamy white, not a stark white. The flower heads are flat, aligning themselves to attract insects the best they can. Learn the shape of the shrub. It is often a messy shape, with areas where quite brittle branches have stapped off. Elder can be enormous, like those against buildings and at other times can hug the ground where they constantly fight their way back from repeated attempts to prune them to death. Be nice to Your local Elders this foraging season. Get to know This herbal medicine chest and in time, it may become a good friend. See the comment about Elder on 365 day 20 for several useful Elder links.
Here’s my favourite Frankendael bus stop clump of mugwort again; still growing, still no flowers, still dreaming.
And finally today, a pretty Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) plant. Also from the edge of the park. Green Alkanet is a lovely plant with many uses. It is edible and medicinal.