Tag Archives: Elder

365 Frankendael day 174

Today Elodie and I found mushrooms, hazelnuts, flowering Meadowsweet, Tansy and other lovely autumn treats as we walked beside a local canal. We forgot our cameras which was actually quite a pleasure!

image

I did take this photo earlier, of a beautiful and still green Elder (Sambucus nigra) growing in park Frankendael. I’ve a mind to harvest some leaves to dry and use in ointments over the winter – if the Elder spirit has a mind to let me – but then again, there will be very few days when it’s impossible to find a few fresh green Elder leaves, even in the coldest months.

365 Frankendael day 150

Thank you to the group of Urban Herbies who joined me For the Elder Workshop today. We harvested Elderberries, Elder leaves and Elder branches. We learned about and concocted Elderberry syrup and numerous other Elder based remedies. I had a lot of fun with you all, and the plants!

I was so busy enjoying the time that I forgot to take an Elder photo so here’s one of the syrup that we made together, from freshly pressed Elderberry juice and honey… It’s a clean but scrappy looking jam jar. That doesn’t matter as my portion of the syrup will be wolfed down very quickly!

As well as Elderberries, there are heaps of ripe Hawthorn berries in the city hedgerows at present. I did remember to take a photo of one such tree. It’s time to try out the Hawthorn recipes, kindly sent to me by one of the Amstel walkers earlier this year.

Here’s a link to the recipe for the Banana bread I baked for the workshop. I added a finely chopped 20cm Ginger plant leaf and I forgot to add the dates. All fine though!

Here’s a link to that information about recent scientific research supporting the use of Ghee and Honey impregnated wound dressings for serious wound recovery.

Thanks Nathaniel and Jade for sharing with us how the Native Americans revere their local Elder species. Here’s a link with a little information about that (at the end). Here’s a link with lots of information about Elder, particularly the US growing species. Not much about the indigenous people but lots of useful stuff.

Here’s a link to one of my mentors: Glennie Kindred in Britain. She wrote the hand sewn books I showed you today. We looked at the one called Sacred Tree in which Glennie lays out her interpretation of the Tree Ogham.

As we talked about honey, Katja shared her latest concoction – fresh ginger infused honey with lemon juice. Yum! I’ll be trying that very soon and will post some photos to brighten up the autumn. Maybe Katja has a photo of hers already?

Cindy, I don’t think you took your portion of ointment and certainly not the syrup. I also forgot to give you the Kombucha so let me know when you have time to collect them.

Thanks again everyone. See you again soon! xx

365 Frankendael day 149

I’ve been busy preparing for the Elder workshop tomorrow and enjoyed a little walk in the park looking for ingredients for ghee based Elder ointment.  Elder leaves are very medicinal but contain a chemical which, when digested by the human body, turns into cyanide so it’s obviously not a good idea to eat it.  The ripe berries and flowers don’t contain this chemical although the seeds within the berries do.  Here are the herbs in my ointment, plus a couple of other plants which are also looking and tasting great at the moment…

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Elder (Sambucus nigra) growing close to the base of an old Cedar. Here’s a lovely Elderberry syrup recipe, from Mountain rose herbs, which uses honey for sweetness but doesn’t heat the honey – good news and unusual!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis agg.)  making a stand for itself in a field of Plantain (Plantago major)

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacaea)

Elder and Sugar Plant Cuttings

How are you’re Elder babies getting on? Did they survive the dark wet weather and then the recent heat wave? It’s almost a month, since we snipped them from their parent bushes on Hugo de Vrieslaan and I know some have had a tough time. But be confident and don’t give them up for dead, even if they look lifeless. Just water when they or the soil seems to need it, they don’t like having soggy feet but they don’t like drying out either. Elder (Sambucus nigra) is once of the easiest cuttings to grow, they stand a very good chance.

Mine are in a quiet north facing balcony corner, with a large plastic bag at their base. I loosly pull it up when I feel it’s too windy for them, or too sunny. I pull it down at other times, when I remember. One cutting lost it’s leaves quite soon but now has fresh green buds. The other two have kept hold of their leaves and show new growth. I’m very pleased.

Here is a cutting I took from Youko’s Sugar plant. This is not Stevia and it’s clearly not Sugarcane or anything similar but it does taste of sugar – a lot! Youko, could you tell me the real name when you have a chance? I thought it died on the way home, it looked so limp for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t dry up so I kept faith and just monitored the soil wetness. Not too wet, not too dry, as with the Elder. I kept it in a similar location to where Youko has hers. Yesterday it seemed to gain energy (probably from roots!). It now looks positively perky and sports new leaves! I think it is now through the most tricky cutting phase so hopefully I’ll have a nice healthy plant for some time to come.

I’d love to hear how your Elder cuttings are getting on, and other plants you are trying to proliferate. Likewise, whilst I can’t take photos of herbs in Frankendael, I’d really love to receive any photos of plants you think may be edible or medicinal, in Amsterdam.

365 day 102 Sarphatipark

Thanks to the watertolerant group who joined me to herb walk in Sarphatipark today. We found lots of useful herbs and also interesting park workers who told us how the park is maintained by a dynamic group of volunteers and is trying innovative edible approaches to eradicate Japanese knotweed. Above is a park warden, pictured by the enormous Jerusalem artichokes which are being used to keep knotweed at bay. When the invasive plant is removed, the ground can quickly turn into a home for other unwelcome invaders or can see the return of knotweed. Using Jerusalem artichoke, another rapidly growing and spreading plant, can provide tasty tubers and quash the knotweed. So far so good!

I was also reassured to learn that the Ginkgo trees I’m so fond of in parts of Our Zuid are indeed female and yield plentiful Ginkgo nuts. Amsterdam is fortunate to have such edible plant loving folk in its green spaces team.


The plants I remember finding today are listed as tags to this entry. The spreading soft leaved plant which looked quite like Agrimony but wasn’t, was indeed a cinqefoil, called Silverweed previously called (Potentilla anserina) but now reclassified as Argentina anserina . It is shown above and it is edible. If you were on the walk and can remember other plants which I have missed from the tag list then please let me know.

Thanks again to everyone who joined me. It was a real pleasure to walk around with you. If you signed up but were not brave enough for the wet weather, remember there are always trees to shelter under next time 🙂

How to Make Elder Babies

Elder cutting with roots

This morning a group Urban Herbies gathered alongside a park hedgerow and took cuttings of a wonderful herb shrub – Elder (Sambucus nigra). We are going to look after the cuttings for as long as it takes for them to find their feet and be mature enough to survive planted out, in another Amsterdam hedge or edge. I was inspired to try this by the work of Glennie Kindred, a wonderful, community spirited wise woman from Britain. Her website contains very useful information about many herbs and has especially detailed information about native trees. Thank you Glennie!

Here’s How to Make Elder Babies:

1. Most shrubs and trees are best propagated in the autumn and winter but its also possible to try easily-rooting Elder in the summer. Chose very healthy parts of very healthy shrubs, ask the permission of the shrub you are drawn to with your heart and actions. Be gentle, respectful and only harvest a little from one shrub. If your cuttings fail to survive then return them to the soil. Never burn Elder and listen to the wisdom it has to offer. All parts of the plant are medicinal and have been revered for millennia. These days we tend to make most use if the berries and flowers. The leaves and twigs also make an excellent skin cream but it is best not to ingest them.

2. We used secateurs or our hands to carefully remove the last 6-8 inches (14-20cm) of a healthy branch. Avoid those laden with berries, the plant’s energy needs to focus on that task rather than growing new roots.

3. Remove all but the last couple of leaf pairs, gently slide them off with your hands. Return these to the foot of the mother Elder. If harvesting in winter, all of the leaves could be removed from the cutting.

4. If using it, dip the bottom end of the cutting into a jar of Willow or Meadowsweet rooting hormone tea. Poke the cutting quite deeply into a pot of good quality soil, so that it is about half buried and won’t topple over. Firm the soil slightly.

5. Ideally, water the pot from beneath by standing it in a bowl of water for a while, until the soil is thoroughly dampened. Ensure that excess water can freely drain from the pot.

6. Place the pot, with damp soil and comfortably pushed-in cutting, in a place of semi shade, or in a loosly closed translucent plastic bag and leave it to grow roots. This will take some time so you’ll need to be patient, maybe for a few weeks. There is no need to remove the cutting to check on progress, just let it do it’s thing and you’ll be pleasantly surprised the day you see Elder roots, poking out of the drainage holes.

7. Keep an eye on the dampness of the soil, Elder will rot if it gets soggy but it will also die if the soil dries out completely. Lightly water the soil when needed. Misting with a water spray is a gentle way to water from above.

8. When the cutting has set down a good root network and has grown a couple of feet tall (about 50cm), it should be ready to plant out when mild spring weather arrives. This may take a couple of years but sometimes it can happen more quickly.

9. Plant out during moderate weather in an area where Elder bushes are sparse. Elder fairs well in most conditions, it will tolerate full sun, lots of shade or partial shade. A hedgerow setting is most suitable. The shrub can be pruned into a hedge if needed or allowed to grow in which ever direction it prefers.

Here’s another link to Gennie Kindred’s website where you will find lots of useful Elder information and several wonderful Elder recipes.

To make the Willow rooting tea simply harvest a few Willow tendrils, chop them and place in a clean glass jar. Cover with freshly boiled water and cover. Leave to infuse as the water cools, for about 8 hours. Then the infusion may be strained or not. It will keep a few days in the fridge if needed or use what you require and pour the rest on your other plants.

Let’s Grow Elder Babies!

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is arguably the most useful herb that grows wild in Western Europe. It is used for many remedies, is steeped in folklore and history and on top of that the flowers taste great and the berries are delicious when cooked! It is a native hedgerow shrub here in Amsterdam, some areas have lots whilst others have none. I’d like to help increase their distribution in Amsterdam, with your help.

I’m organising this through my Meetup Group as several of the group members are interested in getting involved. The “meetup” will involve taking small cuttings from existing strong bushes and planting them in pots of soil to take home and keep an eye on for two years! (If you move I’ll adopt them). After that time and with a bit of luck, the Elder babies will be viable for planting out in local hedgerows. A while later there should be a nice increase in Elder.

No gardening experience required, just a bit of enthusiasm and community spirit!

I really hope that at some of my blog followers will also like the idea of getting involved. I see foraging as a journey in conservation, take little, be compassionate and give something back to the Earth in thanks. Many foragers or wild crafters of herbs do give little gifts to the soil as they harvest, like a pinch of tobacco, herb tea, even blood, but if I were an Elder I think I’d prefer some friends!

I’ll set a date nearer the time and of course it can be repeated throughout July to October.

If you would like to join us then either join the Meetup group and RSVP to the event or just email me directly. Lynn.Shore@gmail.com

365 Frankendael day 47


Firstly today, fragrant and edible flowers of the urban prolific Rosa rugosa. It is much used by urban landscapers and I think, underused by urban foragers. To be used as any other rose, ensure they are clean and unsprayed as ever.

Next is Cleavers (Galium aparine), still looking fresh and cleansing in the Volkstuin area of Frankendael.


Here is a mature Ginkgo biloba tree which I hadn’t noticed until today. Recently I learned that in some parts of the world it is illegal to plant female Ginkgos because the smell of their fruit is so obnoxious! Perhaps this one is a male? Either way, the leaves will be ripe for the picking and eating or tea making in a few months. There are a great many Ginkgos in Amsterdam.


Above is a small Ladies mantle (Alchemilla) plant. This is a bitter and very useful herb. I grow several on my roof and sometimes eat the flowers as a garnish. The leaves are good as a bitter tea and can be used to make a good breast toning oil. That is one of their traditional uses.


Lastly today, another coppiced Willow living in apparent intimate harmony with a different plant species. This time the lodger USA flowering Elder (Sambucus nigra). Two great herbs together!