Want to grab a bag of hyper-local organic herbs in grateful return for a couple of hours light gardening? Sign up through the Meetup link to join the River of Herbs volunteer gardening team on Monday morning. Details are on the meetup event information.
I won’t be teaching here – doing that in the afternoon and the walk is full. This is for gardeners – no experienced required – everyone is a gardener because we all need to eat 🙂
Sign ups must be through meet up please and did bring along a bag to take your herbs home.
Some of the herbs available to volunteers in the foraging gardens pantry this week (in varying quantities) are:
I met Dana Marin of Amsterdamian.com several years ago through the River of Herbs project. She is a beautiful soul who loves herbs, crafting and gardening. She also loves Amsterdam and runs the Amsterdamian.com website which you must visit!
Last summer Dana joined me in the Frankendael Orchards to catch up, take photos and forage. It was lovely, a lot of fun and included me falling of the bench in this photo, into the plants!!
Dana’s interview with me is now published on Amsterdamian.com. If you fancy some background about urban herbology, ethical urban foraging, city witch-iness and to know what’s driving me at the moment, hop on over to Dana’s beautiful website!
This week, I am with my family in the UK. We began the visit on Tuesday with a stroll around the harbour area of my birthtown Bristol. What a pleasure to be there! In addition to the whole harbour area being very spruced up since I lived there, the weather is exceptional for this time of year; beautiful sunshine, stunning skies and it is warm – well for February anyway!
After a peek at the SS Great Britain, visiting a great whole food store (which sells oxalis tubers to eat!) and filling our bellies with fish and chips at Wrapping Warf , we wandered around the Arnolfini and Watershed areas.
I took a few snaps of edibles which I noticed along the way. The place is very tidy, and popular so most of the plants that I found are resilient perennials. Just look at this little beauty: Ivy Leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis), sometimes called the Climbing Sailor which makes it so suitable for this nautical location! What lovely geranium-like rubbery leaves. I do enjoy a nibble on this sort-of-cress-tasting-plant when I find it growing abundantly. Today was neither the time nor place so the plants spotted in Bristol, carving out a quiet existence in the ship shape hustle and bustle, were left in peace.
Now, along this old railway track – a remnant of the old coal dock, I did find a lovely (if small) selection of urban edibles including Herb Robert (Geranium robertum), Chickweed (Stellaria media) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgare).
And here some of what I believe is Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum). Very pretty, clustered chickweed-like flowers, bouncing in the breeze, a top leafless stalks. I find this a stunning little edible. Darned tasty (if a little hairy on the tongue) and very fertile. So, if you can access one in a location that it flavours, you will not go hungry.
The only place that I found around the harbour which was worthy of some urban herb harvesting was on the sloping path that runs towards the little ferry (to the SS Great Britain). There is a quiet green patch, full of brambles, stinging nettle and other lovelies. The plants are starting to build their foliage now so best left for now but in a month or so, that patch should be brimming with nettle tops and bramble buds. I find Bramble leaf buds a great source of fruity-tannic flavour, vitamins and minerals. By shrewd nibbing-out of buds, you can control the growth of a bramble patch in seconds whilst building up an interesting wild tea in your caddy.
So that was my little February Bristol Harbour edibles wander. I am in Chepstow now, thoroughly enjoying the sounds, sights, taste and company. Will try to make a compilation of Chepstow forage-ables, before the week is out.
If you want to learn about the edibles growing near you, how to ID, safely & ethically forage and how to include them in your life, take a look at my course. I would love to help you along your urban herbology journey!
I stood stupefied and watched a woman take out a knife and cut bunches of Wild garlic from inside the entrance of Park Frankendael this evening. Felt so mad and sad and bewildered that I didn’t know where to begin with her. So just stared at the mini massacre until she saw me and my little girl watching and finally she stopped.
Ramsons/Daslook/Wild garlic/Allium ursinum tastes outrageously good but it should be harvested gently! It is currently on the endangered list in NL so strictly, even though it’s almost a weed in some parts of some Amsterdam parks, it should not be cut or ripped out in handfuls! And even if it is prolific everywhere how could it feel good to rip or cut it like that!
If you know of a plentiful supply please go for the out-spill plants – where it’s growing in paths etc and will be rooted out by the park gardeners. Or grow your own. Or meet the park gardener and ask where/if he/she suggests you forage. And use your common sense. That woman foraged from the filthiest part of the park – dog spot number one – right by the main gates. Come on!
And even when you find thousands of those leaves, please know that just three leaves, plucked between finger and thumb are needed to make enough pesto, herb oil or mojo to last several weeks. After plucking carefully, no one should be able to see that anything has gone.
If you want some Daslook but still don’t know where, when and how to pluck it, please come and see me on Wednesday morning at the Frankendael orchards (10.00 – 11.00 behind Huize Frankendael). You can take home your own plant too, if you like.
Every time I walk or cycle past Sarphatipark, edible and medicinal plants seem to leap out at me, through the iron fence! So, as I continue to build material for my project and book, I think its time I ran an Urban Herb Walk there. I’d like to see just how many urban edibles and medicinals, can be found in 90 minutes.
Sarphatipark Urban Herb Walk
Tuesday 31st July
1230 – 1400
€8 per person
Max 12 Walkers.
Please contact me directly (email@example.com) if you’d like to join this walk. The price includes a handout, to help you learn more about some of the herbs we are likely to find.
You may like to forage a snack or herb tea, on the way around.
– Bring a small flask of hot water, if you fancy making an urban herbal brew whilst we walk.
– Bring a small bottle of cold water, to wash any herbs that you may want to eat directly
We will meet at the main entrance of the park, the one near the children’s play area and the small building beside the plant swap centre.
Here are a few tips on what to take with you, if you go foraging in Amsterdam, or anywhere else for that matter…
Fabric/plastic carrier bag
Rubber/gardening gloves (stinging nettles)
Small scissors (nettles/elderflower/processing herbs)
St. John’s wort oil (sun protection)
Aloe vera gel (sun burn remedy)
Long trousers and socks (Lymes disease)
Water for hand/plant washing
Plant ID guide book
Mini magnifying lens
Paper/book and pencil (samples, notes)
Clean small glass jars with lids (for instant processing of herbs, pesto jars are a good size)
Olive oil and/or vodka (for filling the glass jars of herbs)
Of course you don’t have to take any of these things with you at all and the list is not exhaustive. But if you head out with foraging in mind, you may as well be prepared.
if you intend to forage some kind of root (such as Wild Carrot or Burdock) then something to dig them out with would be needed. I don’t usually harvest wild roots, for ecological, health and social reasons but if it’s your preference then pack a trowel or spade!
Many visitors to this site are interested in wild herbs and foraging. As you probably know, I do my foraging in the city of Amsterdam and am keen to encourage more of you to learn about the herbs around you. Often those I speak to are unaware that right here in Amsterdam, there are herbs to be foraged every single day of the year – if you know where to look.
From the New Moon in April 2012 I’ll be adding a little challenge to this site. I’m calling it 365 Frankendael because I live close to that beautiful Amsterdam park. I aim to post a photo and comment about herbs I have found in and around Park Frankendael, every day, for a year.
I’m sure to be away for some part of the year so will appeal for a little assistance when those times approach. If you’d like to help out then please contact me.
I hope you like the idea and will enjoy watching the herbal year in Frankendael unfold.
They’ve been looking verdant and smelling great for weeks now but today was my first little ramsons harvest of the year. Just two leaves, plucked from a huge swathe of wild garlic, will be enough to set this evening’s meal alight. So that’s all I picked. I urge anyone thinking of foraging any plants, to abide by foraging rules and pick very sparingly. Only harvest what you know you will be able to use straight away.
Today I saw several ramson patches, on the edge of the lime avenue in park Frankendael, which were clearly recovering from careless picking. Leaves were torn, twisted and looked generally damaged. It’s saddening to see but more importantly it shows that many individuals don’t know how to harvest correctly and responsibly.
That’s the main reason I lead occasional herb walks in town. If you’d like to join at any time then please get in touch with me via email. I passionately believe that far more people should know the herbs around them and understand how to harvest if appropriate and use them safely. But unfortunately some foragers cause harm and I’d really like to help limit that.
There are many others herbs, currently looking ripe and perfect for use, here in Amsterdam. Nettle is just perfect at present, the new tips will be my next target for harvesting, destined for some home made pasta and a nourishing infusion. More on that next week.
There are many public spaces in the heart of Amsterdam where ripe herbal fruits, leaves and flowers can be found at the moment. Wild cherry, chickweed, dandelion, mallow, nettle, chestnuts, yarrow, walnuts and sloes, are just a few treats you could find. Today I also noticed that scented geraniums have been planted in the tree pits on Mr Visserplein. Urban herbs are rarely far away, growing on walls, roadsides, between paving stones and in untended spaces. Pollution from cars, people and pets mean that not all locations are suitable to harvest from, but urban foraging is good fun and can be very rewarding throughout the year.
Most people have foraged fruits such as blackberries at some time or other but few harvest herbs on a regular basis yet there are so many available to us! This weekend consider taking a herb walk with family or friends, through some local green and relatively clean area of your city. Try to build your knowledge of local herbs and how to use them. I’ll be looking for rose hips in my local park and will post a simple syrup recipe next week. If you don’t feel confident enough to pick, then notice where a few useful herbs grow on your way to work or in your local park. There are so many edible wild plants in this part of Europe, I’m sure more people could find and make use of at least one or two.
The following is a brief outline of how to set about foraging. It is certainly not a full guide, you should consult a good book on the subject and perhaps join a weed/foraging walk in your area for further guidance.
Where to look:
I prefer to harvest from the greener parts of cities and in Amsterdam there is choice. We have some relatively clean canal side verges, lots of parks, trees on quiet roads and hedgerows away from main roads. I avoid herbs from beside busy roads or other places where pollution is likely. I also try to pick from as high up as possible, to avoid plant material that has been soiled by passing people and animals.
How to identify the herbs:
Stick to herbs you are certain of and use a good field guide and foraging guide when harvesting any herbs you are new to. Mostly I use The Wild Flower Key: British Isles – N.W. Europe, by Francis Rose and Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. The Self Sufficient-ish Bible, by Andy and Dave Hamilton is too big to carry around but is also a great foraging resource.
Double check the identity of everything you pick (or consider picking). If in doubt don’t pick or use.
Forage easily identifiable herbs and avoid those which may be easily confused with poisonous relatives.
Try anything new to you in very small quantities.
Forage only from areas where there is plenty of the herb you are interested in.
Be considerate, careful and moderate.
Pick sparsely to help conserve the health of the plant, it’s appearance and the wild animals it supports. Never strip all the leaves, berries or whichever part you are interested in from a plant, however tempting. Take only a little from each plant, leave plenty and avoid harming plants by rough picking.
Flowers or seeds of annual plants shouldn’t be picked, their seeds are needed for their survival.
Never pull up whole plants or pick from rare plants.