Tag Archives: Foraging

365 Frankendael

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.

Ramsons are back on my plate!

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.

Rose hips

Urban herb foraging

Rose hips
Rose hip harvest

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.

Mallow (Malva) growing by a drainpipe
Mallow (malva) growing by my drainpipe

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.

Picking rules:

  • 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.
  • Have fun foraging!