This herb sauce was the result of today’s rainy forage in Frankendael park.
After a quick chat with the park warden who was chopping up a massive fallen tree, Livvy and I collected a little each of Ground elder (Aegopodium podograria), Wild garlic (Galium ursinum), Wild geranium (Geranium sp), Ground ivy (Glechoma hederaceae) and White deadnettle (Lamium alba).
I took those herbs (a small handful in all), chopped them, sweated them down in a pan over low heat, with a splash of water for 10 minutes, then added a little blue goats cheese and a desertspoon of sour cream. I them blended it all to a smooth sauce with a hand blender.
The result was very tasty indeed and the balcony harvest Pansies (Viola sp) also went down a treat!
On a less tasty notes: Here is patch of poisonous Lily of the Valley, growing in the park. Just notice how similar the leaves are to those of Wild garlic. The easiest way to distinguish them (apart from the flowers) is that Wild garlic smells very strongly of garlic and Lily of the Valley doesn’t.
I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a day less than a year, today. Hard to look at any plants without thinking of how to use them. I think that there are worse things to get hooked on though!
Today, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), small leaves at the moment but plenty of it around.
Also Geranium species are getting stronger everywhere. They are evergreen in this climate but the energy is definitely stirring in them at the moment – meaning they taste better and have more potency.
Also, new beautiful and incredibly useful Plantain (Plantago major) plants everywhere, if you look carefully.
And lastly today Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis agg). Bitter, tasty, medicinal, everywhere, free!
It snowed yesterday and the remains are clinging to done plants in Amsterdam today. Here’s an edible Geranium in a doorstep pot.
And here’s a lovely Plantain (Plantago major) in not such a tasty spot…
Here’s a little plant which I have been encouraging in a pavement crack near Frankendael, for the past few months. Its characteristic scent, leaf shape and the basal rosette arangement of its young leaf stems, all tell me that it is a Geranium but I’m not sure which. My best guess at the moment is that it is Geranium rotundifolium. I really hope it will survive long enough in this location ,to flower and show me it’s true identity. In the meantime I’ll enjoy its fragrance and an occasional well washed and cooked leaf, in my meals.
I visited the park very early this morning and was pleased to find a surprise clump of my favourite herb for grounded-ness and muscle pains – Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). It is shown in this photo growing in a location quite far away from the ones I already know. So, I have high hopes that there is quite a good population of this useful plant in the park and also the city. I’d really like to know if any followers f this project know of Motherwort growing near them in other locations. I know that Jennie Akse knows of plenty in Beatrix Park, I’m not sure in which part they are but they certainly like it there too. Note that the pink flowers, next to the Motherwort leaves, are from another plant (see below). Motherwort is sometimes mistaken for a member of the Geranium family due to it’s leaves, however it is easy to spot the square labiate family stems. Failing that, if you mistakenly taste even a fraction of a Motherwort leaf, the extreme bitterness will soon teach you it’s not an aromatic Geranium! Motherwort is generally used as a tincture.
Here is a beautiful plant, from a very common and varied city tolerant herb family – called the Cranesbills or Scented Geraniums or Pelargoniums. I think that this one is most likely Geranium pyrenaicum, Hedge Crane’s-bill and as I’ve mention plenty times before, all member of the Geraniums are edible, tasty and useful. I read the other day of an old Rose Geranium infused alcoholic punch recipe, from Arabia. It is in Patricia Telesco’s Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook – a nice resource book containing many traditional and interesting herbal recipes. This plant is not Rose Geranium but itis related and extremely fragrant. I am quite tempted to have a go at it, maybe when the summer really arrives.
Another herb which is in season for harvest at present, is Lavender. I don’t see much of it in this park but it grows prolifically in the city and can be used very easily for many applications. Christian Huygensplein, near my home is planted out with it. Thank you Amsterdam Oost! Unfortunately, each day I have had time to visit any Lavender with my scissors, the weather has been damp so harvesting those pretty flower stems has been out of the question. No point in harvesting when the flowers are likely to mould, before they can dry out thoroughly. If you are lucky enough to find a huge patch of Lavender, the flower stems can be carefully but quickly thinned out, just above the foliage, perhaps taking every 20 stems, without much visible impact on the plant. I’m sure that my neighbours would not appreciate anyone chopping clumps of the flowers from the shopping area but I’m sure a few carefully flower stems wouldn’t be missed.
Lastly and shown above, is a striking herb which I have no experience of using at all but know it has historic uses. It is called Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) and I know it only as a garden plant from Somerset. Here’s a link to a page from a wonderful recent-historic book, offering a glimpse into historic uses of herbs.
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.
Today, Sameena from the Meetup group joined Livvy and I, on day 23 of our herb seeking mission. We saw several beautiful herbs, not least Garlic mustard, Geranium, Horsetail, the beautiful Lime trees with their glutinous leaves and Comfrey which the local bees were going crazy for.
Afterwards I found borage and wild rose in flower, both for the first time this year – a real treat! If you fancy harvesting either please remember that borage is an annual so if you take the flowers there won’t be a plant there next year and vitamin C rich Rosehips only form when Roses are fertilised by insects and allowed to develop unhindered all the way into autumn.
Above, Borage (Borago officinalis), mixed in with some Sweet cicely and Dead nettle. The small blue flowers are the easiest feature to help you distinguish this plant, it also has very hairy foliage. An alternative name for it is the Cucumber herb or plant, that’s because it tastes like cucumber! It makes a welcome addition to salads and it has uses in skin care.
Day 20 of the project and after going to the park expecting to see just one or two new things I was delighted to find my first Elder blossom of the season, Wild Aspraragus shoots and several other delights. Here are a few…
Above, Japanese knotweed is still fair game for Foragers looking for something a little exotic in Amsterdam. Here’s a link to my
sweet sour JKW yoghurt recipe
Next is A Geranium species in flower. Very tasty cooked or raw.
Someone got to this Asparagus before me. It makes a stunning tall feathery plant when allowed to flower. I hope that whoever harvests this one leaves some other shoots to flower and fruit unhindered.
Above is Plantago major (NL: Wegbrood, Plantain) in full effect, prior to flowering. It’s not as useful a medicinal than its slender sister Ribwort (Plantago lanceolota) but its useful and quite good eating.
I feel like a bird spotter with this one… Above is my first sighted Elder blossom of 2012 and it gets me very excited. Elderflower fritters, Elderflower champagne, Elderflower tea and a host of other flower and Elderberry recipes are not far away! This huge Elder shrub is on the Middenweg, just up from the top entrance of Frankendael and opposite the Vomar supermarket. If only my arms were long enough! Remember to harvest with respect and leave LOTS for the birds and bees. Also be very aware of Elderflower look-a-likes. Here’s a photo of Ash or Rowan in flower, growing above an Elder shrub which is not in flower. It would be an easy mistake to harvest the flowers believing them to be Elderflower, when here is nothing to compare them with.