Tag Archives: ground elder

May Herbs Sauce

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This herb sauce was the result of today’s rainy forage in Frankendael park.

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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).

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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.
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365 Frankendael day 347

More molehill collecting for me today. I’ve been busy repotting some balcony herbs and took the risk of sowing a few seeds. So more soil was needed!

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Some of the molehills in park Frankendael are very sandy, others are full of organic matter. Here’s a sandy one – just right to add drainage to the organic soil I bought from Albert Heijn. The little Plantain (Plantago major or media) in the photo was completely covered by the hill until I scraped the top soil away. Just that one molehill filled an empty 5 litre soil bag. Plantago media is an endangered species in the Netherlands, so if that’s the plant I’m extra happy. Either way, my molehill antics provided free soil for me and a freed herb for the park!

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I’ve found lots of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) today, both in the park and other parts of town. I’ve been collecting some of the flower heads to make Coltsfoot honey. They smell amazing when just picked and it’s easy to see why they are a great cough remedy. They are easiest to find in grassland close to water. They look like Dandelion from a distance. But close-up they look like strange Asparagus type scaly things, shooting up as spears through the soil and sending flowers to face the sun before producing proper leaves. Very difficult to mix them up with anything else.

So what else today?

Violets (Viola sp):
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Young shoots of Rosebay willowherb:

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More Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) NL:Hartgespan. If in doubt of this plant (but certain it’s a square stemmed Labiate) nibble a tiny bit of leaf. If the extreme bitterness literally knocks your socks off, it’s Motherwort!

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Primrose:

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And some lovely buds and shots from which I made a refreshing immune system boosting tea,

Lime tree buds (Tilia sp). Reach for a too high for dogs twig, maybe on a burr such as this. Snap off a fresh tip bud (after checking its OK with the tree of course) and just pop it in your mouth. After a little chewing your mouth will be full of unmistakable Lime tree goo! It’s great stuff for all manner of ailments and makes me feel very happy to know the tree, every time to do it. I can’t really understand why everyone else in the park doesn’t do this. There is some information I wrote a while ago about Lime, for those wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Bramble (Blackberry bush) – just the soft green shoots.

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Added to my Spring brew (and still really tastes great hours later as I write this and enjoy the second pot) was of course a leaf or two of my new herb friend Common Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).

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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) remains in pungent foliage.

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And finally today, a real taste of the foraging weeks to come – Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria). Just a few plants coming through today but it’s up! I absolutely love this herb (though it’s often a real pain to gardeners). It’s common English name is Goutweed because it helps clear the body of uric acid amongst other things. I love it because it makes me feel good and tastes rather like Parsley. It can be eaten, used medicinally internally and applied externally in things such as salves and compresses. Learn more about it at the June Embrace Your Weeds workshop which I’m running with City Plot.

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Now back to my pot of Spring Shoots Tea…

365 Frankendael day 324

Just a quick photo today, of an edible and reputedly medicinal plant which takes a lot of work to remove from a garden!

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These are the tiny but unmistakable early leaves of Ground elder (Aegopodium podograria, NL: Zevenblad). I really enjoy eating this plant through the spring and early summer. If the soil it grows in, is unpolluted then eating it certainly beats fighting it, in my book anyway. The plant is part of the Carrot family and has a distinct parsley flavour. It goes well with lots of foods (steamed fish being my favourite) and is easy to prepare and cook (simply clean it, finely chop it and sprinkle over the cooking food for ten minutes cooking).

365 Frankendael day 164

Today a few useful plants growing around the bike racks just inside of park Frankendael…

Seedheads of Garlic Mustard (Allitaria ). Too late to harvest many now but a good indication of where their successors will grow.

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Beautiful Hawthorn (Craetagus monogyna) berries (Haws).

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Ground elder (Aegopodium podograria), in it’s last edible throws before dying back for the winter.

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Ivy (Hedera helix), always useful as an external skin stimulant, not for eating.

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A Garlic mustard plant in it’s first (non flowering) season. A space to watch next spring.

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365 Frankendael day 139

Today, a quick list of 16 edible or medicinal plants, currently in season in Amsterdam. Here they are, photographed in Park Frankendael this morning:

Silverweed – edible, all parts.

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Jerusalem artichoke – invasive, very tasty. Heaps of it at the back of the closest flower meadow to Frankendael huis (behind the house). Cook the roots with winter savoury – it helps eliminate the intestinal gas which these vegetables are infamous for producing.

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Dandelion, Stinging nettle and Chickweed. All three are edible, nourishing tonic herbs. Can be eaten safely in fairly copious amounts but just a leaf our two, or a handful of Chickweed, will really boost a meal.

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Rosehips, in abundance. They could be made into syrup now but if the birds leave them alone, I’d wait another few weeks. Medicinal due to high vitamin c levels in particular and other immune boosting constituents. Interesting added to stews etc also.

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False, but edible, look-a-like strawberries of a Potentilla.

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Sweetcorn and Sunflowers, growing alongside the Middenweg. I’ve seen quite a few wild Sweetcorn plants lately. Maybe sometimes been sewing the seed as they walk the streets? Not likely that either of these plants will be left, strimmer free, long enough to flower or seed, but what fun that would be if it happened.

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Japanese knotweed, rhubarb like, super sour edible and terribly invasive plant. Search this site and others for how to cook it.
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Marshmallow (yes, it’s the original sweet namesake). I simply collected a thousand seeds or so from this plant today. It’s so easy to grow in town and so useful as a soothing medicinal and as a food – think gooey egg substitute.

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Not so easy to see – though what a pretty woodland view – Ground elder and Wild geranium.

Garlic mustard, edible – very! – but only pick one leaf per plant at this time of year. They need to build up energy reserves to survive the winter. You’ll hopefully be rewarded with tall healthy leaf and flower rich plants next year.
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Wild rocket. Rucola in Dutch. A heap this size would be sold for a small fortune in Albert Heijn. It will taste extra strong and be a bit woody at the moment due to flowering but still useful and very peppery. Maybe collect a seed pod or two and sprinkle them in a price of underused safe land near your home.

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Greater celandine. NOT edible! Poisonous orange sap, but that sap is very useful as a topical treatment for warts and some other skin spots.

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Lastly the mystery Nut Tree that several people sent me photos of whilst I was on holiday. I still don’t know the name or whether it if edible our not. But I now know it’s sticky and I think it is setting fruit rather than nuts at the moment. Will keep am eye on it as they develop.
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365 Frankendael day 136

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red clover

Today I harvested a few handfuls of Red Clover blossoms to make a small jar of tincture, three large leaves of Ground elder, to chop finely and add to our dinner and sat quietly in a beautiful, tiny grove, within the woodland part of park Frankendael.

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Ground elder

The grove is somewhere I’ve walked by many times, have harvested little from and yet it drew me completely within itself today. This place has a wonderful energy about it, filled with sounds of the city and yet, cool, shaded, green, earthy, nurturing and sheltering. Sounds of birds chattering around me, branches crack as squirrels and other small animals climb around. Just the place to launch the apprenticeship course, I think. To sit on the ground here is a beautiful experience. I smell Ivy all around me and feel supportive earth beneath me. It is a magical place.

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Grove in Frankendael park

I feel delighted that I will have an opportunity to take several people there, to share my love of this place and of the plants which choose to live in the city.

365 Frankendael day 114

Beautiful weather today and a lovely stroll through the park.

Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), beautiful, edible flowers, not to be confused with standard Lilies which are highly toxic. Please scroll through the photos on day 75 to see what they look like.

Garlic mustard (Aliaria petiolata) growing out of some dirt on a woodland bridge.

Garlic mustard seedlings, coming up for a second edible crop of the year. This is a biennial plant so although there is not enough time for these seedlings to mature and set seed before the frosts, they should survive and flower next year. Probably best to forage only from the second year plants (which are now almost over, foraging wise).

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is setting seed and what spiky seed heads they are proving to be! If you need to harvest some, it’s probably best to have gloves on and shake the seeds straight into a paper bag. I gave up trying today and threw the few I collected into nearby soil.

It’s still going strong in some areas: Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria).

First year Burdock (Artica lappa). This is what is needed if harvesting the medicinal and nutritious Burdock roots, is your mission.

Blackberries.

Fat hen growing In the shelter of a Beech hedge.

365 Frankendael day 78

We filled our pockets with small, sour, fallen apples in the park today. We met an interesting lady with her dog, who told us about eating Walnut leaves, Hazelnut foragers and Honingclaver (literally Honey clover, Sweet Clover, Melilotus spp.). It’s fine to eat Sweet clover in small amounts but as you’ll read in the link above, it can interact with some blood thinning drugs and no one should eat too much of this plant.

Today’s photos:
Firstly, Ground elder (Aegopodium podograria) springing up in the rain soaked, just mowed outer verges of the park.  A welcome sight, I love eating this plant and much of it looks quite stale in the other areas of the park.

Next up, Burdock flowers. As mentioned before, the second year plants flower and are not useful really. But use this sight in the urban wild to help you find first year plants perhaps.

Next a beautiful Rose, growing next to Frankendael Huis. So beautiful ans so many ways to eat them.

Here’s fragrant, digestive system soother Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Please see the day 72 posting for further details and links.

Here’s a plant growing in the pond behind Frankendael huis which I spotted on the recent Greenpeace walks in Amsterdamse Bos. It is known as Gypsywort in Britaian and Bugelweed in the US (Lycopus europaeus). I still need to learn it’s uses but am pleased to have found it in Frankendael today.

Here is a very large, sprawling and Poisonous White Bryony (Bryonia alba), making itself at home over a big old Yew tree (Taxus baccata), also Poisonous and steeped in folklore, mainy to do with the dead.

Do you remeber that ploughed up strip of parkland, next to Restaurant de Kas?  Well this is how some of it looks today.  It seems to have been sewed with a wildflower mixture and it has begun to look quite beautiful.

Wild Herb Pasta


If you enjoy making fresh pasta and would like to inject some herbal magic into your creations, this recipe may interest you. Fresh herb leaves are blended through the pasta as it is repeatedly rolled in a pasta machine.

I heard about incorporating basil in this way from a colleague, who’d been to an Italian cooking workshop. I’ve made pasta with nettle juice before but find that quite a slow process so I thought I’d try it this way but incorporating some unusual foraged and pot grown herbs.

This method is very easy, it just takes a little more time than regular pasta making. I’ve no idea if this is how the Italian workshop prescribed it but this way certainly works and produces very herby pasta!

If you don’t know how to make pasta I recommend Jamie Oliver’s method. It’s very simple and works for me everytime:

A. Basically fork 4 eggs into 400g of tipo00 flour.
B. Do what you can with the fork then knead it thoroughly with your hands.
C. Wrap in clingfilm, or similar and refrigerate for 2 hours or so.

Whilst it settles in the fridge, get foraging! I used garlic mustard, basil, ground elder and parsley when I took these photos. Use what you have available. Curley Parsley was a challenge to incorporate but it eventually broke down well and tasted great. The other herbs broke down very quickly. Obviously, use herbs which are safe for you and your guests. Basil for instance is often avoided by pregnant women. A small quantity is unlikely to harm but be aware that even seemingly innocuous culinary herbs, can be very potent.

Now, how to incorporate the herbs…

1. As you progressively roll your pasta dough in the usual way, through a pasta machine, or by hand with a rolling pin, simply lay a few herb leaves down the middle of the pasta sheet.

2. Fold over the two sides to cover the herbs.

3. Continue running the dough through the increasingly narrow pasta machine. Each run through, will break down the herbs. Eventually tiny fragments will be distributed throughout the entire pasta sheet – it’s quite extraordinary to watch it happen!

4. Keep going until the pasta dough is as thin a you like and cut or process it as you wish.

I always make heaps of pasta (6 eggs, 600g flour), we then eat a hearty pasta meal and freeze the rest in portion sized containers, when still fresh and just dry enough to handle.

365 Frankendael day 30

In just a 1 meter square patch of land, on the outer edge of park Frankendael, I found all these useful herbs today…

Medicinal Comfrey (Symphytum uplandica):

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria) growing amongst each other:

Also, Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Poisonous member of the Carrot family, Hemlock (Conium maculatum):

Notice how similar it looks to Chervil. It has a smooth stem and leaves. It smells a little unpleasant and has notable purple staining on the stem. This is not a plant to be handled or foraged at all! This plant was used in ancient Geek executions, including that of Socrates. The Latin name means to whirl, pertaining to one of the symptoms of hemlock poisoning, vertigo. This plant is deadly poisonous and I show it here as so many foragers are keen to find plants such as wild carrot. It is very easy to confuse members of the family, especially those with finely divided leaves such a hemlock, carrot and sweet cicely
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Lastly another beauty which is not helpful to foragers. A Labrador delivering a little fertilizer to that interesting 1m square patch of park edge!