Here is Wild Basil (Satureja vulgaris / Calamintha clinopodium). It doesn’t smell nearly as strongly as its cultivated cousins but it tastes good and is a useful culinary herb if you are lucky enough to find a favourable patch. There are reports on the internet of it being used as a heart tonic but I can’t find any real reference to this and know it more as a useful herb to sooth digestive complaints such as gassiness and indigestion, much as close relative mint can be used. It is easy to identify; a hairy labiate so having square stems, small pale purple labiate flowers positioned in rings around the stems above leaf bases. The increasing size of the flowers makes the leaves point increasingly downwards, as the season moves on. The leaf veins are quite distinctive, more pronounced beneath and depressed above than most similar plants. The leaves grow in pairs, opposite each other on the stem. It smells aromatic when the leaves are bruised but not hugely so. Not like cultivated basil which is very strongly aromatic. This plant has been flowering in Amsterdam for a few weeks now and should continue to do so until September. I find the name Wild Basil a little misleading and prefer to think of it as a Calamint (which it is).
Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgaris) is the next Frankendael herb today and another well known culinary name. I last photographed it on day 2 and since then it has thrived and flowered. The flowers grow at the top of the stems rather than those of Basil. Marjoram flowers are more pink than purple and the plant smell stronger than Wild basil. The stems are distinctly woody. As well as being tasty and easy to grow in a pot, Marjoram has many historic uses including releiving the pain of rheumatism, easing colic and headaches. There are modern reports of it having quite potent anti cancer properties. Marjoram is quite a strong herb, as well known culinary herbs go, and is one to avoid during pregnancy. I also know of Greek and Turkish women who went out for a hearty plateful of Marjoram flavored food, when their baby’s delivery date is overdue. I tried it and it didn’t work for me but the food tasted great and it cheered me up no end!
Musk Mallow (Malva moschata). Here’s an interesting link in Dutch, for some information about uses of this beautiful plant and also two similar looking ones, Marsh Mallow and Hollyhock.
This photo shows the narrow form of Plantain, known as Ribwort, with Ground ivy flower stems growing up through it.
Ribwort (Plantago lanceolata), is a very useful first aid herb. It is part of the plant family to which Psyllium belongs and shares it’s usefulness as a soother of mucous membranes. Amongst other things, it can be used as a simple insert in shoes, to ease tired aching feet and can be rubbed on grazes and insect stings as it releives pain. It was previously recommended as a plant to be added to the seedmix for pastureland, it is a favorite of sheep. Ribwort contains lots of mucilage, easily released by chewing. For more simple uses see Susun Weed link.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) also known as groundsel or cat’s paw, was an age old remedy for stomach ailments, was used to clarify beer in the absence of hops, is useful for soothing chapped hands, tastes pungent and minty and is great raw or cooked. It is a favorite of birds and can apparently entice a rabbit to eat when is unwell and refuses all other food. Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal (from 1931) advises harvesting Groundsel along with Chickweed in the spring and summer, to dry and then feed to rabbits along with their straw in the winter.
The plant is a very successful annual, now renowned as a garden weed. Ground ivy, with its scalloped kidney shaped leaves, creeps across the ground, setting root at regular intervals and throwing up relatively tall flower stems (10 -20cm high) at this time of year. Today, purple ground ivy flowers looked stunning throughout the park. There are striking patches at the entrance closest to the garden centre and dotted throughout the less trampled grassland, notably next to the woodland area beside Frankendael Huis. This plant is definitely a must-try for foragers, provided you can find clean plants.
Lastly today, a photo of Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) which thrives in just a couple of spots in the park. I am always delighted when I see it in flower but at this time of year the plants are growing rapidly and the leaves are loaded with the aromatic oils, so prized by cooks.