Tag Archives: Ramsons

Prickly Bear Sauce

It’s stinging nettle top plucking time here in Amsterdam. Most people realise that they are edible and that they sting.  I”m often asked how to eat these prickly iron and protien-rich freinds.  There are many ways!

Some people like to roll them up and eat then raw. I prefer them cooked or added raw to smoothies. Nettle soup is popular and I like that but I’m fonder of incorporating nettles into creamy, garlicky sauces.  I’m making one this evening so I thought I’d share how.

I’m calling this little sauce recipe The Prickly Bear because it contains stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) which are clearly prickly and wild garlic, scientifically known as Allium ursinum, Bear onion. You may know it better as Ramsons, Daslook or Wild garlic.

To make enough sauce for 4 – 6 people, I used:

Olive oil

3 banana shallots

20 stinging nettle tops (top 4 full leaves and stems)

Handful of wild garlic leaves

5 chestnut mushrooms

3 table spoons sour cream

1/2 good quality stock cube

Salt and pepper

Gently saute a few chopped shallots (or a medium onion) in butter, ghee or olive oil.

Add washed and chopped stinging nettle tops, before the shallots are thoroughly cooked.

Cover with a lid and allow it all to steam for a few minutes. Stinging nettles benefit from being nice and soft when you eat them so don’t rush this step.

Now add the chopped Ramsons. Give it all a good stir.

Add sour cream, salt, pepper or a little of a good quality stock cube.

and then add a hearty pile of sliced mushrooms (preferably chestnut mushrooms).

Replace the lid and simmer gently for 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are cooked and tender.

Serve with whatever you like. I stirred it through some gnocchi this evening and sliced some Comte cheese over the top.

Foraging Wild Garlic

Three beautiful blades of Wild garlic / Ramsons / Daslook (Allium ursinum), plucked from the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael today. I made some pungent daslook sauce from these, by blending them with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar.

And here are a couple of year old wild garlic bulbs which I removed from the orchard path. The reason for this is discussed in the podcast. Have a listen and let me know your uses for the plant and if you have had any success growing it. The paths are edged with fallen branches. In this photo you can see how the plant spreads into the paths.

I only forage wild garlic when there are huge swathes of it and the leaves are a few inches long.

I’m off to make some dinner using a little of that sauce now. Perhaps you would like to listen to my latest podcast, about ethically foraging Wild Garlic and how to use it.

365 Frankendael day 354

Just what the plant doctor ordered this afternoon – mild weather and a good dose of drizzle!

In the park, Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), succulent and far too tasty to park your bike against.

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Fumitory, used in some areas of the world to clear the body of radiation damage, following radiotherapy etc.

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So much Fuki in one place! And still, it flowers on.

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My daily dose of White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) from this plant.

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Wild garlic cheese balls

I’ve been making different types of soft cheese at home and this weekend and wanted to share this incredibly simple recipe. The soft cheese is made from yoghurt and then is infused with wild garlic leaves, fresh from the local park.

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All that you need is:
A cup or two of good quality yoghurt (no added thickners etc, goats or cows is fine),
Cheesecloth, very clean and just scalded (by dunking in boiling hot water for a few seconds),
Olive oil
2 wild garlic leaves, finely chopped (other fresh herbs can be substituted)

To make the yoghurt cheese simply…
1. Pour the yoghurt into the centre of the cheesecloth and pull up the four cloth corners to prevent the yoghurt spilling out.
2. Use a rubber band/clean string etc to tie up the cheesecloth somewhere convenient.
3. Hang it up somewhere clean for about 24 hours, over a bowl so that the drips are collected.
4. After that time you should have a cream cheese consistency, with a milder taste than yoghurt – soft cheese!
5. Scoop out teaspoons of the cheese and form into small balls with your hands.
6. Place in a clean container alongĀ  with enough olive oil to cover the balls and of course, the chopped wild garlic.

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7. You can eat it straight away but after a half a day or so, the cheese will become deliciously infused with the wild garlic flavour.
8. If you manage not to use it all up before hand, it should keep well in the fridge for a week.

365 Frankendael day 289

Oh I’m so excited! In the park today…

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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) Ramsons. It’s up! It smells great. I love it!

Please be aware that anyone who takes up a wild garlic plant, bulb and all, is acting illegally. Anyone ripping handfuls of the leaves or harvesting when the plants are too young to recover, is acting unethically. I shall continue to carefully harvest one or two individual leaf blades as and when I know I will use them directly. I only harvest from huge swathes of the plant and I suggest that others who like the plant do the same too. Most of the plants are too small to harvest from today but some are fine and their potency (as for regular Garlic but it’s less irritating to the tissues) is greatest before the plant flowers. So from now on, until the flowers come on the plants, I consider it Ramsons season. I walked through all the Ramson areas of park Frankendael today and some are completely without signs of life, so we are really fit at the binning of their time above ground. Keep your eyes open for them and be very attentive to their state of health, vigor and whether or not they are big enough to disturb by plucking a leaf. Flevopark has masses of Ramsons and I am sure the other big parks also. I’ll stick with my most local plants and plan to make some wild garlic ghee from a few leaves, for the apprentices next week. Here’s an interesting blog post about Ramsons in Amsterdam and some comments about the ethics of eating some.

Also today:
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Lesser celandine. A sign of early spring, not for eating, not for picking but with historical uses.

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And lastly another beauty not to pick because of it’s rarity – Primrose. Very tasty and very very useful!

365 Frankendael day 41


Today a lovely scene, if you like tended gardens, of the old partitioned garden at the back of Frankendael Huis. I really appreciate how the gardeners allow the plants to spill out here and there and especially so with the stunning Valerian officinalis which is shown here. Valerian medicine is traditionally focused on the roots but the flowers are also useful and have more subtle effects than the other parts of the plant. I have a big Valerian plant on my roof and this weekend, harvested every third flower cluster, for drying. Doing so leaves the beautiful appearance and special scent almost intact, for everyone else to enjoy.


Here is a photo Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), NL: Brandnetel, in bloom. Now is not at all the time to harvest this wonderful tonic herb but I took the photo to illustrate the difference between the plant and other look a likes, such as Lamium alba, White Dead Nettle, shown yesterday.


Here is a photo of a plant that I want to learn more about, creeping along the ground rather like a Strawberry with similar leaves and runners. Growing amongst it, with purple flowers, is familiar Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacaea) which is edible, useful and tastes minty. I have been watching the Strawberry look a like, in several shady parts of the park, for several weeks. Today it is coming into flower, yellow flowers, so I now remember that the plant a little better. It is a member of the Cinquefoil (Potentilla) family, I’ll have a closer look tomorrow to find out which. I brought a sample home but my cat ate it in seconds – maybe that should tell me something!? Strawberries are members of the Fragaria family.


Not one to eat until next Spring, here is an update of how Ramsons (Wild garlic, NL: Daslook) look at the moment. Not very tasty but the seed heads are developing well.


Next, and again for future reference, the closest Sweet Chestnut tree to my home. Totally unrelated to Horse Chestnut, far more tasty but possibly less interesting for herbalists.


Lastly today, an enormous Dandelion(Taraxacum officinale), two 50 cm long leaves of which, are destined for my plate this evening…

365 Frankendael day 20

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

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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.

365 Frankendael day 19

I’ve been walking in Frankendael with Elodie today, we found heaps of herbs, several new to us. If you’d like to join me for a herb walk there are a few spaces left for the Sunday May 27th Amstel to Frankendael walk. Here are some striking examples from today…
Solomon’s Seal looks rather like an enormous version of Lily of the Valley so I always steer clear of it. I have always thought of Lily of the valley as a poisonous plant so lethal that I shouldn’t even go near it. Upon reading about it last night I learned that it is called the herbalist’s Digitalis. It has a potent specific effect on heart muscles, causing them to open and fill more intensely and to raise blood pressure. It is thus lethal in even small doses and is not a herb of interest to me. However this arching beauty of the woods is very interesting. Solomon’s seal is used to make traditional remedies for many ailments, ranging from speeding muscle and bone healing, to menopausal symptoms, diabetes, acne and other skin afflictions. The native Americans reportedly ate it frequently.

I was thrilled to turn a corner in the wood today and be greeted by this scene:

It is difficult for a photograph to do it justice – especially one of mine! Here is Hawthorn arching over a swathe of Solomon’s seal and Wild garlic, all three in flower at the same time.

Other herbs of note today…
Below, endangered Hoary Plantain (Plantago media). I first saw this herb last year and remember not really knowing what it was, although it was obviously some kind of plantain, but wanting to hide it and protect it from trampling feet! Of course I couldn’t and this plant is well adapted to living in well trodden locations. However, should you find it, especially in a week or two when it’s flower stalk will look like some sort of moth-plant hybrid, then please don’t touch it. I hope that this one has a chance to set seed.

Chicory foliage:

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Endangered Greater burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis)

What a waste!


Finding this discarded bunch of foraged ramsons, made me very sad yesterday. Not only did someone harvest the flowers of this wonderful wild herb but they also didn’t even eat them! I was even sadder to see them still on the ground, this morning. The flowers of wild garlic taste inferior to the leaves and by removing them, careless foragers prevent new seeds being formed so this bulbous plant can spread far and wide.

Please spread the word about how to forage responsibly so that everyone can enjoy herbal beauty and bounty in our cities, for generations to come.