Today I was kindly sent a batch of beautiful photos of herbs in the park by Joop Eisenberger. I often meet Joop in Frankendael whilst I hunt for herbs and he hunts for dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, bees, plants etc. He is well known for taking the most wonderful nature photos in this area. Joop, thank you so much for sending these to me! I am showing a few photos today and will post more over the coming days. It’s always inspiring to see the work of someone who takes such time and effort to get just the right shot.
Firstly, black rosehips of Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia). These are really quite an amazing colour, compared to most other hips. I showed the flowers of this shrub a few months ago and now the hips are maturing and standing out gloriously. All rose hips, of whichever colour, from whichever species, can be transformed into delicious and nutritious vitamin c rich conserves. I look forward to giving these a gentle squeeze, when I return from holiday, to see how ripe they are. Rose hips need to be fairly soft but not at all rotting, to be harvested. Whatever preparations are made from hips, the pips (seeds) must be carefully removed by sieving, before the final storage as they are covered in tiny irritating hairs.
I thought most St John’s / Joan’s wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum) were over now but this photo taken yesterday prove otherwise. I have taken a bottle of oil, infused with this plant, on holiday with me. It is my sun lotion. Contrary to popular beleif, this sunny little wonder herb can prevent sunburn as well as soothing aches and pains and uplifting depressed minds. Avoid the dried herb for depression, it tends to make things worse. The tincture seems to do a better job. If you are interested in this herb, take a look at the writings and recordings about it by Susun Weed. The herb can interect with the contraceptive pill, so beware.
Speaking of contraceptives, I’ve a renewed interest in Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) flowers and seeds at present because where I’m holidaying is absolutley covered in the plant. There is some extrememly interesting reseach into its effectiveness as a birthcontrol herb, by Robin Rose Bennett. Read her research findings and updates if it is of interest to you. In short, it appears to work like a herbal morning after pill. If taken regularly it stops working. So if you facy trying it, read up on it thoroughly, get some advice and make sure you harvest the right flowers or seeds!
Lasty today, here is a poisonous herb, also associated with birth, or otherwise. It is called Pijpbloem in Dutch, Birthwort in English and Aristotolochia clematis in Latin. The Doctrine of Signatures was responsible for wrongly linking many herbs with dieases of body parts which they resemble. This is one such herb. It was thought to resemble the birthcanal or uterus and was used by many for quite sometime to help childbirth proceede and for other gynacological issues. It does cause the uterus to contract, eventually, but it all also causes kidney damage and failure and thus sometimes death. It’s quite a beautiful plant, creeping around the woodland area with unusual leaves, tendrills and a vibrancy that really makes it stand out from the other plants. It is very poisonous and shouldnt be ingested.
Today, a lovely walk through the park with Lucile and the little ones. We each went home with a few leaves of Ground Elder and a little Ground Ivy. Plenty of other herbs in season though…
Here’s the foliage from a Wild Carrot! Not one to be dug up, though it would probably taste great. I hope to revisit it later in the year to double check it’s identity when it is in full bloom. Wild carrot has been used in folk medicine for centuries and has recently been researched by Robin Rose Bennett. It is often found to be quite a useful contraceptive. For more information on the research take a look at Robin’s website.
Garlic Mustard leaves continue to grace many of my meals. The plants here are nearing the end of their flowering season but the foliage still tastes wonderful and only a leaf or two is needed to add a garlicky kick to regular meals.
Greater Celandine continues to flower. It’s stems remain loaded with bright orange sap which is freely released when a stem is broken. This sap, containing a substance which is acrid and highly irritant but has been used medicinally since at least the middle ages. Historically it was used, in preparations such as lard and milk, to cure piles, cataracts, severe scurvy and some forms of cancer. These days it is still a popular remedy, amongst those who know it, for warts, corns and ringworm. To use for these three ailments, simply break a stem and apply the fresh sap to only affected skin. It will irritate healthy skin. The Latin name of this plant means swallow (the bird) and this is said to be because the plant’s flowering season coincides with the arrival and departure of swallows. So hopefully there should be some time to go before the flowers of Greater Celandine disappear from Amsterdam again.
Cleavers are looking particularly lush and juicy at the moment, about 50 cm long on average. Perfect for harvesting a clean handful and juicing for a cleansing tonic.
Happy 2011! May this year bring you whatever you need at just the right time.
New Year resolutions don’t work well for me, a year is a long time wherein my will power for certain things slowly ebbs and flows. In the past, whenever I have attempted New Year resolutions, I have inevitably floundered within a few weeks, causing me disappointment and eventual failure to meet those well meant intentions. I know that I am not alone in this character trait and last year was so pleased to read about a different way to meet personal targets. Robin Rose Bennett writes about New Moon intentions in her beautiful book, I find the method very natural to work with and it has already helped me to make some positive changes. Here’s how the idea goes….
- On the eve of a New Moon I privately write out what I intend to work on during that moon cycle (about 29 days). It could be something like eating less chocolate, or trying to use more fresh herbs in cooking. When writing out the intention I try to make it a positive, achievable, present tense affirmation, such as: “I eat fresh herbs three times a week” or “I eat one chunk of chocolate a day.”
- I keep the paper somewhere private but where I can easily reach it each evening. Each evening I take a look at it and perhaps light a candle for a short time to heighten my awareness of the intention, reminding myself of why I want to work on this particular intention. It also helps to use that time to imagine/daydream/visualise how it feels to have achieved the intention. I do this each night until the subsequent Full Moon, that’s about two weeks after the New Moon.
- I then burn the piece of paper, perhaps with the candle I have used to heighten my awareness and let my affirmations free, allowing them to manifest in whatever way is most appropriate at that time.
- For the rest of that moon cycle I try to keep to my intentions but I don’t focus on it as much as previously. I just let it happen.
- When the next New Moon arrives I think about how successful or otherwise I have been in meeting that target and adjust my affirmation for the next moon cycle accordingly. So perhaps my next affirmation will be: “I eat one chunk of chocolate every week” or “I eat fresh herbs four times a week.”
In this way I find it possible to move steadily towards my goals, to adjust my expectations when needed and to feel positive about steps forward, even when they are not as great as I had initially hoped for.
The next New Moon will be Tuesday 4th January, the subsequent Full Moon will be Wednesday 19th January followed by a New Moon on Thursday 3rd February.