Tag Archives: Sambucus nigra

365 Frankendael day 150

Thank you to the group of Urban Herbies who joined me For the Elder Workshop today. We harvested Elderberries, Elder leaves and Elder branches. We learned about and concocted Elderberry syrup and numerous other Elder based remedies. I had a lot of fun with you all, and the plants!

I was so busy enjoying the time that I forgot to take an Elder photo so here’s one of the syrup that we made together, from freshly pressed Elderberry juice and honey… It’s a clean but scrappy looking jam jar. That doesn’t matter as my portion of the syrup will be wolfed down very quickly!

As well as Elderberries, there are heaps of ripe Hawthorn berries in the city hedgerows at present. I did remember to take a photo of one such tree. It’s time to try out the Hawthorn recipes, kindly sent to me by one of the Amstel walkers earlier this year.

Here’s a link to the recipe for the Banana bread I baked for the workshop. I added a finely chopped 20cm Ginger plant leaf and I forgot to add the dates. All fine though!

Here’s a link to that information about recent scientific research supporting the use of Ghee and Honey impregnated wound dressings for serious wound recovery.

Thanks Nathaniel and Jade for sharing with us how the Native Americans revere their local Elder species. Here’s a link with a little information about that (at the end). Here’s a link with lots of information about Elder, particularly the US growing species. Not much about the indigenous people but lots of useful stuff.

Here’s a link to one of my mentors: Glennie Kindred in Britain. She wrote the hand sewn books I showed you today. We looked at the one called Sacred Tree in which Glennie lays out her interpretation of the Tree Ogham.

As we talked about honey, Katja shared her latest concoction – fresh ginger infused honey with lemon juice. Yum! I’ll be trying that very soon and will post some photos to brighten up the autumn. Maybe Katja has a photo of hers already?

Cindy, I don’t think you took your portion of ointment and certainly not the syrup. I also forgot to give you the Kombucha so let me know when you have time to collect them.

Thanks again everyone. See you again soon! xx

Elder and Sugar Plant Cuttings

How are you’re Elder babies getting on? Did they survive the dark wet weather and then the recent heat wave? It’s almost a month, since we snipped them from their parent bushes on Hugo de Vrieslaan and I know some have had a tough time. But be confident and don’t give them up for dead, even if they look lifeless. Just water when they or the soil seems to need it, they don’t like having soggy feet but they don’t like drying out either. Elder (Sambucus nigra) is once of the easiest cuttings to grow, they stand a very good chance.

Mine are in a quiet north facing balcony corner, with a large plastic bag at their base. I loosly pull it up when I feel it’s too windy for them, or too sunny. I pull it down at other times, when I remember. One cutting lost it’s leaves quite soon but now has fresh green buds. The other two have kept hold of their leaves and show new growth. I’m very pleased.

Here is a cutting I took from Youko’s Sugar plant. This is not Stevia and it’s clearly not Sugarcane or anything similar but it does taste of sugar – a lot! Youko, could you tell me the real name when you have a chance? I thought it died on the way home, it looked so limp for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t dry up so I kept faith and just monitored the soil wetness. Not too wet, not too dry, as with the Elder. I kept it in a similar location to where Youko has hers. Yesterday it seemed to gain energy (probably from roots!). It now looks positively perky and sports new leaves! I think it is now through the most tricky cutting phase so hopefully I’ll have a nice healthy plant for some time to come.

I’d love to hear how your Elder cuttings are getting on, and other plants you are trying to proliferate. Likewise, whilst I can’t take photos of herbs in Frankendael, I’d really love to receive any photos of plants you think may be edible or medicinal, in Amsterdam.

365 Frankendael day 115

I’ve been to Proef in Westerpark today to have a look at their organic garden, which City Plot tend. It is another inspiring example of how to grow lots of food and herbs without a garden. The site is next to the old gas factory storage tanks and hence the soil is deemed unsuitable for directly growing crops. City Plot have overcome the problem by using raised beds. They look great, house hundreds of very healthy plants and are quite a haven for wildlife. The Growing and Using Exotic Herbs Workshop on Sunday October 14th will take place there. Myself and Suzanne from City Plot will run it.

On my way back home I found this exciting sight… A fully ripe Elderberry spray!

So the time has arrived. Get your paper bags and recipes ready, these berries are packed with nutrients and can be cooked and preserved to deliver them when needed, through the winter.

How to Make Elder Babies

Elder cutting with roots

This morning a group Urban Herbies gathered alongside a park hedgerow and took cuttings of a wonderful herb shrub – Elder (Sambucus nigra). We are going to look after the cuttings for as long as it takes for them to find their feet and be mature enough to survive planted out, in another Amsterdam hedge or edge. I was inspired to try this by the work of Glennie Kindred, a wonderful, community spirited wise woman from Britain. Her website contains very useful information about many herbs and has especially detailed information about native trees. Thank you Glennie!

Here’s How to Make Elder Babies:

1. Most shrubs and trees are best propagated in the autumn and winter but its also possible to try easily-rooting Elder in the summer. Chose very healthy parts of very healthy shrubs, ask the permission of the shrub you are drawn to with your heart and actions. Be gentle, respectful and only harvest a little from one shrub. If your cuttings fail to survive then return them to the soil. Never burn Elder and listen to the wisdom it has to offer. All parts of the plant are medicinal and have been revered for millennia. These days we tend to make most use if the berries and flowers. The leaves and twigs also make an excellent skin cream but it is best not to ingest them.

2. We used secateurs or our hands to carefully remove the last 6-8 inches (14-20cm) of a healthy branch. Avoid those laden with berries, the plant’s energy needs to focus on that task rather than growing new roots.

3. Remove all but the last couple of leaf pairs, gently slide them off with your hands. Return these to the foot of the mother Elder. If harvesting in winter, all of the leaves could be removed from the cutting.

4. If using it, dip the bottom end of the cutting into a jar of Willow or Meadowsweet rooting hormone tea. Poke the cutting quite deeply into a pot of good quality soil, so that it is about half buried and won’t topple over. Firm the soil slightly.

5. Ideally, water the pot from beneath by standing it in a bowl of water for a while, until the soil is thoroughly dampened. Ensure that excess water can freely drain from the pot.

6. Place the pot, with damp soil and comfortably pushed-in cutting, in a place of semi shade, or in a loosly closed translucent plastic bag and leave it to grow roots. This will take some time so you’ll need to be patient, maybe for a few weeks. There is no need to remove the cutting to check on progress, just let it do it’s thing and you’ll be pleasantly surprised the day you see Elder roots, poking out of the drainage holes.

7. Keep an eye on the dampness of the soil, Elder will rot if it gets soggy but it will also die if the soil dries out completely. Lightly water the soil when needed. Misting with a water spray is a gentle way to water from above.

8. When the cutting has set down a good root network and has grown a couple of feet tall (about 50cm), it should be ready to plant out when mild spring weather arrives. This may take a couple of years but sometimes it can happen more quickly.

9. Plant out during moderate weather in an area where Elder bushes are sparse. Elder fairs well in most conditions, it will tolerate full sun, lots of shade or partial shade. A hedgerow setting is most suitable. The shrub can be pruned into a hedge if needed or allowed to grow in which ever direction it prefers.

Here’s another link to Gennie Kindred’s website where you will find lots of useful Elder information and several wonderful Elder recipes.

To make the Willow rooting tea simply harvest a few Willow tendrils, chop them and place in a clean glass jar. Cover with freshly boiled water and cover. Leave to infuse as the water cools, for about 8 hours. Then the infusion may be strained or not. It will keep a few days in the fridge if needed or use what you require and pour the rest on your other plants.

Let’s Grow Elder Babies!

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is arguably the most useful herb that grows wild in Western Europe. It is used for many remedies, is steeped in folklore and history and on top of that the flowers taste great and the berries are delicious when cooked! It is a native hedgerow shrub here in Amsterdam, some areas have lots whilst others have none. I’d like to help increase their distribution in Amsterdam, with your help.

I’m organising this through my Meetup Group as several of the group members are interested in getting involved. The “meetup” will involve taking small cuttings from existing strong bushes and planting them in pots of soil to take home and keep an eye on for two years! (If you move I’ll adopt them). After that time and with a bit of luck, the Elder babies will be viable for planting out in local hedgerows. A while later there should be a nice increase in Elder.

No gardening experience required, just a bit of enthusiasm and community spirit!

I really hope that at some of my blog followers will also like the idea of getting involved. I see foraging as a journey in conservation, take little, be compassionate and give something back to the Earth in thanks. Many foragers or wild crafters of herbs do give little gifts to the soil as they harvest, like a pinch of tobacco, herb tea, even blood, but if I were an Elder I think I’d prefer some friends!

I’ll set a date nearer the time and of course it can be repeated throughout July to October.

If you would like to join us then either join the Meetup group and RSVP to the event or just email me directly. Lynn.Shore@gmail.com

365 Frankendael day 47


Firstly today, fragrant and edible flowers of the urban prolific Rosa rugosa. It is much used by urban landscapers and I think, underused by urban foragers. To be used as any other rose, ensure they are clean and unsprayed as ever.

Next is Cleavers (Galium aparine), still looking fresh and cleansing in the Volkstuin area of Frankendael.


Here is a mature Ginkgo biloba tree which I hadn’t noticed until today. Recently I learned that in some parts of the world it is illegal to plant female Ginkgos because the smell of their fruit is so obnoxious! Perhaps this one is a male? Either way, the leaves will be ripe for the picking and eating or tea making in a few months. There are a great many Ginkgos in Amsterdam.


Above is a small Ladies mantle (Alchemilla) plant. This is a bitter and very useful herb. I grow several on my roof and sometimes eat the flowers as a garnish. The leaves are good as a bitter tea and can be used to make a good breast toning oil. That is one of their traditional uses.


Lastly today, another coppiced Willow living in apparent intimate harmony with a different plant species. This time the lodger USA flowering Elder (Sambucus nigra). Two great herbs together!

Urban Herb Love


Yesterday was our seventh anniversary, here is what we cooked: Scallops, marinated in the juice of half a lime, a sprig of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped and a small nugget of fresh ginger, squeezed. After cooking in the marinade, the scallops and sauce were laid on wilted spinach and Elderflowers were sprinkled on top.

Next came grilled lamb cutlets served with a caprese salad and most importantly, Mugwort vegetables. The taste of a top of almost flowering Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) infused into mixed vegetables, as they cooked in one of my magical cast iron pots. It was served sprinkled with detached individual Red Clover flowers. Mugwort (Cronewort, Artemisia vulgaris, NL: Bijvoet)  is extremely tasty and aromatic when cooked in this gentle way. Just a splash of olive oil, finely chopped leeks softened then chopped aubergine and courgette added to the pan. Lid on and simmer gently for ten minutes or so.

Umm, now that’s Urban Herb Love!

365 Frankendael day 45

It has rained all day and it although I got soaked through, it was a real pleasure to be out photographing and foraging this Full Moon morning when hardly anyone else was about in Park Frankendael.  I managed to harvest some gorgeous Elderflowers, Ribwort, Red Clover and Mugwort, without anyone casting me a glance of suspicion or sympathy!

Here are today’s photos:
Firstly, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), it is abundant on in some parts of the park.  Here is a lovely patch with a dozen or so plants.

Next is Foxglove (Digitalis). What a beauty and so useful in times gone by particularly.  This is a poisonous plant and I think too rare in Amsterdam to harvest even if you knew what to do with it.

Now for my favourite of the day, Willow.  In fact two copiced Willows, one containing a lovely Garlic Mustard plant and the other just looking stunning, with light shining through a gnarled old trunk.  Perhaps it’s because Willow is such a water lover, or perhaps it’s the full moon energy, or perhaps neither but all the Willows in the park looked quite strikingly beautiful today.

Here’s the gnarly one:

Next is Elderflower.  Most flowers are in full bloom right now but some of the earlier bloomers are already going over and setting seeds within tiny berries.  Remember that Elderberries always need to be cooked to be safe and palatable. The flowers are different and can be eaten raw, although most prefer them cooked or infused, for various purposes.
Here is an Elderflower well on the way to making berries.

Lastly, beautiful rain filled Teasel (Dipsacus sp.). This plant is well known to Chinese herbalists but less so to those in the West. It has traditional applications in the treatment of muscle, tendon and join injuries and disease.

365 Frankendael day 42

Today a post about one plant, my favourite, Elder (Sambucus nigra).

This wonderful ancient healing plant, which has been steeped in mysticism and folklore for millennia, is producing flowers that cheer up almost every hedgerow in town, right now.

Where you find one Elder shrub, you are likely to find others close by. It springs up in the most unexpected places and is a true survivor. It has bumpy, brittle, crooked branches, smelly leaves and phenomenal frothy flower heads, stacked all over the plant. They remind me of small terraces, tilting in almost the same direction, all over the shrub.

This photo shows one of many Elder shrubs, along the Hugo de Vrieslaan hedgerow which provides a boundary for Park Frankendael. Now the flowers are mature and plentiful.

I’ve talked about this plant quite a lot previously, Google Elderflower recipes and you may be amazed by how many people like to eat this flower. Remember to avoid eating the leaves amd twigs, they will likely make you ill. I was refreshing my knowledge of the plant this evening by reading Wild Man Steve Brill’s book, Edible and Medicinal Plants. He talks about an American cousin of our local Sambucus nigra, called Sambucus canadensis and I was surprised to learn that the stems and leaves can sometimes yield cyanide, when a bitter alkaloid and glycoside within them change. So definitely parts of Elder to avoid in your diet!

One piece of Elder history I want to mention today, is how ancient Christians were irritated or threatened by the Elder Mother cult in Europe. The Elder mother was/is said to live within the Elder bush. You should ask her permission to harvest from her tree, should never burn her, should never chop her down, without asking her to leave. Ancient Europeans revered the Elder, welcoming and encouraging it to grow near their homes. the Elder mother protected homes from fire and lightning, kept your cattle safe and of course provided simple medicine for your whole family. This folklore helped to make the shrub commonly available for all manner of uses. In an attempt to rid communities of their attachment to the Elder Mother, the plant became embedded in the most negative ways, within Christian stories. Judas was said to have hanged himself from an Elder and Christ was said to have been nailed to an Elder cross. But of course this couldn’t be true due to the brittle nature of the tree. The tree was also much associated with witchcraft and yet was also said to protect you from witches. It seems that everyone had something to say about this shrub which points to it having had many uses.

I’ll be harvesting some more Elderflowers tomorrow, probably to be broken up and sprinkled into a light batter, some to be added to general cooking (we had it on baked fish last week, very good and interesting), some to make a face wash and some to be dried for use as a fever remedy when needed. I also fancy making some Elder leaf infused oil this weekend, for external use in an ointment. It is often useful on bruises, sprains and chilblains.

Love Elder and she will love you back, but be gentle with her and ask (and listen) when you’d like to take some of her gifts. She has many, many gifts and is not to be overlooked or underestimated.