Tag Archives: stinging nettle

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.

365 Frankendael day 363

Garlic Mustard seems to be everywhere at the moment, and Stinging Nettle and Ground Ivy! I didn’t take very many photos today but here is a pavement crack full of minty, flowering Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacae):

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I picked a small handful to make tea, from a lovely clean woodland edge.

And here is a very windy photo of Cleavers (Gallium aparine), which is also everywhere I look at present, on the ground at least. Soon it will start to scale up shrubs and wire fences, becoming very visible to everyone.
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I didn’t take any Nettle photos today – was to busy picking them. Plenty of them are ready for making infusions, pasta and whatever else you fancy.

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Here above is Burdock (Artica lappa, NL: Klit). An extremely useful herb. Well worth learning what you can do with it. I’m not one for harvesting roots in the city but all parts of the plant are useful to some degree. Here’s a useful Burdock link.

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And lastly, Dock (Rumex sp). Where I come from, everyone knows that rubbing Dock on a Nettle sting, takes the firey pain away. But there are far more users for this edible plant. At this time of year, and if you don’t suffer from Gout, Rheumatism or other uric acid related ailments, you may fancy cooking a dock leaf or three as a sour tasting vegetable. It contains oxalic acid, as in sorrel and rhubarb. So it tastes sour and shouldn’t be consumed too often.

365 Frankendael day 352

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Today a small group of us planted out the Elder cuttings which we took from mature Elder shrubs on Hugo de Vrieslaan last year. The idea was to grow more of this useful native herb in a slightly cleaner part of the area.

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We choose to plant our well rooted cuttings along the edge of the Frankendael woodland. They blended in instantly and we have our fingers crossed that they will take well to their new home.

We also took a fresh batch of Elder cuttings and will care for them at our homes until next year. Thanks everyone who came along today!

Also today, I spotted a good amount of Cleavers (Gallium aparine) for the first time this year. It is growing here beside some Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

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And Common Figwort is starting to bolt forth.

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365 Frankendael day 344

I passed by Flevopark this afternoon and saw masses of Wild Garlic, still looking very good! At the front of the photo you may be able to see lots of Elder (Sambucus nigra) shrubs, just coming into leaf.

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At the nearby childrens farm and outdoor play centre there were some lovely wild plants and cultivated ones.

Here’s the strawberry planter that I noticed last year..

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My favourite find of the day, Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). It makes a wonderful mild but effective remedy for coughs. Here’s a link to Susun Weed harvesting and preparing it for such a purpose. Making Coltsfoot honey is very easy and very useful.

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Coltsfoot is of the same family as Butterbur and Fuki which I’ve been noticing a lot lately. All of these plants send up flowers before their kidney shaped leaves. All are quite striking. I’ve never found enough Coltsfoot in Amsterdam to harvest but I’ll keep on hoping.

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Here’s a plentiful herb which nobody ever minds me harvesting – Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). It is getting better by the day at present.

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And lastly today, another plant I was delighted to find on our trip today. These are the cones of an Alder tree (Alnus sp). Alder is the only deciduous tree which bears cones. I’m saving lots which I collected from the ground today, to help create a well dressing. Glennie Kindred has helped revive this ancient craft and I’ll be having a go at making one very soon in Amsterdam. Scroll through the 18 images on that link and you’ll see how the cones are used – quite stunning! Alder comes were traditionally used to create the edges or lines of the designs.

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Alder also bears beautiful catkins, giving more than a hint that it belongs to the Birch family. I found a branch of Italian Alder on the ground in Oud Zuid a few weeks ago. That is now growing lovely leaves in a base of water at home. Still no roots though.

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365 Frankendael day 320

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I think that these are early leaves of Scrophularia nodosa (Common Figwort), the foliage smells like it but I haven’t noticed it this early in the year before. Time and flowers will tell.

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Above, Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) again. This time with a mixture of pink and purple flowers. It really stands out at this time of year.

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Here is pretty wild Dog Violet (Viola riviniana).

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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Rich in protein (10%!), vitamins and nourishing minerals. This one could be harvested now but I’ll wait for slightly larger plants, to allow leaves to be left on the plant, after I harvest tender tops.

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And this spring beauty is Petasites japonica (Japanese butterbur). I think it’s an absolutely beautiful plant and feel very fortunate to have found this one in full bloom in good light today, and in a place I could actually reach! It grows in park Frankendael in just a few places along side three water, on the steepest banks where I guess most people don’t dare to tred, consequently it survives year on year. In Japan this spring growth causes excitement in markets where it is sold as delicacy. It is used as an astma and migraine medicine but contains alkaloids which are toxic to the liver and are strongly linked with some cancers. So consumption should be limited! I have been waiting for this day for a couple of years, since wondering if those massive kidney shaped leaves of late spring/summer, in pockets along the waterways of Amsterdam which so looked like Fuki (Japanese butterbur) really were the real deal. I’m quite happy this evening. Of course not all of the big summer Fuki-like leaves belong to this plant, some are completely unrelated and inedible to say the least. That’s one reason why identification with flowers and watching a plant for it’s whole lifecycle is so important.

365 Frankendael day 201

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Here are two interesting plants; Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), edible, nutritious and a useful tonic for the body. The other feathery looking foliage belongs to Fools Parsley which could give you quite an uncomfortable digestive system if you were to eat it, perhaps mistaking it for something such a Sweet Cicely. On an Urban Herbology walk last year, I was told about a group of young Amsterdam children who had a lovely woodland walk with a guide and foraged their dinner. Unfortunately they harvested and ate Fools Parsley, mistaking it for Wild Carrot. They all ended up in the local hospital’s casualty department with dreadful stomach pains and more. Apparently all was well in the end but I’m sure they wouldn’t have wanted that.

There are so many noxious close relatives of Fools Parsley (such as Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum) that it’s just not worth foraging anything that resembles it – unless you REALLY know what you are doing.

365 Frankendael day 147

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Here’s a beautiful patch of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, NL: Brandnetel) detouring at the front of Frankendael huis. If you like idea of harvesting to dry and store or to cook and freeze, then now is the time. Preferably choose nettle without flowering tops but both are edible.

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Here is a bundle of discarded dry Hollyhock flower spikes. These are in Oud Zuid, close to my workplace but you’ll probably spot a similar scene all over town. Each individual seed head is packed with about 20 seeds. It’s a great herb to grow in small spaces such as tree pits and outside of houses.

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 138

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Caterpillars or some other small creatures have been feasting on this patch of Nettle (Urtica dioica) , growing near the garden centre at the back of park Frankendael.

On a safe foraging note, I was sent this link today. Obviously anyone foraging should be conscious of their personal safety and some foraging hot spots are more secluded than others. There is apparently a women in this part of town who has mugged write a number of women, near the Park Frankendael, over the past year or so. She has been asking them for directions, or that sort of thing, then mugging them. A photo fit of her face is on the link.