Tag Archives: Tilia

April

A few photos and short comments today as we rapidly approach Beltane, the festival of early summer.

Lime trees – Tilia – Linden in Amsterdam

This week, the Lime trees which line many Amsterdam streets, burst into leaf. I love to eat these leaves, they have a mild flavour, are not tough and they bring many nutritional and medicinal uses. The trees in this street show a characteristic of Lime, they often grow leaves down the trunk. This is a bonus for foragers as it makes the leaves easy to harvest from a tree species which can easily reach 20 meters.

Symphytum x uplandicum in flower

Comfrey plants are in bloom. This helps up to identify the species and help discern whether the comfrey growing near you in the white flowering Symphytum officinale, which is not seen as safe in internal preparations (such as teas) but helpful in external preparations (such as skin salves) or Symphytum uplandicum, which tends to have leafy parts which don’t contain the hepatotoxins in it’s leaves and flowers.

Another Symphytum in flower – 20 m away from the purple one above

Next up, Hawthorn. This is called by many names around the world, including May Tree because it generally bursts into bloom around the first of May. Well this year, it is a little earlier than I have seen for a while. It has been in bloom for over a week and it looks very pretty. Hawthorn is a tree wrapped in much folklore and superstition, due to the plethora of medicinal uses associated with it. This is one of my favourite city herbs.

Hawthorn in bloom. Crataegeus monogyna.

I have been Zooming with some of my apprentices over the past few weeks. I am posting the date and time on the Apprenticeship events page and any who fancy joining me for a chat, do. One week, there was a question about creams so I made them a video about it and have actually been more in love with the cream recipe since! It is a real skin soother. I made this one with orange blossom water and olive oil.

My Zoom cream. Orange blossom water and olive oil.

Magnolia is going over now, the flowers that it. If you have uses for the leaves then now is the time to harvest a few of those! Here is a beautiful specimen which grows in my local cemetery which happens to also be the Netherlands national arboretum – A nice double function, you may agree. The cemetery also houses the national funeral museum. An incredibly interesting place.

Yellow petaled Magnolia in Neiuwe Osster Begraafplaats, Amsterdam Oost.

Below is a photo of an invasive weed which grows in parts of Park Frankendael. I identified it several years ago as Pennsylvania pellitory (Parietaria pensylvanica), a non-stinging member of the nettle family and a sister of the well known traditional herb, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria officinalis). It is called Glaskruid in Dutch and Cucumber weed in parts of the USA. Both helpful common names as it kind of looks glassy when held to the light (translucent) and it has a mild cucumer taste. Sadly, it is also known as asthma weed because when the flowers start to release their pollen, it can cause havoc for people with respiratory issues. This prime specimen is growing in the woodland area of the park. There is a single mature plant growing in the River of Herbs nettle orchard, on the left hand side, soon after entering through the gate. We are leaving it there and will keep an eye on it when the weedy seed spreading time comes.

Pennsylvania pellitory

Next today, can you see the Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) in the photo below? I found this yesterday, on my walk back home from the supermarket in Oostpoort. Beautiful, fragrant (often nastily fragrant), edible, medicinal and fabulous Elderflower!! I just thought you may like to see it as this heralds the start of the main foraging season for many people. Here are a few recipes and thoughts about elderflower. As you will see from those posts, I am a big fan of them and each year, as well as making foods, drinks and home remedies from them, I dry a batch or two and store carefully to use as a tea during times when my immune system needs a boost. Elderflower tea is a well known traditional remedy for. Since COVID-19 hit Amsterdam, my Elderflower tea has been drunk at least once a day so my stock has steadily been depleted. It will certainly be restocked in a few weeks time, when the flowers are open everywhere and I can harvest some for drying.

I am trying to grow more vegetables than usual at home. I may write a post about these later but for now, here’s a windowsill shot of some veg scraps which I am trying to bring on. The Paksoi is particularly fast!

Romaine lettuce base, basil cuttings, paksoi base, spring onions, some sprouting lentils, celery base and carrot tops. Day 1.

You may have read about my Rosemary beetle problem. I can now report that the issue is improved but continuing. Yesterday, I picked only 5 beetles from the pruned bush. My poor Rosemary bush!

Rosemary beetle – Photo credit:  Secret garden

Lastly, a mention of a Dutch woman who asked for my advice by telephone earlier this week. She had been foraging in an Amsterdam park and noticed a young fern head had been snapped off and removed in an area with many fern heads were coming up. She took this to mean that some knowledgeable forager had found an edible fern and harvested some. She has heard that some young fern heads are edible and she wanted to try so she snapped one off, took it home, prepared and ate it. Unfortunately although now recovered, she became quite ill and she wondered what to do and did I know much about ferns.

My advice was to call her doctor or the emergency services if this sort of thing ever happened again and that if she relapsed at all now, to contact them straight away, showing them a photo of what she had eaten. Also not to follow supposed “leads” from other foragers. That fern head may have been snapped off by any number of things, from kids playing near them, a strong bird animal pecking around, a dog etc. This is just one of the reasons why I teacher foragers to pluck really gently and to leave no trace. When one person sees you have been there, others often think that it is fine to copy. Sometimes with catastrophic effects.

I don’t forage ferns and I keep a few bottles of Norit activated charcoal tablets handy, they may sometimes be helpful at absorbing toxins but hospital is your best bet, if a plant poisoning situation occurs – don’t be proud if it should happen, just call 999 / 112 / 991 etc and get professional help – quickly. And only harvest what you know really well, have identified properly and only eat what you are sure is safe for you. I am looking forward to meeting the woman and us going for a herb walk together.

Gnarly apple tree – Wishing you a blooming lovely Beltane!

So that’s it from me today. I hope that you are keeping well, getting enough fresh air and are looking forward to Beltane – May Day, this coming Friday. I certainly am! If you are on the Apprenticeship course and fancy a Zoom or socially distant meeting in the plants, let me know!

365 Frankendael day 75

I went for an earlier walk in the park today and was rewarded by finding the freshest and most delicious Lime (Tilia) flowers that I have ever harvested.  Here’s the tree they came from.  I turned them into a tea and shared it with the painters and my little girl.  Lime tea is especially good on a warm summer day like today. It is cooling and refreshing.

Here’s a neighbouring Tilia tree in the park. It must be a different variety as everything about it is a little smaller than most Tilia in the park and the the leaves are a little darker.  The flowers are also placed slightly differently on the twigs. I don’t know so much about the different varieties but I do know that Tilia tastes good and is very beneficial.

Next is a harmonious grassland combination of Plantain, Yarrow and Red clover in bloom.  I set off today hoping to find enough Yarrow to make a tick-deterring tincture. I got rather side tracked by other herbs and in the end, didn’t notice enough to harvest. So instead of tincturing, two flower stalks are brightening up a small vase on my dining table.  It’s good to remember just how many ways there are to benefit from flowers.

Here are two of my favourite things, my little girl and a huge Brassica plant.  As with most naturalised and wild brassicas, all parts are edible and quite strong tasting. Just a carefully picked leaf or two should liven up a meal.  (Thanks Jennie for correcting me on this one, I thought it was Wild Cabbage but that only grows near the coasts on chalky soil). This one may be Rapseed (Brassica napus). My friend Jennie Akse is running a herb walk focused on edible yellow flowering plants, around in Amsterdam at present.  Have a look at the Meetup group for details.

Here is a herb that I find quite wondrous, Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum). Useful for many disorders, such as lung weakness and infection and most popular, I think, as an ear infection remedy.

Next up today is another herbal harmony, Veronica‘s towering blue spires mixed with more Mullien, Mugwort and Agrimony.

Here are some striking and Poisonous Lilies, in the formal garden behind Frankendael Huis and Merkelbach.  I add this photo because yesterday I featured the very edible Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva), which can look very similar to the uninitiated.  All parts of Lily are toxic. I have never thought about eating this type of plant but I find the pollen, when trapped in a living room with it for instance, very irritating.

Here is Catnip (Nepta sp). A member of the mint family, it can be used in similar refreshing ways. I like to make a sinus blasting pesto with it sometimes. It has many uses and is quite easy to grow.  Many will already know about cat’s affinity to this herb.  Some love it and find it quite a turn on, others seem to lack receptivity to it and many show more of a loved-up reaction to Valerian.

Another minty wonder is shown below, the often overlooked and trampled Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). The pretty purple flower spikes are gone from most of the plants now but just look at that rich foliage! Now is a good time to harvest and use it or dry it for the winter. But why bother when this ground covering  plant is around all year long?

Next is a delicious Garlic Mustard plant (Alliaria petiolata), showing different stages of seed pod development. This is a wonderfully tasty herb to add to all sorts of cooking.  It is also great used as a salad leaf or flower.  Looking at these seed pods reminds me of why it’s a pity to harvest the flowers of this super biennial.  Less flowers, less seeds, less plants next year.

Next is a large plant which I’ve been hunting for some time – a first year Burdock (Arctium lappa), ripe for root harvesting.  It seemed that all the Burdock in Amsterdam were second years, in bloom and not very nutritious or medicinal.  Now that the council have mowed some patches of the park, some first year Burdock have been kindly left to develop.  I won’t be digging this plant up but it’s good to see it and be reassured that a first year plant is easy to identify.

Lastly today, a type of Hyssop (Hyssopus sp.).  I used this plant quite a lot last year, it is very aromatic and makes good tea. I’ll have a careful look at this one again soon to identify it fully.

365 Frankendael day 74


Lots of edibles but not much time to photograph them today. Here’s a photo of a smart young Tilia, Lime or Linden tree growing on the edge of the park. I just wanted to mention that the trees are still very much in flower and the flowers are very tasty and easy to dry for later use. Tilia is nothing to do with citrus Lime, although many find it a very refreshing herb. Here’s my previous post about Lime and it’s uses.


Next is Daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) a flowering plant that looks too dramatic to be wild or edible and yet it is quite a forager’s favourite. Please be aware that regular lilies are definately not edible. Day lilies are different. I haven’t yet tried them and hope to later this week. Here are a few links which you may like to peruse if you have mind to harvest and eat some…

Susun Weed, Lily family article
Dining on Daylilies
Eat the weeds article

365 Frankendael day 61


Today is the Summer Solstice, Midsummer’s Day and I am having a lovely time! Myself, Livvy, Isobel, Esther, Isobel and the two babies, harvested leaves and flowers from some of the Lime trees (Tilia sp.) Which form the main avenue in Frankendael Park. It was so pleasant to share the Midsummer harvest with other like minded people. We cleaned the honeydew from the leaves, in a bowl of fresh water, made tea in flasks of boiled water and sandwiches from the harvest and some Lime honey.

I’ll be doing this again on Sunday in a different location, but I think there is nothing quite like the burgeoning green energy of Midsummer’s Day. The plants seem to be about to pop with the amount of goodness within them and some of them have certainly sprung suddenly into flower today.

I found lots of Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) just in flower, today and harvested some for a tincture. Likewise, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is in perfect form for tincturing. These and Lime are the three summer herbs which I love the most so I spent time with them today.

I was also pleased to see that some of the Mullein plants in the park have quietly started to flower and patches of Feverfew close to Frankendael park are also standing out. The Plantain (Plantago major) leaves are currently enormous and I will be tincturing some of them and their flowers in the days to come along with Lime tree leaves and flowers.

If you tend to see Midsummer as the end of the lightness and you morn its passing, perhaps try and see it in a different way. More as a time to thank the Sun and light for all the transformation it has provided and welcome in the gradually approaching darkness. The darkness can teach us much about ourselves, it gives a chance to reflect inwardly on what has happened in the preceding time and encourages us to appreciate the light, when it returns.

365 Frankendael day 35

Today a very speedy look around the park, in the late afternoon sunshine…

Roses are opening up all over the city. Perfect weather for them to bloom. This is one of my favorites in the park, Rosa arvensis, the Field Rose. Very pretty now and produces excellent hips in autumn.

Birthwort, NL: Pijpbloem (Aristotolochia clematis) highly poisonous, with some historic uses (and recent infamy from causing kidney failure when accidentally incorporated into ground wheat flour). I am looking forward to finding out what the Latin name is all about.

Lime leaves (Tilia) are mostly covered in something sweet & sticky at the moment. Either excrement from the masses of insects seeking out nectar from the new flowers, or the nectar itself dripping down onto lower leaves. I’m not too sure which it is but at the moment this sticky stuff is clear, but visible and certainly delicious. Wash it off or not, the leaves taste great and many blossoms are already present so let the harvest begin! In a short while the sticky covering will thicken and blacken. Then it needs a good scrub and or soak in clean water to get it all off. The leaves do stand up well to such treatment and can then be dried thoroughly for storage or used directly.

Sage, (Salvia officinalis). Beautiful and so tasty! Beware the power of Sage if taken in higher than culinary doses and stay away for it during the few few months of pregnancy. Not a tonic herb but a very useful one for the body and mind.

365 Frankendael day 31

What lovely people I met today, on my first guided herb walk of this year. We looked at lots of lovely and useful herbs. I’ll post a few photos taken by the others when they reach me.

In the meantime here’s a Frankendael Lime leaf photo which I took yesterday, for those who didn’t get to pick one to keep with their handouts. This is a perfect time to harvest a few healthy, non sticky leaves and enjoy them between slices of bread.

After the walk today, I also spotted Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor NL: Kleine pimpernel), poking it’s flower stalk up in a grassland area of the park. In my photograph there is also a ribwort to the left, with a completely different flower stalk. Salad burnet is a useful but endangered plant in the Netherlands so completely out of bounds to foragers and herbalists alike. I feel very priveledged to have seen it today. I hope to be able to take a better photograph of this plant soon. I mentioned to some people to day, the useful website called Bioimages.Org.uk where you can search for images of plants and animals to help with identification. Here’s a link to their photos of Salad Burnet. It seems like a good resource but of course never forget your field guide!

Also plenty of healing Ribwort, in the same area, with it’s long slender leaves and unusual dull coloured flower at the end of a long stalk.

Here’s a pretty tree pit from the same patch, full of a tiny flowered Cranesbill, Ribwort, Horsetail and a non edible Chrysanthemum, all mixed together by fortunate chance.

365 Frankendael day 9

Today was the monthly Puur Markt in Frankendael. At this time of year, there’s a great stall which sells herb plants quite cheaply. I picked up a small Curry plant for €2.75 and a little Verveine for €2. The stall is always there through the main growing season and they also work at the weekly Saturday Noordermaarkt. They don’t have a website but are well worth a visit.

I thought I’d take a photo of the newest section of Frankendael’s Lime tree avenue today. Lime is an under appreciated herb, in my opinion. It has a multitude of historic uses and come midsummer, yields the most heavenly fragrant flowers, which drive the city bees wild. With these you can make a wonderful, lightly intoxicating tea. At this time of year, Lime leaves can be eaten as an unusual and medicinal sandwich filling. They have a mucilage within which makes them very useful as a soother of the respiratory system. If you take a moment to chew a leaf you will feel the mucilage release from the leaf tissues. It’s more pleasant than it may sound!

There are lots of Yellow Dead Nettles (Lamium galeobdolom) in flower at present.  I’ll write more about them another day. The link above is to an interesting blog post about the plant.  The photo shows a large swathe of the plants at the back of this woodland undergrowth.

Lime leaves & flowers – sandwiches, scented water and drying (NL:Linden, Tilia)

Yesterday I walked to a local public garden and harvested a carrier bag full of leaf and blossom sprigs from Lime/Linden (Tilia) trees.  These trees smell great at the moment. Whole neighbourhoods are perfumed by Lime flowers, loaded with nectar to attract hoards of bees.

If you pluck clean a clean lime flower from a tree in a safe location, you may like to eat it directly. They taste sweet and aromatic with a hint of bitter tannin. The aroma which will fill your mouth, nose and mind is uniquely delicious and has been highly prized, by many cultures, for centuries.  Lime flowers will quickly release a little glutinous, sweet mucilage as you chew.  More details about properties of this amazing tree in the main post on Lime.

So with limited space and time…
How to dry tree leaves and flowers.

  1. Once home, lay out the harvest on a light surface and discard any rough, diseased or otherwise unhealthy looking leaves, flowers or sprigs.
  2. Allow time for bugs to escape and find them a new home if they seem lost.
  3. My harvest was partly covered in a dried black film – originating from greenfly droppings in the canopy – so I then used scissors to separate the flowers from the leaves.  99% of the flowers were unaffected.
  4. Gently but thoroughly wash any dirt or film from the leaves, using cold water.  If you wash the flowers you will loose the valuable nectar and pollen.
    (It was very difficult to remove the black film from some parts so I discarded these and added them to my balcony pots as a mulch)
  5. Dry the leaves with a clean tea towel or muslin.
  6. Lay out the leaves and flowers separately to dry, on clean paper, cloths or trays.
    (I spread my harvest out on my dining room table, with a clean, absorbent, cotton table cloth beneath.  The room used needs to be well ventilated and fairly warm to facilitate good drying)
    This could be done in a very cool oven, I prefer to save electricity and let time do the drying.
  7. Turn the harvest from time to time to allow all surfaces to dry.
  8. If necessary, when the herbs feel dry to touch, move them to a more convenient drying area.
  9. Keep checking and shifting the herbs around to facilitate drying, for as long as it takes them to become completely brittle.
    (The flowers will dry much more quickly than the leaves, which could take 3 weeks)
  10. Inspect again for mould, unhealthy looking herbs.
  11. Store in glass airtight containers.Uses:
    Lots of information is given in the main Lime post but here are couple of others…

    • I couldn’t wait to use some of my harvest so I made Lime leaf, blossom and Amsterdam honey sandwiches for lunch.
    • I also added a few flowers to my cold water bottle this morning.  The water tasted and smelt very fragrant after about an hour.  It tasted far better than any shop bought, flavoured water and had the added benefit of a few cooling, gooey flowers to chew on during my 30 degree Dutch class.  The flowers would also look very pretty in a decanter of dinner table water.
    • Lime is magical – if you have the chance, give it a try!

Lime (NL:Linden) for Magical Midsummer Happiness

City bees are dizzy with happiness at present. The sweet perfume of Lime (NL:Linden, Tilia spp.) trees fills the air in many streets and parks, attracting bees from far and wide.  This tree looks wonderful, can grow to a stately height, is great for wildlife and it’s flowers are used to make the best herb tea and honey on Earth (well, I think so anyway!).  The Lime tree is able to calm our nerves and bring us happiness.

The tree is easily identified. It has a classic tree shape, if allowed to grow unchecked, has large heart-shaped and sharply toothed leaves which are smooth above. Lime flowers hang yellowish-white from the trees from Midsummer to July, not necessarily all over the tree. There are often burrs on the handsome trunks.

Uses

  • Linden flower tea is very popular here in the Netherlands and across the continent.  Lime grows abundantly in the UK yet is less widely used.  The French prize the herb tea made from Linden flowers above most others and call it Tilleul.  It was used traditionally in Europe to treat nervous disorders such as hysteria, nervous vomiting and palpitations brought about by stress.
  • Linden honey has been highly prized for generations, has a heavenly taste and carries many of the properties of the tree.
  • Lime wood is excellent for minutely detailed carving and turning, being close grained, strong, durable and unattractive to woodworm.
  • Lime bark has been traditionally used in Europe to make baskets and fishing nets.
  • The sap is plentiful in spring and has a high sugar content.  It can be tapped in the same as Maple and Birch.
  • The leaves can also be made into a tea/infusion whereupon they yield an extremely thick (mucilaginous) and cooling drink.  They also make a simple and tasty sandwich filling.
  • It is found by many to be helpful for coughs, colds, fevers, headaches, inflammation, as a diaretic, general tonic, to calm the gut and to soothe nerves.
  • In general this herb is thought of as soothing, relaxing and promoting feelings of happiness.

Narcotic intoxication:
Lime blossom is easy to harvest, dry and use but as with all herbs, it should be treated with great respect.  Harvest when in full bloom and all should be well but beware that Lime blossom tea can produce a mild, non addictive intoxication.  Flowers left on the tree too long before harvesting are said to have a more intoxicating effect.  The mildly intoxicating effect of appropriatly harvested Lime makes many of us feel happy. It also makes Lime extremely valuable to those seeking to enter a state of trance and other magical journeying.

On a spiritual level, Lime is renowned as a tree herb which can help relieve grief and induce feelings of vibrancy and youthfulness.  To appreciate these qualities it is said that you should carry a small bag, filled with dried Lime leaves, or that you place them under your pillow.

How to harvest Lime/Linden.

Harvest from mature Lime trees, in as clean and unpolluted an area as is possible.
Choose a dry day, preferably before it becomes too hot and after the dew has dried.
Snip off young healthy sprigs, containing blossoms and a few leaves, from branches which you can reach easily.
Respect the trees and harvest sparingly.
Spread the harvest out on a clean dry surface, preferably on trays so air can circulate easily.
Leave in a warm, well ventilated place for 2 – 3 weeks, until the sprigs are thoroughly dry and brittle.
Store in sterilised airtight containers.

How to make Linden/Lime tea and infusion.
You can make Linden tea by simply steeping a sprig of fresh Lime in a cup of boiling hot water for as long as desired for taste.  Or you can use a teaspoon full of dried crushed herb per cup.

To make an infusion place about 5 tablespoons of crushed dried herb in a pot or jar which holds about 500ml of water (you could scale this up to suit the size of your container).  Add 500ml boiling water and leave with a tightly fitting lid and without heat, for between 4 and 8 hours (preferably overnight).  Then strain, separately retaining both the herb and infusion.  The infusion should be good for 24 hours if refrigerated.  Return the “used” herb material to the pot and add about 300ml of boiling water.  Simmer gently, for up to 2 hours, after which a very mucilaginous fluid should be obtained.  Again this should be good for about 24 hours if refrigerated.