I have started a map to help my students and others to find herb gardens, foraging spots, community gardening projects and other interesting herbal places. I live in Amsterdam Oost so to start with, most of the map points are clustered there but I hope that it will steadily grow as more people add interesting medicinal and edible herbs to the map. I also want to map more places where Urban Herbologists can learn about plants and nature in general. Hopefully we can build it up for other cities and parts of the world. Let’s see where it goes.
If you would like to add points to the map, which show finds outside of private gardens, either send details and a photo to: email@example.com or ask me to have editing rights, so that you can post your own favourites. I want each point to have the Scientific plant name, local name and English.
Please remember that this is for educational purposes and that no responsibility is taken for incorrect points on the map. The aim is purely for people interested in Urban Herbology to find more interesting plants and places close to where they live.
At present the map layers are:
General (useful herbs, edibles, medicinals in open ground) Trees (with edible / medicinal uses in open space) Private Collections (museum gardens, botanical gardens etc) Community Gardens (where you could get involved with some local schemes)
I hope you find it interesting and useful. Let me know any feedback.
I had a pavement garden put in by the city council, beneath our Amsterdam apartment, soon after we moved here 13 years ago. Such pavement gardens are narrow strips, right up against the buildings, were the pavers get lifted and removed, making the sand beneath available as a planting area for residents. You need to draw up a plan and get written permission from your neighbours, when you request a new one – It was quite exciting I can tell you. Well, my neighbours approved my idea and after the council workers set it up for me, I poured in a couple of bags of compost and planted it up with Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), Rue (Ruta graveolens)and Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia). Everything in there grew really well, even though the little plot faces full south, is under a bay window and gets little rain. It was a lovely, simple Mediterranean herb garden. The herbs were resplendent and many neighbours would snip off a little Rosemary through the growing season, to add to their cooking. That shrub was enormous and very healthy.
Then last year, things started to go rather pear-shaped in the geveltuin. The mature Rosemary had some damage. More than a little damage, in fact it looked decidedly nibbled all over. Only a few flowers pushed through and the plant looked increasingly bedraggled. We also noticed very pretty, metallic striped beetles on the Rosemary sometimes. Often, when we brushed against the shrub, some of them would shoot off and bounce off the pavings making a characteristic crackling sound. We didn’t realize back then but our Mediterranean herb garden was under attack by the Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana).
This week, enough was enough. The Rosemary looked barely alive and as neighbourhood Rosemary bushes were starting to really bush out with lush deep green new shoots, our looked downright grey. To make matters worse, the Purple Sage was almost gone, the Rue totally desiccated and the Lavender was a shadow of its former self. The beetles were more plentiful than before and my herb garden was no more.
Know your enemy I read up on the Rosemary beetle and planned my counter attack; Hard pruning, taking a few insurance cuttings, enriching the soil and removing the thick blanket of dead leaves (which I was building up beneath the shrubs, out of laziness really). Finally a good drenching with water.
Operation Revamp As you can see in the video, I shook out the shrubs onto a bright blanket, placing tumbling beetles and larvae in a glass jar which became enormously interesting to local kids. We had about 30 bugs in there by the end. The leaf layer was totally cleared and I hard pruned all of the shrubs. The Rue had to go, sadly as I loved it and few people seem to grow it these days. However, I was delighted to find that it had spawned a few babies, growing between paving slabs so I hope they will make it in the newly prepared plot. My daughter and I scoured the geveltuin and surrounding area for more beetles and larvae before giving the remaining plants a really good watering and then enriching the soil slightly with a bucketful of spent compost (which I collect from my old rooftop pots). Later, I added a couple of lupin seedlings which I had on the roof, a few radish and beetroot seeds, some potted tulips from the kitchen balcony and some self-seeded Lemon balm, which was growing across the street in the gutter. A cheap and cheerful geveltuin makeover! The project took a few hours and I am satisfied with the result.
Prevention It took me a couple of years to give in to the fact that these pin-stripe armored beetles were beautifully munching through my herb garden and that I was providing them with perfect overwintering conditions. From now on, I intend to keep the plot more open and airy, more species rich and attractive to predatory and pollinating bugs and I will water the plants regularly, especially when they appear to be under pressure. I also plan to place a bird nesting box on the street tree across the pavement and will feed the plants with comfrey & nettle tea, when the mood strikes me.
In the hope that I can help others to spot Rosemary beetle and deal with it more quickly, I made a short video, which you can see here. My daughter and I had fun editing this one so we hope that you find it useful.
Squish or Release? So what happened to the collected beetles and larvae in the glass jar? Well, I did squish one on the pavement in frustration, the day before the clean up operation and I felt really bad about it. Killing them didn’t feel right at all and I knew well that these bugs were here for a while and I had allowed them to get out of control. I needed to help nature to restore beetle balance. After a chat with a gardening friend, I decided that the best solution was release these little beasts into a more bio-diverse area, away from aromatic herbs and where natural predators could feast on them or they had a chance to escape and live among other species of insects. This morning, we took them to a grassy area, close to water and let them go.
Have you got a beetle problem? If so, how are you dealing with it? What would you have done with the captured beetles? Do you have other herby-pesty problems and can you think of better ways for people to keep their herbs healthy? Do let me know as I would love to hear!
Push Your Boundaries
Voluntary hardship is an enriching thing. It takes us to new places and teaches us much about ourselves. I challenge you to make your life a tiny bit harder for just one week, for the benefit of your health, your knowledge, your self-reliance and our community. And that community is the planet.
Harvesting just a fraction of your food outside of the supermarket is easy to do in most towns and cities but most of us don’t do it. You could probably find and support a local farm which sells great organic veg, without too much time or trouble. You could probably find an independent grocery store selling local produce. You could probably find someone who wants to garden share and grow some of your own veg. If you do any of these, great! But let’s take it a step further.
I want you to become:
Aware of what grows around you.
Aware of how clean your neighbourhood is, or could be.
Aware of how edible plants could be the backbone of urban planning.
Aware of how to (at least partially) feed yourself for free.
Think about adding a little something hyper-local, free and special to your breakfast smoothie. Or weave a free and local food into your lunchbox, to dazzle your colleagues at work. I want you to go out, forage something safe and tasty, clean it – and eat it – every day for a week. That’s not asking for much is it? I suggest plants that you can easily ID, maybe stinging nettle, dandelion and bramble buds. Check it’s the real thing (send me photos to check if you like) and then get sensitively plucking.
Need some help with plant ID? Ask me for help via the contact form or why not start with my Dandelion Plant Profile? Send me a quick message (bottom of page) and I’ll send you the Dandelion Profile as a pdf, along with a hello and some encouragement of course! The profile is from my online Urban Herbology Apprenticeship, a course for people who really want to embrace the urban wild. I am taking on a handful of local apprentices this season but the online part of the course is available year round, wherever you live.
I suggest that you think of a plant that you purchase and consume very often. Something that’s always on your list and which has probably been grown under greenhouse lights or shipped across at least one continent to reach you. For me, this would be spinach. It’s easy, it’s bland, it’s cheap enough and I buy a big plastic bagful each week. I keep it in the freezer and I throw a handful into my smoothie almost every single day. I barely think about it. Where has it come from? Is it sprayed? What nourishment does it really provide?
So how to replace the spinach? My first thoughts are of stinging nettle tops, full of goodness and growing in most neglected street corners. Dandelion leaves, with there nutrient rich bitter tang, grow close to my local bus stop. Chickweed. That tastes great and grows as a weed, in some pots on my roof. Those three are all low growing plants. Not the best in dirty locations, fine if you have some clean patches to forage from.
If you want to play it safer and forage above dog pee height, I suggest looking for Bramble patches and reaching high for some of the new leaf buds. Or Magnolia petals, currently ready to burst open here in Amsterdam. Just one petal will do the trick, there’s no need to take more. Or how about Hawthorn leaf buds? They are easy to spot for some, not for others. Aim for plants which are easy to identify, safe and clean. Always wash your plants at home and remember that birds spray higher than dogs..
Look up your foraged plants and build up what you understand about them. If you are not confident or experienced enough to eat these plants, at least learn about them. What are the look-a-likes? Are they used as medicines? What nutrients are they thought to contain? How do different cultures eat or utilise this plant?
Keep It Clean “Hang on a minute Lynn, I’m not eating plants from a dirty patch of land in the middle of my town, just because it’s growing there!”
If these are your thoughts then great! Come on in and join the challenge! You have even more to gain from learning about your immediate environment and how we should improve it. We should be living in spaces that are clean enough to eat from. If we are not, something needs to change.
Whatever the situation around your home, there will be ways to edible-ise it. Maybe you request seagull proof flaps, on local street bins to stop the litter being thrown out by birds each morning? Maybe you could encourage some changes at work or school, in where the canteen sources it’s ingredients from? Maybe you could ask the owner of that vacant lot, if you and some friends could grow veg there for a season?
Improvement in urban conditions doesn’t usually happen spontaneously – We need to make it happen.
At least for 7 days*, let’s take away the convenience of being able to add a handful of supermarket spinach leaves to the morning smoothie and let’s think of some alternatives. Let’s go a little further for our green leafy friends. Let’s not get sick: Pluck safely, cleanly and wisely. Don’t pluck if you are unsure – But let’s learn!
Urban Herbology’s 7 Day Challenge is an opportunity to re-calibrate how we think about food. Are you in? If so scroll down, complete the contact form and I’ll send you a couple of messages to see how you get along (I don’t spam people). Or simply keep in touch with the post comments.
Right now, think of a food which you can switch for urban wild edibles. Tell me in the comments below, or via the contact form, what you plan to do.
Ask me for the Dandelion Profile sheet and learn more about these plants.
Stay in touch and send me any images of your foraged finds and meals. It’s just 7 days!
It’s only 7 days* – You can do this! Together, we can make urban living cleaner, safer and more tasty!
*Needless to say (but I will), I hope you will enjoy this challenge immensely and will make ethical urban foraging a habit 🙂
My online mentoring sessions and personal consultations are for people who are seeking inspiration, direction and guidance about topics such as:
Manifesting Your Dreams
Working with Nature
Nature Based Spirituality
Healthy Natural Lifestyle
Green Websites and Businesses
Increasing Self Sufficiency
Gardening with Children
Green Community Projects
I love helping people to realise their dreams and ambitions. My mentoring and consultations have evolved naturally from my work with herbs, yoga teaching, complementary therapies, school/college teaching, 1:1 tutoring and community projects over the past 20+ years. I have enjoyed assisting, empowering and motivating a great many people over that time.
How it Works
My online mentoring sessions are via Skype or FaceTime. Personal consultations are usually in Amsterdam Oost but are sometimes possible elsewhere. It is fine to have a mix of face-to-face and online sessions. There is no obligation, no set frequency or number of sessions. Just book sessions as and when you need them.
Any of the above topics (or others) can be worked on during online sessions or personal consultations. The personal consultation time can also be used for a personal walk, crafting experience or to provide advice about growing spaces.
Each session is followed up with an email containing a summary of the conversation, action points and ideas for further inspiration.
Each one hour session costs:
€40 inc. BTW (online – Skype or FaceTime)
€60 inc. BTW (personal consultation in Amsterdam).
Payments can be made via my Shop and must reach me before each session.
Most of my mentoring sessions and consultations take place on Mondays (10.00 – 14.30 CET) Wednesdays (10.00 – 11.30 CET) or other week days. Sometimes evenings and weekends are possible and I am much more flexible when my school is on holiday!
How to Apply
If you would like to begin mentoring with me or would like a consultation, please contact me outlining what you are looking for assistance with. If I think that I can help you, we will book an appointment and get started.
When you book a session, I like to know what you would most like to discus. Although the conversation can flow in several directions, it is helpful for us both to know what has caused you to make the appointment in the first place.
On the evenings of Friday 2nd and Friday 30th August, I’ll be inviting visitors of the Van Gogh Museum to learn about and taste some edible and mind altering plants, which Vincent van Gogh used. Myself and a few able assistants will be installed with a selection of his most inspiring plants, some snacks and drinks, in the Atelier (Workshop studio), just inside the main museum entrance. Join us to sample some urban foraged delights, to learn how to make your own Absinthe, herbal honeys and other interesting things. I’ll give a couple of 15 minute presentations about the Edible Flowers of Van Gogh (7:15 pm) and the Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh (8:15 pm). The rest of the time will be devoted to teaching individual visitors how to find and use local plants. Entrance is free to Museumjaarkaart holders and for everyone else it’s the usual museum entrance price. I’m giving away a couple of tickets: Read on to find out how to enter the ticket competition…
Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh
The use and abuse of Absinthe, by Van Gogh and his freinds, is well known. Wormwood, an endangered but easy to grow plant, is the key ingredient in the drink. We’ll let you sample an easy to make alternative with great taste and far more uses than Absinthe. There are other common plants which had a huge impact on the creativity (and possibly the early grave) of Van Gogh. I’ll talk about them in the second presentation and we will have some of the featured plants for you to see close up.
Edible Flowers of Van Gogh
Most of Van Gogh’s paintings feature plants and flowers of one kind or another. Although many were painted in a warmer climate, most grow here in the Netherlands and many can be foraged from our local parks and streets. The presentation about Van Gogh’s edible flowers will highlight some beautiful, tasty and useful plants which feature in his work. The plants chosen are easy to find in Amsterdam and are easy to use. You will also learn the foraging rules for harvesting safely, ethically and legally and how to get involved with other foragers.
Eat, Drink and be Merry!
My home is currently full of foraged-flower honeys, strange urban brews and drying bunches of edible plants, just waiting for you to taste them at these August events. You can find out how to make your own foraged treats, ask us questions about urban harvesting, watch the presentations or just hang around with the beautiful plants. As well as this part of the evenings, there will be music, video and other events going on throughout the museum. So please put the dates in your calander and come visit us at the Van Gogh museum, on the 2nd and 30th of August. And if you come along, remember to say hello!
Free Ticket Competition
To enter the competition for free tickets, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the answer to one or both of these questions:
For Friday 2nd August: Which plant is the main mind altering ingredient in Absinthe?
For Friday 30th August: How old was Vincent van Gogh when he died?
Winners from those replying correctly, will be chosen at random on Wednesday 31st July and Wednesday 28th August. So if you enter, keep an eye on your email. I’ll post the winners names here also. They will need to turn up to the event with valid ID at a specific entrance, to claim the ticket.
Please join me on the evenings of Fridays 2nd and 30th August at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Learn about the herbs of Van Gogh, which can be found, foraged and used today.
I am delighted to have been asked to teach visitors to the Museum’s Friday Nights programme, about edible urban herbs, on these two dates in August. Throughout each evening, I’ll be giving a couple of talks about plants which were important to Van Gogh and helped change the world of art. Many of his favourite plants may be found and eaten in Amsterdam today. You’ll learn where to find them and how to use them and grow them.
There will also be some urban herbal treats to sample, plants to examine close up, recipes to take home, a plant photo exhibition and opportunities to chat and learn more about urban herbology. In other parts of the museum there will be a jazz band and other interesting events.
My scheduled presentations will be about: Edible Flowers of Van Gogh Mind Altering Plants of Van Gogh
(Both presentations on each night).
So why not come along, have a chat and find out more!
Friday 2nd August and Friday 30th August
6.00 – 10.00pm
Van Gogh Museum,
Entrance is free to Museumjaarkaart holders.
Usual entrance fee to others.