Tag Archives: Wild Garlic

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.

Foraging Wild Garlic

Three beautiful blades of Wild garlic / Ramsons / Daslook (Allium ursinum), plucked from the River of Herbs orchards in Park Frankendael today. I made some pungent daslook sauce from these, by blending them with olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar.

And here are a couple of year old wild garlic bulbs which I removed from the orchard path. The reason for this is discussed in the podcast. Have a listen and let me know your uses for the plant and if you have had any success growing it. The paths are edged with fallen branches. In this photo you can see how the plant spreads into the paths.

I only forage wild garlic when there are huge swathes of it and the leaves are a few inches long.

I’m off to make some dinner using a little of that sauce now. Perhaps you would like to listen to my latest podcast, about ethically foraging Wild Garlic and how to use it.

Gentle wild garlic

Ramsons in Frankendael Orchards

I stood stupefied and watched a woman take out a knife and cut bunches of Wild garlic from inside the entrance of Park Frankendael this evening. Felt so mad and sad and bewildered that I didn’t know where to begin with her. So just stared at the mini massacre until she saw me and my little girl watching and finally she stopped.

Ramsons/Daslook/Wild garlic/Allium ursinum tastes outrageously good but it should be harvested gently! It is currently on the endangered list in NL so strictly, even though it’s almost a weed in some parts of some Amsterdam parks, it should not be cut or ripped out in handfuls! And even if it is prolific everywhere how could it feel good to rip or cut it like that!

Cut rather than plucked.
Cut rather than plucked.

If you know of a plentiful supply please go for the out-spill plants – where it’s growing in paths etc and will be rooted out by the park gardeners. Or grow your own. Or meet the park gardener and ask where/if he/she suggests you forage. And use your common sense. That woman foraged from the filthiest part of the park – dog spot number one – right by the main gates. Come on!

Badly foraged wild garlic.
Badly foraged wild garlic.

And even when you find thousands of those leaves, please know that just three leaves, plucked between finger and thumb are needed to make enough pesto, herb oil or mojo to last several weeks. After plucking carefully, no one should be able to see that anything has gone.

If you want some Daslook but still don’t know where, when and how to pluck it, please come and see me on Wednesday morning at the Frankendael orchards (10.00 – 11.00 behind Huize Frankendael). You can take home your own plant too, if you like.

We are what and how we eat.


 

May Herbs Sauce

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This herb sauce was the result of today’s rainy forage in Frankendael park.

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After a quick chat with the park warden who was chopping up a massive fallen tree, Livvy and I collected a little each of Ground elder (Aegopodium podograria), Wild garlic (Galium ursinum), Wild geranium (Geranium sp), Ground ivy (Glechoma hederaceae) and White deadnettle (Lamium alba).

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I took those herbs (a small handful in all), chopped them, sweated them down in a pan over low heat, with a splash of water for 10 minutes, then added a little blue goats cheese and a desertspoon of sour cream. I them blended it all to a smooth sauce with a hand blender.

The result was very tasty indeed and the balcony harvest Pansies (Viola sp) also went down a treat!

On a less tasty notes: Here is patch of poisonous Lily of the Valley, growing in the park. Just notice how similar the leaves are to those of Wild garlic. The easiest way to distinguish them (apart from the flowers) is that Wild garlic smells very strongly of garlic and Lily of the Valley doesn’t.
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365 Frankendael day 365

A year ago I decided to show you a taste of what can be picked and eaten from the streets and parks of Amsterdam, every day for a year. That year came to an end today. It has been quite a journey!

There was never a day without edible or medicinal herbs growing wild. As the year moved on I found more and more herbs, fell in love with some such as Hollyhock and learned secrets about others. Whilst on holiday, friends in Amsterdam were often kind enough to email photos to me. The Christmas holiday was difficult, Amsterdam had miserable weather so fewer photos from friends. In place, I added a batch from my holiday in Tenerife.

I am very grateful to Joop Eisenburger, Lina Kremin, Elodie and Herman den Otter, Dennis Breedijk, Lynne Dunstan-Wadsworth and Dana Marin and others for their beautiful photos, whilst I was away from time to time.

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So what is around today on day 365? It was an apprenticeship group meeting for me so friends to share the discoveries with.

Above is Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). Just braking into flower in some parts of park Frankendael, this patch is still perfect for the pot.

Below, Fumitory. Renowned in some regions as a cleanser of radiation from the body and more well known as a tonic for the digestive system.

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Next is Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) NL Hartgespan. Returning from its winter underground hide. Beloved, bitter herb.
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Here is Pennsylvania Pelitory, I was so pleased to learn of its urinary tonic effect last year.

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Primrose (Primula vulgaris). This plant will be focused on in my next project – growing and using native herbs in public (or private) spaces. There is not enough Primrose to pick in Amsterdam, so why not grow some more?

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Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus). Orange sap for herpes and dissolving skin growths. So many more uses for this herb but be careful, it is caustic.
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Horsetail (Equistitum arvensum) flowering, ahead of its foliage – so useful for brittle nails due to the high silica content.

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Soapwort, also just emerging from the soil. Still used by some musea to gently cleanse ancient fabrics. It is a wonderful herb for many skin complaints and grows easily in a pot. It’s other common name, Bouncing Bet, aptly describes it’s flowering beauty in summer.

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Russian Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x). Bone set in old country tales, rapid wound healer and more for us today. It smells and tastes of Borage and Cucumber, is gooey inside and is so easy to use on your body and your compost heap!
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I’m so happy to find this plant. Really happy! It is Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum). It is an endangered species in the Netherlands, this is the first patch of wild Wormwood I have found in Park Frankendael.
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Some of my apprentices gathering Bread & Cheese from a beautiful Hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna). May Day here we come!
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Here is Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). One of the best eating wild plants in town. Pick just a leaf per plant when you find it and it’ll treat you to delicious meals until autumn. Pick a whole plant and you’ll really miss out later on!
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And Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria). I love this plant but most gardeners try to rid their patch of it. A carrot family member, it tastes of parsley, clears gouty, sciatica and rheumatic joints and I’ll be eating it daily from now until early winter!
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There were far more plants today but now it’s time to stop.

So a beautiful day, a beautiful project (to be continued in some form but not daily), amazing plants on our doorsteps and wonderfully enthusiastic people to share them with. Many thanks to everyone who has been involved on some way and especially Frank for his tolerance. I’ll now have a little rest and then organise the photos into something useful. Also time to finish my book on making remedies.

If you’d like to walk with me and learn about the plants to be foraged in Amsterdam, there is a chance on Sunday 26th May.

365 Frankendael day 354

Just what the plant doctor ordered this afternoon – mild weather and a good dose of drizzle!

In the park, Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), succulent and far too tasty to park your bike against.

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Fumitory, used in some areas of the world to clear the body of radiation damage, following radiotherapy etc.

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So much Fuki in one place! And still, it flowers on.

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My daily dose of White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) from this plant.

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365 Frankendael day 347

More molehill collecting for me today. I’ve been busy repotting some balcony herbs and took the risk of sowing a few seeds. So more soil was needed!

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Some of the molehills in park Frankendael are very sandy, others are full of organic matter. Here’s a sandy one – just right to add drainage to the organic soil I bought from Albert Heijn. The little Plantain (Plantago major or media) in the photo was completely covered by the hill until I scraped the top soil away. Just that one molehill filled an empty 5 litre soil bag. Plantago media is an endangered species in the Netherlands, so if that’s the plant I’m extra happy. Either way, my molehill antics provided free soil for me and a freed herb for the park!

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I’ve found lots of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) today, both in the park and other parts of town. I’ve been collecting some of the flower heads to make Coltsfoot honey. They smell amazing when just picked and it’s easy to see why they are a great cough remedy. They are easiest to find in grassland close to water. They look like Dandelion from a distance. But close-up they look like strange Asparagus type scaly things, shooting up as spears through the soil and sending flowers to face the sun before producing proper leaves. Very difficult to mix them up with anything else.

So what else today?

Violets (Viola sp):
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Young shoots of Rosebay willowherb:

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More Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) NL:Hartgespan. If in doubt of this plant (but certain it’s a square stemmed Labiate) nibble a tiny bit of leaf. If the extreme bitterness literally knocks your socks off, it’s Motherwort!

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Primrose:

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And some lovely buds and shots from which I made a refreshing immune system boosting tea,

Lime tree buds (Tilia sp). Reach for a too high for dogs twig, maybe on a burr such as this. Snap off a fresh tip bud (after checking its OK with the tree of course) and just pop it in your mouth. After a little chewing your mouth will be full of unmistakable Lime tree goo! It’s great stuff for all manner of ailments and makes me feel very happy to know the tree, every time to do it. I can’t really understand why everyone else in the park doesn’t do this. There is some information I wrote a while ago about Lime, for those wondering what all the fuss is about.

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Bramble (Blackberry bush) – just the soft green shoots.

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Added to my Spring brew (and still really tastes great hours later as I write this and enjoy the second pot) was of course a leaf or two of my new herb friend Common Horehound (Marrubium vulgare).

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Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) remains in pungent foliage.

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And finally today, a real taste of the foraging weeks to come – Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria). Just a few plants coming through today but it’s up! I absolutely love this herb (though it’s often a real pain to gardeners). It’s common English name is Goutweed because it helps clear the body of uric acid amongst other things. I love it because it makes me feel good and tastes rather like Parsley. It can be eaten, used medicinally internally and applied externally in things such as salves and compresses. Learn more about it at the June Embrace Your Weeds workshop which I’m running with City Plot.

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Now back to my pot of Spring Shoots Tea…

365 Frankendael day 345

Today is Puur markt in park Frankendael and that brings lots of extra traffic to the woodland as well as the main park.

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As I arrived, a fire was being put out on the edge of the woodland.

Here are a few plants which I noticed today:

Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

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Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

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Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) of last year. There are still a few seed heads on these dry flower spikes.

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Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) Daslook. A nice area of it with a toxic Arum maculatum (Lords and ladies) growing proudly in the middle of this shot.

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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 342

Perishingly cold in Amsterdam today but most of the local plants don’t flinch at this strange weather! Here’s a small sample of what you could be harvesting or eating from Amsterdam streets and green spaces today:

Today perennial Russian Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) plants are standing proud again. I’m very pleased about this as I’d like to try placing a Comfrey leaf beneath my potato plants this year. My spuds are almost ready to be planted out, just in time for the Comfrey fertiliser!

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Hollyhock plants (biennials) are looking strong and almost ready for some leaf harvesting. I’ve got lots of plans for this plant this year. An interesting herb to help soothe bronchial congestion and infection.

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This lovely plant (in Sarphatipark, next to the railings along Centuurbaan) is Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane (Claytonia perfoliata) and delicious it is too! This is the basal rosette of young leaves. Just wait until the little white flowers come in abundance – they grow out of the centre of the mature leaves. Quite amazing!

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A Butterbur species (Petasites sp), in alien-like flower. Edible in small quantities, contains a liver toxin. It will have massive kidney shaped leaves soon, less interesting to the forager and then more likely to be dangerously confused with other very irritating plants. Now is the time to be interested in this plant.
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Beautiful (not edible) Bluebells, just coming up beside a Lime tree trunk and an up coming Garlic Mustard perennial plant.

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This purple flowering perennial is Red Dead-nettle ( Lamium purpureum). Edible, nutritious and gently medicinal.

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Below is flowering Chickweed (Stellaria media)
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Here is Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). Mouth wateringly delicious, if you like the taste of garlic, and with the benefits of garlic, though probably less effect on vampires as it’s milder in strength. Now’s the time to try it if you haven’t already.

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Next, a Mallard duck checking out Park Frankendael’s Japanese spring delicacy – Fuki (Petasites japonica), before checking out my telephone and trying to eat it – or me, not quite sure which. The beautiful yellow flowers look like primroses from a distance. Primroses are also in flower in the park right now but shouldn’t be touched as they don’t multiply very well here.

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And last but not least the plant which I found recently and thought was Black Horehound (Ballota nigra). It could also be Common/White Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) I’m measuring this patch each day, waiting patiently for it to be big enough to harvest for a tincture. For the first option, its Latin name, Ballota, comes from its unattractive scent. Its not so bad and helps to identify the plant. It can be used to lift the spirits, act as a mild sedative, ease morning sickness, nausea, gout, bronchial congestion, nervousness, menopausal ailments and many more conditions. I’ve been munching it in the park each day I see it and find it really quite palatable, the smell doesn’t seem so strong or distasteful. Those who named it Ballota must have smelt not so many foul odours! Or perhaps I’ve smelled lots in the chemistry lab so am not so bothered anymore… Or perhaps it is Common Horehound instead? Either way, the two options are edible and I’m really looking forward to trying the tincture and feel that it may become a staple for me during times when I’d usually reach for Motherwort but also feel the effects of cold dampness and chestiness. An infused honey will be the second thing I make from this plant.

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