This huge pile of useful Willow withies caught my eye today. It’s in Park Frankendael and just a couple made their way home with me, to be turned into round holders for colourful children’s steamers.
And these two photos were taken on my roof. Firstly Soapwort…
A lovely walk through the snowy woods of Frankendael for me today. I picked a few Ramson (Allium ursinum) leaves to make infused olive oil and then wild used that to make garlic bread sticks.
Apart from Ramsons and trees like these coppiced Willows, the most obvious plants at present are the dry seedheads of Teasel and Figwort.
For once, I can photograph the pretty Figwort, it usually merges so well with the background. I’m very much looking forward to the spicy smell of this plant in the late spring.
I harvested a nice handful of flowering Hairy Bittercress today, from a fairly high plant put on a neighbouring street. It smells great and as ever reminds me of growing cress on cotton well as a child. I look forward to adding it to the apprentices pumpkin soup tomorrow morning before the meeting.
Tomorrow well take a look at this plant – Yarrow. Very useful and quite tasty in moderation.
I took my daughter for a beautiful walk in the park this morning. The sun was perfect, the ground was hard and crunchy from the first proper frost of this winter. The Beech leaves still cling on to the trees and bushes but are brittle and crackle in the wind. Out us good to see that the plants which should be gone by now are now under proper pressure – finally Comfrey melts into the ground and we can see what should be around.
The Willows of Park Frankendael have been coppiced and the withies laid down to full gaps near the lake. I took home a bunch of them and made them into a drying rack for herbs, our vegetables. It reminded me of weaving my garden fence in Somerset years ago and it felt good.
We found our first ripe Hawthorn berries of the season today. On the cut-in footpath alongside De Kas side of Park Frankendael. If they come off the shrub, with leaves attached, they are not quite ready. We found lots on the ground, which had fallen, ripe, from the hedge. They do require a little preparation but are worth the effort as a foraged food and as a hedgerow medicine.
Next is a small Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) perennial.
Ivy (Hedera helix) plants are looking particularly beautiful at present. They have large and fascinating flowerheads forming. they are not for eating but the leaves are sometimes used in anti cellulite treatments. It’s easy to make an infused oil with the leaves.
Lastly a beautiful, swaying Weeping Willow tree. Still offering a chance for herbal pain relief. It’s very simple to make a tincture from the tendrils.
Thanks to the watertolerant group who joined me to herb walk in Sarphatipark today. We found lots of useful herbs and also interesting park workers who told us how the park is maintained by a dynamic group of volunteers and is trying innovative edible approaches to eradicate Japanese knotweed. Above is a park warden, pictured by the enormous Jerusalem artichokes which are being used to keep knotweed at bay. When the invasive plant is removed, the ground can quickly turn into a home for other unwelcome invaders or can see the return of knotweed. Using Jerusalem artichoke, another rapidly growing and spreading plant, can provide tasty tubers and quash the knotweed. So far so good!
I was also reassured to learn that the Ginkgo trees I’m so fond of in parts of Our Zuid are indeed female and yield plentiful Ginkgo nuts. Amsterdam is fortunate to have such edible plant loving folk in its green spaces team.
The plants I remember finding today are listed as tags to this entry. The spreading soft leaved plant which looked quite like Agrimony but wasn’t, was indeed a cinqefoil, called Silverweed previously called (Potentilla anserina) but now reclassified as Argentina anserina . It is shown above and it is edible. If you were on the walk and can remember other plants which I have missed from the tag list then please let me know.
Thanks again to everyone who joined me. It was a real pleasure to walk around with you. If you signed up but were not brave enough for the wet weather, remember there are always trees to shelter under next time 🙂
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!
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.
Ransoms and Garlic mustard are gradually fading and being replaced by other tasty plants. Here are a selection of today’s urban herbs in Amsterdam’s Frankendael Park.
Bugle (Ajuga reptans). Used to be known as the Carpenters herb because it is yet another plant with blood staunching abilities. It looks very similar to Sealheal but has small leaves throughout the flowers whereas Selfheal(which I am keen to find) has flowers all at the top of the stalk, without leaves between). It is a member of the mint family and has digestive uses and historic herbalists apparently used it for all manner of ailments.
I can’t find much about this from truly reliable sources but there are many Internet posts mentioning narcotic and hallucinogenic properties for pretty, evergreen Bugleweed. So perhaps you should do some research and make your own mind up on that one but it’s probably not a herb to experiment with in the family stew!
Willow. Here’s a lovely row of fast growing coppiced Salix, growing beside water at the Middenweg edge of the park.
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podograria) is growing bigger and bolder each day. I did notice a few flower heads developing on Groundelder today so now is the time to harvest if you are interested in foraging this plant. The leaves of this invasive, woodland loving perennial look quite similar to Elder and Ash tree foliage. It tastes really good and can be cooked as spinach. I noticed that my old copy of Food For Free only shows the flower of this foragers favorite. It is worth mentioning that foragers should only use such books as a source of inspiration. I use two detailed wild plant guides when identifying and getting know new plants. Foraging books are good for suggesting what to look for and how to use them.
Linda Runyon is a wise woman who literally “lived off the trees” some years ago, during a particularly harsh winter, whilst homesteading in the US Adirondack Mountains. She taught herself how to harvest from trees and how to preserve and use their plenty. It was a matter of survival at the time so you really learned how to make the most of the trees around her. She has published several books, DVDs and plant ID cards over the years, helping countless people to live in harmony with the land. Her latest offering is an extraordinary book, full of tips and ideas for foraging from trees. The link above gives lots more info about her life and books and how to buy them directly. Mine was ordered via Amazon. I hope that I am also happily surrounded by herbs, when I reach her age.
Many of her methods are applicable to urban spaces, though she discourages foraging from trees located less than 200m from a road. She also lays out how to harvest inner bark from parts of useful trees, this is unlikely to be possible or desirable in an urban setting. Removing bark from living trees will kill them. That said, when winter gales return to Amsterdam, I’ll be happy to find a few small fallen branches to experiment with.
Inspired by this book, tomorrow I’m planning to try willow basket and edible wreath weaving with fresh withies. For dinner, I’ll try to cook up some beech leaves and twigs, Italian style. I also learned how much willow is equivalent to 2 aspirin tablets – its about 6 – 8 inches of tendril or 10-15 catkins. Overconsumption can cause unpleasant side effects.
The book is a quick read, has a study guide at the back to encourage practical learning and is packed with knowledge that is truly worth preserving.
I will never look at a Christmas tree in the same way again!
Here is a link to Linda’s foraging forum.