Wild Weed Wisdom

Nurture Your 'Inner Wild' with Foraged Edible and Medicinal Plants


Prickly Sow Thistle

Prickly Sow ThistlePrickly Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper) is another edible plant that grows as a weed in disturbed soil or neglected places. I picked some the other day to add to my daily “Super-Local Food” intake! Nothing fancy here – you can cook it up with garlic, olive oil, herbs, or chop it up to add for soups… use it as you would spinach, like we do with most wild greens. It looks prickly, but the ‘prickles’ are actually quite tender, and when cooked they’re fine. Today I’m adding Prickly Sow Thistle to a ‘green juice’ along with wheatgrass and ginger.

Mainly, I want to give you a good photo for identifying this plant. Notice  how the buds look remarkably similar to dandelion buds – you could make pickles out of either of them – but the Sonchus asprer has prickles even on the buds!! They will soften if you blanch then before pickling. The flower in full-bloom also looks similar to dandelions golden-yellow face – I’ll go back for a photo soon to show you. The leaf-edges are wavy, very decorative in their own way, and the base claps the stem in a graceful arc, with the leaf half-surrounding the stem in a big hug. So, for all the prickles, I still see it as a gentle, loving plant.

Here are a couple more photos to get a good idea of the plant. The large, ridged stem is a bit blotched with red, and it’s hollow, like a straw, with milky sap, much like the dandelion in this way.

Wikipedia lists this as a noxious weed that can cause irritation, but I think they are being cautious. You can find many other sites that consider this plant to be safe. I ate it and loved it. Here is another site that feels the same way: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sonchus-sow-thistle-in-a-pigs-eye-2/

DSC07094 DSC07095 Sow thistle back side of leaf



Feeling Grounded

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Feeling Grounded

I recently posted an article about picking roots – in this case, Burdock Root – and the option of buying the same root from Japanese or Korean shops (where Burdock is known as Gobo) instead of going to the hassle of digging them up.
Truth be told, I enjoy the ease of buying Burdock, but I also really LIKE to dig them up!!
Here’s what I foraged for last autumn. That’s the best time to harvest, as the goodness gathers there in preparation for over-wintering.
I use Burdock as a grounding food and tincture, along with all it’s other supportive functions – cleansing the liver and therefore, the blood. Which keeps the skin clear and helps skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

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Arugula Gone Wild!

I don’t know if you’re as crazy about arugula (rocket) as I am, but I know that it is one fine and tasty salad green. I have been sighting this garden-escapee all over Amsterdam for the past few years, and you can look for it as well – there is a good chance it is growing in a sunny, sandy location near you!
Simply be sure it is in an unpolluted place – and then only take a few leaves at a time. If you keep picking, it will keep providing… growing thickly until late summer, when the flowers and then seeds come out. The first thing you’ll probably notice when you sample it, is that the wild arugula has a far superior flavour than store-bought – and a spicier bite!
If you find some, but not in a clean place, no problem – gather up the seed pods and release them into a preferred location – it must be well-drained soil and sunny – and then enjoy them next year.

Arugula Gone Wild!Arugula leavesWild Arugula Bunch


Urban Hazelnut Harvest

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My First Urban Hazelnut Harvet

Today after dinner, we all sat around the  table and chatted about our day while cracking the hazelnuts we had collected two years earlier, with my two daughters, now aged three and five.

We had gathered them in the park by Anne Frank’s original house in Amsterdam. There are two rows of tall, mature hazelnut trees along the walkways bordering the sidewalk, and we just scooped the nuts up. Leah was just a year old, so I guess my big helper was Anika, three years old at the time. She still remembers it. And so do I – it was my first urban hazelnut harvest.

Is it ‘Wildcrafty’ Enough?

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Is it 'Wildcrafty' Enough?

Lots of folks love to be as authentic as possible when wildcrafting. Sometimes, this is just not possible, for example, in a public park! Amsterdam is fortunate to have one of the largest city parks in Europe – Amsterdamse Bos – so we don’t need to leave the city to feel out of the city (well, we still could hear the highway in the distance).

This handy little camp stove is the alternative to a camp-fire, which is illegal in the parks, and dangerous when you are in a beech forest surrounded by dry leaves… Luckily, we had a huge tree stump available to be our table, raising the the stove up by about a foot off the ground… and very little wind that day.

Being authentic has as much to do with your personal intent and process than with following rigid ideas of ” how it should be”. If we were attached to the idea of a roaring campfire, we’d have missed our beautiful experience – and our tasty, as-fresh-as-can-be soup – in the majestic beech forest!

For the soup recipe, click here!