Wild Weed Wisdom

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


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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/

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Such Sweet Sorrel – Rumex acetosella

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Today we were out seeing what was coming up and I was a bit surprised to see so much lovely, sweet sorrel. The leaves, seeds and roots are all edible – probably you’ve nibbled on it yourself as a child? The taste is deliciously lemon-tangy, and gets the saliva flowing – it is supposed to be very good for digestion. And, for quenching thirsty hikers and foragers along the trail side. I love to top cooked potatoes with a few fresh leaves… simple and perfect. (The simpler, the better, for me anyway)

Right now is an ideal time to pick it, as it is so very tender and juicy. Let me know if you have any growing near you or need help identifying – send me a photo if you aren’t sure. AND, never eat wild leaves if you are not absolutely certain of what they are – bring your pocket guidebook with you to help you out.

Happy foraging!


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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

 

Tansy Leaves

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Tansy Leaves

These Tansy leaves – dried on the stalk over the winter – are still infused with their lively, special aroma that has for centuries (or longer) been used to keep moths at bay… fresh tansy has many other culinary and medicinal uses — at Amsterdamse Bos, with Wild in the City.

Herbal Sleep & Dream Pillows for Wild Weed Kids

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Dream and Sleep Pillows usually give off a wonderful aroma of sweet and pungent herbs, such as lavender, cedar, chamomile, rose, and anise. Some of the other herbs are not quite so aromatic, but still offer benefits to sleep and dreaming – motherwort and hops. Max (aged 6) is getting a good dose of some Rosemary from her basket! To learn about how to make your own Sleep or Dream Pillow, click here.

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We all put special notes, words and/or drawings into our pillows to personalize them and fill them with intent. The children LOVED this concept, and dove into the task of carefully customizing their pillow. Here is 5-year-old Anika with her drawing.

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In the bottle you can see dried hops (sleep enhancer), in the background is a bottle of Calendula (gentle, loving dreams) and the loose, dried herb is mugwort (enhanced dreams). Children don’t really need this herb to enhance dreams, but I found such a nice patch, that had been out all winter, and was therefore less potent, I thought it would be nice to introduce it. Plus, it is great for kids to see the herb on the stalk, and pull the dried leaves of themselves.

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There was some Motherwort (Cardiaca leonorus) growing on-site, and I also had some dried with me… I explained to the children how, aside from the traditional use as a heart-remedy, Motherwort also bathed you in “Mother’s Love” when you felt lonely, angry, jealous, or just plain sad. Or just when you wanted a hug, and your Mommy couldn’t be there. All the kids said they’d like this, especially because they wished they could snuggle with their Mom’s all night long. Marou’s pillow was made with great care, full of all the loving herbs – Motherwort, Rose, Chamomile and Calendula, especially.

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Filling the pillow with loving thoughts…

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We first had a tour of some of the living herbs growing at the VU Hortus – Rosemary, Sage, Motherwort, Cedar, Birch… and then added some extra I provided.

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This bag of Rosebuds made each child sigh with happiness, and close their eyes with joy. Can you imagine how they may help with happy, loving dreams? (They also taste divine when added to a pot of black tea)

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Another good look at the bags (bath-linen mittens) we used. Easy to make yourself as well, with old cloth hankys, for example.

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Amelie did a great job stripping the dried leaves off of the Mugwort stalk.

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… and again, this time it’s Mateo.

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We also added Mullein, to help keep nightmares at bay and have nice dreams. The kids loved the idea of herbs to help with that. Here, I am holding some dried flower-head; there was also some fresh Mullein growing on-site that we discovered and talked about.

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The children helped harvest Rosemary leaves and we put them in the pillow – also to ward off bad dreams – and of course, we all ate some!

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Here’s a nice, fat, young, Motherwort leaf! Perfect for feeling loved and protected.

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A wonderful day.

This gallery contains 39 photos


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Catfish Gray, Man of the Woods (1917-2002)

Catfish Gray (1917-2002) was the teacher, and friend, of my own herbal mentor, Will Endres. Will spent a year living out of a tent in the woods, without running water or electricity, to be close to Catfish and learn from his extensive knowledge. This led to a 28-year relationship, until Catfish’s passing in 2002. I feel honoured to now be a small part in this lineage of herbalists and wildcrafters. Thank you Catfish Gray, thank you, Will Endres.

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Catfish Gray, lengendary Man of the Woods

You can find a few articles about Catfish online – here’s the one with the amazing photo – and here’s a film clip from 1974…


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Embrace Your Weeds

Shaggy Soldier

Embrace Your Weeds is all about loving those edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful weeds in your garden!

This afternoon was spent in the delightful company of Suzanne, of CityPlot, and Cathy, who is a Contributer and Host of English Breakfast Radio, Amsterdam.

Cathy will be a different kind of host soon – she’s offered her small backyard garden as the starting point for our upcoming workshop, in conjunction with CityPlot, called, “Embrace Your Weeds.” We’ll be looking at some typical weeds found in backyards across most of urban Europe – edible ones, such as chickweed, wild mustard, and shaggy soldier (see photo) as well as medicinal weeds such as ground ivy and cleavers… and many more. In fact, when you realize that are so many great weeds growing, you might find you see your garden in a totally different light!

Suzanne will talk about which weeds can repel unwanted pests; and which support beneficial insects; weeds that nourish the soil, or can be made into a natural insect-repellant. It’s going to be a fascinating afternoon of exploring, tasting and talking about our wonderful weeds.

You can sign up  through CityPlot – just scroll through their awesome website for a myriad of workshops that will leave you drooling; payment details are toward the bottom of their homepage; or you can simply contact me. Details below:

Embrace Your Weeds

Many of those “weeds” that spring up in your garden may have unique culinary and medicinal properties, and may play other useful roles in your specific ecosystem. We will visit Amsterdam gardens and get to know some of the most common and lovable weeds in person! Together with Ann and Suzanne from CityPlot, Jennie from Wild Weed Wisdom, and Lynn from Urban Herbology we will visit Amsterdam gardens and get to know some of the most common and lovable weeds in person!
Sunday 21 April, 14:00-16:00: Location: Cathy’s home; close to Vondelpark, by the Overtoom.
Sunday 2 June, 15:00-17:00: See CityPlot or Urban Herbology for location details.

Fee: 25 euros