When I see young people moodily pulling leaves off a tree as they walk by, or tearing a flower to bits, what I see is an instinctual – though unconcious – act of herbal self-healing. Just as we clench our fists when angry (this is a hand-mudra, used in yoga to deal with anger) or bang our fists to our heads with frustration over a problem (in yoga, pressure on the forehead activates the frontal lobe, dealing with short-term memory and problem-solving), so tearing up leaves or flowers releases chemical components of the plant and surround the person with its healing energy. These are simply my thoughts and intuitions… how do YOU feel about this?
Prickly 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/
What’s growing right now? What special properties do these plants offer us? When is the best time to gather? What parts can I eat or use for medicine? We’ll explore all this and more – come on out! This is an informal introduction to the many useful plants that surround us.
We’ll meet by the children’s pool, where there are plenty of benches to relax until it’s time to head out. Feel free to bring your camera and notebook to record your discoveries. We’ll explore the park and finish in the Artsensijhof – a traditional formal herb garden – where if you wish to stay longer, you can continue learning about our herbal allies.
The Walk is about 1.5 hours and will be rescheduled in case of rain. (the May 17 walk has been rescheduled as rain is forecast)
Our upcoming workshop, in conjunction with CityPlot, is, “Embrace Your Weeds!”
We’ll be looking at some typical weeds found in backyards across most of urban Europe – I’ll introduce some edible ones, such as chickweed, wild mustard, and shaggy soldier, as well as medicinal weeds such as ground ivy and cleavers… and some that are both edible and medicinal, like the gorgeous burdock, shown above. 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
Photo Credit: Mari Gordon
Now is the time for spotting the briefly-blooming but mysterious Witch Hazel bushes – sometimes they are actually small trees. On the boulevard of Apollolaan, you can find about 7 trees in bloom – their lovely sunny yellow should catch your eye from afar.