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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Coming Up: Weed Walks (June dates to be announced)

Young Horsetail

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.

Cost: 8

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)

 

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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City Walk – The Wild Weeds Around Us

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I find it incredibly satisfying each day when I spot – and can correctly identify! – some of the many beautiful, edible or medicinal plants and flowers growing in totally urban places, such as in sidewalk cracks, as weeds in gardens, or along the canals. This walk will reveal those often-overlooked treasures, and offer more opportunities for practicing identification skills. I also find that being on the lookout for plants simply makes me feel more grounded, grateful and “in the moment.” If this sounds good to you, let me know!

Date: Monday, March 25, 2013

Time: 10:00 – 11:30 AM

LocationLe Pain Quotidien at Cornelis Troostplein 2, Amsterdam.
Look for my orange-and-yellow bike – with 2 child-seats on it – parked outside – we’ll be close to the bike!
To RSVP click here or contact me directly: 


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Everything is worth a look!

Everything is worth a look!

Wild Weed Kids is a nature program for children 5-8 and 9-12 at the VU Hortus Botanicus der Vrije Universiteit. We’ll listen, look, touch, feel and play with the natural world, through activities, games, stories and fun! Each class will include a project to take home. Both English and Dutch languages will be spoken in class.

While the children play, the parents can enjoy a tea, coffee or toastie in the cafe terrace, or stroll through any of the magnificent collections of plants in the VU Hortus greenhouses.

Class size is limited; please book early to reserve you child’s space.

Ages 5-8:

Dates: Wednesdays, March 6, 13, 20, 27
Times: 15:45 to 17:00
Fee: 40 euros inclusive

Ages 9-12:

Dates: Wednesdays, April 3, 10, 17, 24
Times: 15:45 to 17:00
Fee: 40 euros inclusive for 4 sessions

Register by emailing me at: jennieakse@gmail.com