When you were young your parents told you not to eat those red berries, as they could make you feel ill afterwards. Were they actually right? For Citinerary I went on an herb walk with Urban Herbologist Lynn Shore. I discovered that, in a city such as Amsterdam, there are a lot of edible plants, herbs and even red berries.
Meeting the Herbologist: Lynn
More and more urban gardening and urban farming initiatives are at a rise in Amsterdam. Actually, you don’t need your own urban garden for growing herbs and vegetables. Around the corner from where you live there are a lot of edible plants and herbs for your home cooking. Amsterdam is a great city for foraging and herb walks.
Lynn Shore knows the best places in town. She took me to Schellingwoude in the North of Amsterdam, which is a good spot for finding herbs. I mean a lot of herbs.
I meet Lynn at a bus stop on Liergouw. She has a small garden nearby and therefore knows the area pretty well. Our first stop is on the side of the road, where lots of Nettle, Horehound and Spring Balsam grow. All of them are edible and great for either a soup or tea.
I try a bit of the Horehound flower and Nettle seeds. Lynn tells me that Nettle has a high dose of protein. It is therefore a very good herb for people who are vegetarian. Who would have thought that this wild plant, that quite possibly grows not that far from where you live, is something to embrace instead of to get rid of. Best of all, it´s free!
Surrounded by nature
As an urban herbologist Lynn’s aim is to empower people to grow herbs in small spaces and to forage safely and responsibly wherever they are. She has been working with herbs for over 20 years. Her love for nature started when she was very young and living in the South-West of England. You would always find her outside in the wild surrounded by nature.
During our herb walk we bump into a willow tree. Lynn breaks a branch off and starts chewing on it. “It is good for headaches,” so she says. According to her dad she was already chewing willow branches at a very young age.
Know what's out there
The best spots for finding herbs are on the edges of, for example, wooded areas. That is where the best herbs grow and are also the places Lynn takes me to during our walk. When we walk a bit further we stop where a lot of hops are growing. Hops as in that what you need when brewing beer. People pay a lot of money for hops. No way that this actually grows in the wild of Amsterdam.
I wonder if the people who live nearby know about this. You can use hops in herbal teas, soft drinks and as an herbal medicine. Amazing! I also learn about that Elderberries are good for fevers, Plantago is great for salads, Dandelion tastes delicious with honey.
During the walk we walk by a lot of gardens. Most people have plants and flowers in their garden to brighten it up. What they don’t know is that, for example, the Begonia is an edible flower. You can use them in salads or sprinkle a few flowers on top of a delicious meal. Next time you need some rucola for your pasta, go to IJburg.
Lynn tells me that this is where they grow wildly. I mention to her that I know two spots in the city centre where you can forage for wild grapes around this time of the year. There is one near the Jewish Museum and one in the Jordaan.
It is so great to know that you don’t need to go out to country side for herbs and edible plants. It is already there where you are living. When moving to Amsterdam Lynn lived near Leidseplein.
What she most missed were herbs. So, she decided to explore the city and surprisingly what she found were a lot of great spots for foraging. She now goes out daily to forage for herbs. Lynn really has a good eye for spotting it. When we are in a hurry from one place to another, she will have already spotted five different kinds of herbs for her home cooking.
Dive into the world of Herbology
You can read more about Lynn Shore’s findings and tips on her Urban Herbology blog. You can also join one of her herb walks, workshops and apprenticeship courses.
In the summer of 2012 she founded the River of Herbs community in Amsterdam. With this community she aims to help the city people. Her dream is to help people with growing their own herbs.
Dear reader, if you decide to go out for a bit of foraging, bring along a book that tells you about edible plants and herbs. Not everything you find is edible. If you want to learn a lot more, join one of Lynn’s herb walks in Amsterdam. I highly recommend it.
Lynn, thanks for your time and taking me out on this interesting herb walk.
- Nicole -