Before the beginning of this course I barely foraged anything… well, not counting with lots of foraging I did as a very young child with my grandmother which specific details I, unfortunately, forgot and the occasional stinging nettles, deadnettles and one or too lose rose petals for nibbling on. I had a lot of difficulty recognising the plants in the wild and had almost a detachment regarding working with the plants and harvesting/foraging them. This connection and that foraging is humanity’s birthright seems pretty obvious to me now but it wasn’t before.
I also had no idea that foraging is not legal in The Netherlands. This came as a surprise to me but, in the other way around, I think there is a positive outcome to it, as it obliges foragers to be more cautious, discrete and less invasive/harmful to the local herbs and plants, promoting light harvesting and more undisturbed habitats.
There is a possibility I learnt about plant families in high-school but those years were aeons ago and my brain forgot about it. I need to stay that relearning about it and realising that by knowing the 6 basic families one can identify almost all living plants was a happy realisation. This acknowledge removed the overwhelming feeling of knowing there are too many plants that I will never know by presenting me with a little faune structure. Of course I still need a lot of practice (It gets better all the time) but now when I look at a plant I try to look for the shape of the leaves, how the stems are organised and how many are present, if it is a dicot or monocot and what’s the shape of the flowers, how many petals and… I try to resist the temptation of thinking that all the plants that I don’t immediately understand that have pretty flowers belong to the Aster family, hehe! The Lamiaceace and Rosacea family are (still) the easiest ones for me to identify but, I also start to have a great sensibility identifying the Brassicaceae family and sometimes the Apiaceae family 😊 So what I need now, is to keep on practicing my recognition and try to be a little more specialised on the herbs that are more interesting to me.
Keeping herbal journals was something that I wouldn’t have done on my own and that helps tremendously, specially the foraging and crafting ones. I love to go back and see what I was harvesting in the beginning of the course where I was still very exploratory, versus the plants I think I will be focused more in the future. I think I was more active during midsummer but, along this course I have foraged hawthorn, cleavers, sweet cicely, sweet woodruff, lungwort, wild garlic, magnolia petals, deadnettle, stinging nettle, herb robert, motherwort, horehound, lemonbalm, garlic mustard, cleavers, elder, ground ivy, willow branches and dandelion. In the future, I will, for sure, keep on foraging hawthorn and elder, want to harvest linden, herb robert, motherwort and Lemonbalm. I also want to get more acquainted with burdock and mugwort and try to find echinacea and wild onion family plants in the wild.
Another project I wouldn’t have started on my own was the plant ally: what a wonderful idea! I am a useless at drawing but, I have silent conversations with my motherwort plant, breath with it, caress it, play music for it, study its shape, how it moves in the direction of the light and how it changed so rapidly when I didn’t see it for 2 weeks during my vacation. I have started to see how develops and changes with the seasons. I believe that it increased my knowledge of the entire plant kingdom and a better understanding of how plants function and how can I better work with them.
I also need to say that I am very excited to help contributing to the recently foraging map created by Lynn and with the discovering that the Gemeente tree map https://maps.amsterdam.nl/bomen exists!
With this course I have also discovered the project Rivers of Herbs and started very recently volunteering in the park Frankendael orchards.
I have meet wonderful course colleagues and gardeners that are becoming friends. It’s a privilege to have known so many like minded beautiful people. I really value this herbal network.