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My name is Bogu, and I have recently moved to Rotterdam.
I am originally Polish and my family and I went mushroom picking several times a year in my childhood. It was also common to pick a leaf or two of common herbs/plants on a walk. Those included acacia flowers, wild horseradish and common sorrel (we have a traditional soup made of the latter called “szczawiowa” that I deeply miss). It was common to pick up a plantago, rinse it off and put it to a wound whenever a kid would get hurt at a playground. It is also still very possible to buy foraged wild blackberries and other summer fruit sold by old ladies at the side of the road in every city. Those are hands down the tastiest berries I’ve ever had.
I moved to Greece when I was 16 and it is also very popular to forage there. In the summer, there is such extreme abundance of figs and grapes that island-hoppers are encouraged to pick some on their way to the beach (this isn’t really the case in the very commercialised islands that locals rarely visit, though). I am also a huge fan of the Greek dish called horta (which literally translates to grass), made out of dandelion leaves. It is served boiled, as a side dish, next to fresh seafood, sprinkled with lemon.
I also spend 5 years in the UK, 4 of which in Scotland, where there is a lot of foraging opportunities, but I was too busy being a student to care beyond the occasional spotting of a blackberry bush on a hike with friends.
I have moved to the Netherlands in the last semester of my Masters degree and just before the first Dutch lockdown. After a couple of months spent inside I dug out an old Polish herbarium that I once bought at an antique bookstore. It is full of recipes, descriptions of folk traditions, healing and magickal properties of common herbs. I began paying more attention to my environment here, in Rotterdam. The daily walks suddenly became a lot more exciting ever since I started recognising stuff here. In the autumn I was convincing my partner (who is Dutch) that we need to go mushroom picking just to be informed that the kind of forests that I know from my childhood in Poland don’t really exist here, Dutch people are terrified of mushroom poisoning, and the “natural landscape” of the Netherlands is a lot more shaped by human intervention than I originally thought. It took me a couple of months of coming to terms with it during which I was seriously considering whether I’ve made a mistake by moving here. But then I discovered that volkstuinen and urban foraging/herbalism is very much a thing here and was thrilled to find out all about it!
In regards to Rotterdam, I was not aware that foraging is illegal here. To be fair, I was doing some research about it and heard that it is ok as long as you don’t forage more than 250g of anything. Perhaps this was area-specific, or more of an informal rule than a law.
I live in Blijdorp, just by Vroesenpark. I saw some blackberry bushes around, I also heard that there is Elder around but haven’t spotted it yet. My street is also covered in hazelnut trees. I heard that Kralingse Bos is a good place for foraging. I am excited to discover the city and its surroundings more!