Lynn teaches city folk how to use the bounty of herbs which surround them, ethically and safely. Find out about her online courses, workshops, projects and herb walks in Amsterdam.
Sunlight grows stronger. Spring’s first stirrings can be felt as rising sap, throbbing through the land. Blackthorn blooms, ramsons emerge, lambing season begins, trees bud and birch blood begins to flow. Life quietly builds in the cold fresh light. Now is the perfect time to refresh our internal and external environments. Dust off the cobwebs, take stock of your chattels, diet and health. Gracefully shed what no longer serves and clear space for nourishing growth. The steady, building energy of Imbolc helps new projects and good intentions to manifest. Tidy up potted herbs. Dead leaves and seed heads are valued by birds and bugs, but make some space for fresh green foliage to emerge. Welcome green life back to your world.
At Imbolc, try to walk barefoot in nature. Visit local water sources: babbling brooks, wells, springs, ponds. Light fires and welcome the return of heat.
Spring greens – Aim to eat nourishing local greens daily. Cook them or enjoy raw in smoothies, juices and salads. Nettles, cleavers, chickweed, bramble leaf, birch, hairy bittercress and ramsons are wonderful spring tonics. Enrich your soups with bittercress and chickweed leaves. Float fresh, organic pansies or violets atop. Bathe your cells in spring green nourishment. Taste your land!
Imbolc – Rising Sap © Lynn Shore 2016
Daylight balances darkness. Nature appears youthful, verdant, bright and light. Now is the time to quietly nurture growing life. Keep your energy in balance. Nourish yourself, enjoy bright spring days and prepare for the coming active months. This is a good time to crystalise personal goals and plant seeds of intention, in your soul and in the soil. Germinating seeds reflect our ambitions, emerging, rooting, growing, adapting. Start a necklace from found natural objects, threading intentions with each.
Foraging – As edible wild plants become more obvious, the urge to forage builds. Get acquainted with local regulations, rare and poisonous plants and the cleanest places to harvest. Hone your ID skills and start a map of your foraging finds. You may notice tasty treats such as lemonbalm, dandelion, garlic mustard, ramsons, winter purslane, deadnettles, ground elder, stinging nettle, and young leaves of hawthorn and lime trees.
Spring Herb Mojo – Try this runny, spicy Mojo dip and make foraged leaves last for several meals. Blend a small handful of fresh edible leaves with 250ml of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic and the juice of half a lemon. Store in clean glassware and use to spice up grilled cheese, meat, tofu etc.
Spring Equinox - Balance © Lynn Shore 2016
Cold weather is past and summer scents tease the air. Walk barefoot at dawn to a hawthorn or oak tree. Give thanks for its beauty, strength and gifts whilst caressing your skin with its leaf dew. Beltane energy invigorates and empowers. Make merriment with friends. Weave willow garlands and then thread with edible flowers such as dandelion and daisy. Either toss them into flowing water with a wish, or dry the blooms and brew in teas. Adopt a tree as your Maypole. Braid paper ribbons around it whilst picturing dreams becoming reality.
Foraging – Enliven the tastes of salads and sandwiches with lime and hawthorn leaves. Many plants are in their prime, ready to pick and use, such as ground ivy, sage, chickweed, garlic mustard, dandelion, nettles, wild geraniums and cleavers.
A ‘May Bowl’ is the fragrant result of infusing sweet woodruff, lemon zest and white wine, overnight. It is perfect for Beltane gatherings, tasting of hay and summer flowers. Rumtopf, another gift from Germany, is made as berries progressively ripen. Toss leftover fruit, a splash of rum and honey into a clean jar or crock. Cap loosely and add extra berries when available. By Yule, a rich fruity ferment will result, delicious with winter desserts.
Beltane – Green Abundance © Lynn Shore 2016
Flowers are laden with nectar and bees buzz around town. Sup on fragrant air, bathe your skin in sunbeams, and infuse your cells with this heady Midsummer energy. Run your hands through tall herbs, laze in flower meadows and gaze up at the sky. Relax beside glistening streams. Drink teas of lime blossom and vervain. Let the sun warm your heart and the moon cool your mind. The year will now start to wane.
Honeydew Harvest – Many herbs reach their peak at Midsummer. Mugwort, motherwort, St John’s wort, vervain, horehound and yarrow can all be picked, before their energies spiral from leaf to seed and soil. Elderflower bursts into bloom, roses hang heavy and lime trees drip with honeydew. Spend a day harvesting, drying herbs on willow racks and making vinegars and tinctures. Start collecting early seed from garlic mustard and ramsons. Add some to your food and the rest to your seed tin.
Preserved Sunshine – Steep fresh elderflowers in honey to make an exquisitely fragrant syrup. Simply fill a jar with flower heads, fill again with runny honey and poke with a chopstick to release trapped air. Bitter-sweet Dandelion and Burdock can also be made in this way. Add honey to 20-30 clean dandelion heads and a small vibrant burdock leaf. Allow to mellow for at least two days before enjoying in drinks and on toast.
Midsummer – The Pinnacle of the Year © Lynn Shore 2016
This is a time of bounty and fading beauty, when plants grow heavy and gilded with fruit and seed. Take time to reflect on how your inner projects have developed since the spring as you weave dollies from tall herb stems. Fresh plantain spikes weave beautifully. Their nutty seeds can be added to porridge and rice during cooking or planted in sheltered spots. To help ensure new life next spring, save seed from favourite plants and store in labeled paper bags. Stock your herbal larder with necessities, ready for the quiet times ahead.
Bounty – Some herbs are over by this time but many are resplendent in the late summer sun. Selfheal, mint, nasturtium, wild geranium and deadnettle make wonderful Lughnasadh salads. Elderberries, blackberries, apples and rowanberries offer themselves up for syrups, Rumtopf, pies and jellies. Preserve your harvest well.
Acid extracts – Herb vinegars can be mixed with oils to make nourishing salad dressings. They can also be added whilst cooking, to help draw minerals from deep green vegetables. Make them by adding chopped fresh herbs to organic vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar. Leave for up to 6 weeks before straining. Mugwort, chickweed and nettle make delicious herb vinegars as do familiar aromatics such as rosemary, tarragon and lavender.
Lughnasadh/Lammas – Green to Gold © Lynne Shore 2016
Ripe fruit, flowers and leaves grow beside seed spikes and decaying plants. Day and night are equal. Bid summer farewell and welcome glorious autumn crispness and creeping darkness. Life looks in on itself, seeds bide their time and tap roots thicken. Notice how your plans are developing. Which ones need to brew until spring? Which have already fruited? Walk mindfully outdoors, allowing yourself to merge with nature and autumn to infuse within you. Grow new elder trees by taking forearm-length cuttings from established trees. Drive them half way into pots of earth or directly into hedgerow gaps. Come spring they should burst into leaf. Many wild seeds fall and germinate in autumn. Try sowing half your seed stocks now and plant the rest mid-spring.
Wild food – Brambles, hips, haws and nuts abound. Search for local edible street trees, such as Turkish hazel. Harvest only what you need and save some for the wildlife. There are plenty of wild greens to be gathered, such as chickweed, gallant soldiers, hops, fat hen, dandelion, mugwort, chives, calendula and rocket.
Sweet and Sour Balance – Oxymels are an interesting way to make bitter or pungent herbs more palatable. Simply mix the herbs with honey and apple cider vinegar, or mix honey with herb-infused vinegars. I prefer 5 parts honey to 1 part vinegar. Store in clean glass jars with non-metallic lids.
Autumn Equinox – Harvest © Lynn Shore 2016
We stand at the twilight between summer and winter when the worlds of the living and the spirits easily intertwine. Storms often tear through city streets; majestic trees fall, buildings are damaged and change arrives. What may seem irreparable allows new beginnings to emerge. This is a good time to honour ancestors and seek their guidance. Planting spring flower bulbs whilst visiting graves helps us reflect on the good qualities of the dead and express thanks for their gifts. Increasing darkness seduces nature towards sleep. Our attention instinctively turns within. Many plants die back and many animals prepare to hibernate. Help wildlife to fatten up and build warm nests by offering refuges of sticks and leaves in quiet corners; allow access through garden fences and grow diverse winter nectar plants such as Ivy and Mahonia.
Forage Lightly – as wildlife depends on autumn’s gifts. Apples, rosehips and berries remain in hedgerows. Mushrooms abound. Nuts from hazel and gingko tumble from street trees. Haws are ready for the pot. Leaves of feverfew, chickweed, burdock, dandelion and ground ivy remain verdant in parks, gardens and containers. Dry plantain seed spikes in paper bags, ready to enrich winter soups and porridge.
Sweet Treats – Bread of the Dead provides food for thought. Enrich simple bread dough with a handful of grated apple, soaked raisins or chopped rosehip flesh. Shape, bake and share memories with family and friends.
Samhain – Death and Life © Lynn Shore 2016
Cold, brittle darkness envelops us. Trust in the regenerative powers of night. Invoke nature spirits and the returning sun by bedecking your home with evergreen boughs, candles and crystals. Nourish your soul with rest and make time for quiet reflection. Try to connect directly with the earth at midwinter. Stand with bare feet on the ground, your roots descending through the soil, intertwining with those of the trees. Can you feel transformation taking place? Leaves decay, worms digest, seeds stratify and ideas brighten within darkness. Wild birds may need extra food and water. Pinecones dipped in melted lard, seed and chickweed can be strung from trees and fences, serving as food and outdoor decoration. Offer shallow water bowls when natural sources freeze. Wildlife shelters, such as leaf piles and dense ivy-clad walls remain undisturbed.
Midwinter Foraging – Rest and regeneration is essential for many plants so tread softly through nature. Enjoy dried, pickled, tinctured and honeyed preserves. Ground ivy, chickweed, rocket, rosemary, parsley and bittercress are available to harvest, if you must. Trickle cider or wine around cherished fruit trees. Wassailing awakens their spirits and encourages rich harvests next year.
Wild Salads – Assemble small nourishing salads when you find herbs growing plentifully in clean locations. Chickweed and rocket are especially tasty, dressed with apple cider vinegar and olive oil. The Rumtopf has transformed foraged summer fruits. They are now fermented and deliciously boozy. Pour over festive desserts and add to sparkling wine to warm winter hearts.
Winter Solstice – Regeneration © Lynn Shore 2016