Can you feel it? The weather’s getting warmer and wetter. Winter’s on its last legs. Urban gardeners and foragers like myself are itching to go planting and plucking plants all around the town. Since many readers come to this blog precisely for info on edible plants, a topic we’ve neglected this winter, I’m celebrating March and the approaching spring with a series on edible plant resources. Read on for more!
Today’s resources: Elizabeth Westphal’s walks and writings on edible plants and mushrooms. Elizabeth is an activist and herbal nutritionist at Grüne Liga Berlin, an environmental coalition, and a fixture in the local food landscape. Most Berliners know the Thursday organic farmers’ market that she organizes on Kollwitzplatz.
For 16 years, Elizabeth has led the Grüne Liga’s Kräuterwanderungen (herb hikes), like the one shown here, which I attended in 2009. In the fall, there are Pilzwanderungen (mushroom hikes). The first walk of this season is on Saturday, March 24!
On the walks, Elizabeth leads groups through Berlin’s parks and forests, explaining edible plants in detail. You learn not only how to identify and harvest each plant, but also how to prepare and enjoy it. Nutritional and medicinal properties are also discussed. It’s fun to discover that some familiar “weeds” are actually delicious. For example, the vitamin-packed treat in the top photo? Stinging nettle! It loses its sting when sautéed or even just slightly wilted in vinaigrette.
But it’s also a treat to gather seasonal, regional specialties. In the photo below, you can see two of Germany’s most beloved and elusive spring treats. The whorls of six leaves are Waldmeister, or woodruff, for scenting sparkling wine and sodas. It can also be found or grown in other temperate regions. The broad leaves, however, are hard to find outside Germany. They belong to Bärlauch, ramsons or bear’s garlic, a strongly garlic-scented tender green in the onion family, perfect for pestos and soups (but use caution, Bärlauch strongly resembles two poisonous plants).
If I’ve whetted your appetite, join an upcoming plant walk! Here’s the first one:
First Kräuterwanderung of 2012
Saturday, 24 March 2012
Meet at: Botanischer Volkspark Blankenfelde
Blankenfelder Chaussee 5, Berlin-Pankow
Price: 5 Euros / 4 Euros for kids and Grüne Liga members
Please sign up:
Or at the Grüne Liga table at the Thursday Kollwitzplatz farmer’s market.
If you’re not in Berlin, you can enjoy Elizabeth’s wild plant wisdom in book form, Wildkräuter (in German, 9 Euros), from the charmingly named Packpapierverlag (brown paper press):
For those outside Germany, perhaps you will find a similar foraging walk, or forager’s group, near you. Or perhaps you have one to recommend? In the coming weeks, I hope to introduce additional books and resources. So please let us know if you have a favorite book, website, or other tip to share. Happy gathering!