Edible City: Discover 7 nourishing plants you’ll find in and around Berlin.
Is an edible city your kind of utopia? Snipping fresh herbs from boxes hanging from your front windows or fences, collecting chestnuts from the park for roasting, making fresh green soups or turning fallen apples into your own vinegar. Chilling with friends amongst sprouting carrots or delicate dill.
Authors: Liz Eve & Giuditta Cortinovis for FFF
Edible gardens and parks are on the up, just take the popularity of Prinzessinnengarten and Himmelbeet. Thanks to the efforts of community gardeners greening our pavements and abandoned plots, plus the rising popularity of foraging, we find we already inhabit an edible city, and our appetite for more edible green space is growing…
With a bit of time training your eye and palette, you can grow your knowledge about what you can eat and how you can eat it. You can boost your nutrition and drastically reduce the packaging and waste that comes with supermarket shopping.
At Feld Food Forest, we hold regular ‘Food Forest Fridays’ and have started to create lists of the multitude of plants we can learn about, eat and grow.
We have compiled seven examples of spring-summertime bounty, plants which you can get to know better and add to your diet. Each with one or two ideas for prep or recipes.
Always consult a book for identification purposes and beware of poisonous ‘false friends’ plants that may look similar but could be dangerous if ingested.
Baerlauch, Wunderlauch or Wild Garlic.
Allium paradoxum pops up in early spring in many of Berlin’s forests, with thinner leaves than Allium ursinum (Baerlauch) but a similar ‘garlicky’ smell.
It forms a green carpet that can smother other native species such as bluebells and snowdrops. It produces small white flowers that can also be eaten.
The leaves can be sauteed in butter, or preserved in a pesto—ground up with nuts and hard cheese, flavoured with lemon juice and olive oil.
Widespread in temperate areas, seen growing alongside footpaths or being pulled up by frustrated gardeners trying to keep up a monocultural lawn. Despite being known as an unwanted weed, it has long been used as medicine: its genus name, Taraxacum, apparently derives from the Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy).
The dandelion is a very tenacious plant: it blooms bright yellow and then disperses its seeds widely, providing nectar and pollen to pollinators throughout the year.
The roots are used to support liver health, and dandelion root coffee is a mild local alternative to coffee. The leaves are very nutritious and can help digestion. The flowers can be eaten raw or even baked in cakes. Finely chopped, it makes a tasty addition to pancakes or fritters.
Elder is a plant native to most of Europe, North America, and southwest Asia. The gypsies apparently considered it sacred, because of its plethora of healing properties.
The beautiful clusters of tiny white blossoms catch the eye in hedgerows and roadsides. They can be seen blooming in spring and up to early summer.
Elderflowers are commonly infused as tea, but are also delicious in cordials, ales, champagne and fritters. They make a great medicine against cold, hayfever and sinusitis.
Gunderman or Ground Ivy.
Gunderman or Ground ivy grows small and inconspicuous everywhere in natural gardens and in the wild. We learnt about it at Café Botanico on a tour of their forest garden.
It looks beautiful in the garden as a ground cover and is extremely low maintenance. Its purple flowers add colour to the forest floor layer of a forest ecosystem.
Gundermann tastes pleasantly spicy in a salad. It’s a kitchen spice with many uses and is added to quark or yoghurt, in herbal soups and herb butter. Herbal salves are used for wound healing.
Known as Waldmeister, “master of the woods”, in Germany, it is native of Europe and was commonly used as medicine in the Middle Ages.
This little plant can be found growing in forests, preferring the half-shade. It’s easily recognized by its white flowers and the leaves growing in whorls.
With its pleasant and mild taste, this herb is used for scenting sparkling wine and sodas. In Germany it’s traditionally added to Rhine Valley wine to make Maibowle on the first of May. Many of you might have also tasted it as a delicious addition to Berliner Weißbier.
Lamb’s quarters has been foraged and cultivated (especially for its nutritious edible seeds) in Eurasia and North America for thousands of years. It is now spread all around the globe.
This opportunistic plant can be easily found growing around human habitation. Its leaves have been likened to the shape of the foot of a goose, which is why it’s also known by the common name “goosefoot”.
Its tender nutritious leaves can be used as a great substitute in any recipe calling for spinach or Swiss chard.
Despite seeming quite unfriendly with its stinging hairs, this plant has been widely used as food and medicine. Roman soldiers used to rub it on their bodies to keep warm.
It commonly grows in hedges, fields, forests and by roadsides, and can be harvested from spring to autumn. Remember to wear gloves!
Some plants we may classify as “weeds” can be delicious. Stinging nettle loses its sting when sautéed to provide a vitamin packed treat. It works great as a tonic, to relieve allergies, promote stronger bones and so much more. We’ve combined it with oats to make savory oatcakes.
There are many online tools and mobile apps that educate users about foraging in the city. Mundraub’s website offers an ever-growing database of trees and plants in Germany’s public spaces. The name comes from the German word for robbery of just as much food as you need to eat. A thought to bear in mind when deciding how much to take (just enough for yourself!)