Dagmar von der Grün organises herbal walking trails in Franconia and reveals what treasures nature keeps in store for us. We learned some astonishing facts…
Herbal expert Dagmar von der Grün
When a dark-haired woman stands in a meadow in the Altmühltal surrounded by a troop of curious walkers, all putting leaves in their mouths and chewing on roots, you can be sure of one thing: Dagmar von der Grün is organising another one of her popular herbal walking trails. “I do this because I want to show people what treasures nature keeps in store for us,” says the native Franconian. “The great outdoors offers an incredible diversity of wild plants and herbs, which can be used in many different ways in the kitchen.”
More from the plant, less from the animal
The trained healing practitioner and herb specialist finds herself in full accord with Sebastian Kneipp, who was well known in the 19th century not just as the “water doctor” but also the “herbalist priest” and who researched the healing power of over 40 plants. A simple diet that is “more plant-based, less animal-based” forms one of the five pillars of Kneipp’s health philosophy.
Stinging nettle against rheumatism
All those who go walking through nature with Dagmar von der Grün soon realise that herbs and wild plants are not just healthy but also really tasty. They learn that ground elder, usually vilified by gardeners as an irksome and persistent weed, makes a fine lemonade and is also perfect as a universal seasoning. That wild marjoram can be used to make a fine herb butter and rowan berries are delicious in pralines. Let alone the versatility of the humble stinging nettle.
"Our ancestors were much more concerned about herbs“
“It’s such a great plant!” enthuses von der Grün. “It’s effective against rheumatism and bladder infections, provides vitamins, acts as a fertiliser and also tastes delicious! I like nothing better than eating them directly from the meadows.” The walkers are wide-eyed. The herb specialist shows them what to do. “Stroke the nettle leaves downwards from the tip, roll them into a small ball and knead it between your fingers. This breaks the stinging hairs and you will no longer get hurt when you touch them.”
Sensory herbal cuisine
Herbs are everything to Dagmar von der Grün. In her own kitchen she always has a supply of at least 30 jars and caddies of herbs, seeds and roots that she has collected herself from the local area. “When I’m cooking I naturally prefer to use freshly picked herbs, because that’s when they provide the best all-round flavour for the dish.” But this herb specialist is also creative about using her plants for all manner of pastes and spreads, herbal salts, vinegars and teas. That way she has access to them all the year round.
Dagmar von der Grün is a passionate and very healthy cook. “Vegetarian, wholesome, organic, seasonal and regional,” she explains. “Yet also deliberately simple. Which is not to be confused with boring. For me, cooking is a sensory experience. And besides, I have my herbs.” Sebastian Kneipp would have been delighted.
Find out more about Dagmar meine-kraeuterreisen.de (only in German)
... from Dagmar
A special herb garden
I adore abbey gardens with their centuries-old experience of medicinal and wild herbs. For example, you could take a look at the market garden run by the Benedictine Abbey of Plankstellen near Berching in the Altmühltal.
A really special place is the EWILPA, a park for edible wild plants near Kemnath in the Upper Palatinate region. There you can walk through a series of very varied habitats and see for yourself all the edible things that grow there.
ewilpa.net (only in German)
I love the Altmühltal but I also love Franconian Switzerland. The scenery there is still really wild in places, with fantastic climbing rocks and beautiful walking trails. And there are plenty of good breweries for those who enjoy a beer.
hirschbachtal.de (only in German)