I had the chance to go for a guided nature walk focused on the culinary and medicinal benefits of wild plants and herbs in the Ardennes. A wild flora expert accompanied me, and in this article, I give a foretaste and a brief description of this educational health walk that took place around Durbuy, in Wéris.
On a Friday morning in April, I went to Wéris, one of the most beautiful Ardennes villages of Wallonia to take a guided walk focused on wild and medicinal plants. This small rural village located in the town of Durbuy is the ideal place for nature lovers. There are many opportunities for walks in the middle of the Ardennes forests that border this small flowered and peaceful village. And there are also many options to stay in an Ardennes-Etape charming cottage.
There, in early spring, during a cold sunny morning, I met Simon. Simon is a nature guide specialised in wild plants as well as in medicinal plants and herbs. He is passionate about wild flora, and a fan of all that nature can bring us as humans. Simon is also aware that we must respect our environment and he will not hesitate to pick up the trash on our path several times during this discovery walk.
A beautiful meeting
I was introduced to Simon because I have always been interested in the virtues and healing properties that edible wild plants have. And, here in the Ardennes, they abound, but still, only a few people pay attention to them. Fortunately, I am one of the lucky ones, who, together with Simon, this expert of nature, have been able to discover the many curative benefits and numerous pleasures of the wild plants and herbs in our Ardennes.
Everything about edible and medicinal plants
One thing is sure, I am less ignorant after this little educational and gourmand walk.
From plantain to coltsfoot, from stinging nettle and spruce, the healing and tasting discoveries were numerous, and I indeed did not stay hungry! As you might have already understood, I am a gourmand as well as a sportsman, so I enjoy learning tips and tricks to apply them and always stay in shape. And I got my share.
Indeed, Simon gave me tips on the nutritional values, the medicinal characteristics and the culinary advantages of the many plants and wild herbs growing here in the Ardennes territory.
Time for a tasting…
Throughout the walk, I didn’t stop eating, often by picking the flower or herb that was mentioned from the ground and sometimes directly from a tree, like a deer! This nature walk was a real return to our roots and a realisation. I learned that a lot of plants here in the Ardennes are edible provided that they are picked in the ideal conditions, of course.
Simon first made me try the plantain, with its light mushroom aftertaste and healing virtues. And yes, the plantain helps the blood to clot during cuts and it also helps to soothe bites. And even if you do not get stung, you can use it to season your salad or a piece of meat. You will see, it’s tasty, and it’s free!
Then, I tasted the sorrel meadow. This one is abundant in our fields and has many digestive and depurative virtues. It is a pipe for people looking for a natural detox option, it also contains vitamin B and C, as well as magnesium and potassium.
And then, if you are short of imagination for cooking your food, there is Cardamine, which you can add to olive oil during cooking to get a light mustard taste and juice for your sauces! I tasted it, and I assure you that we smelled the mustard. Wéris, not Dijon!
I was also surprised to learn that nettle has more protein than a piece of Belgian Blue White. After handling a handful of nettle leaves, with a very precise technique and under the supervision of Simon, I took a mouthful. And? Delightful and indeed an excellent tip for epicurean athletes and hearty eaters!
Simon also offered me some spines of spruce and Douglas fir. The latter has a pronounced taste of goat cheese while the spruce spines have a eucalyptus flavour. And the icing on the cake, I ate and tasted the birch leaf, directly from the tree, as well as the coniferous thorns. It is all the more fascinating to be able to taste all this in the same way as the wildlife! During this educational tour, I had the chance to discover so many things, such as the medicinal and culinary characteristics of the hogweed, the pilewort, the rumex, the coltsfoot, the butterbur, the daisies and many more. I could also observe and listen to the birds, admire the landscapes, and discover the beaten paths of Wéris.
Eating wild plants: are there any risks?
If you collect them with care, there is no risk. You cannot just pick these wild plants and herbs anywhere, anytime. Simon pointed out the importance of not collecting all this wild flora in the swamps, in the paths of the forest animals or along the roads; in order not to swallow toxins or parasites dangerous for our health. But you do not have to worry about that with Simon. He knows his subject and knows very well what he’s talking about, which makes this little spring outing all the more crazy and exciting.
This nature specialist also gave me some tips and tricks in case of ingestion of a non-edible wild plant or a snake bite, for example. And yes, even if you are in trouble alone in the middle of the forest, there is a way to get out of it. I won’t tell you more and spoil the surprise.
Things you need to know before starting this adventure
Wear good walking shoes, temperature-appropriate clothing, and bring a backpack and a bottle of water. The latter will not only allow you to stay hydrated, but it will also serve to rinse your taste buds between different tastings. And even if the weather is not the best, I would still recommend doing this nature walk if it rains. Indeed, to walk in the rain in the Ardennes is excellent for your health. Do not hesitate to ask questions to Simon, he will answer immediately and give you a real and pertinent answer.
A walk for everyone
I recommend this guided nature walk to everyone: flora and nature lovers, families, those looking for a forest bath, friends, curious people, epicureans, cooks, children, to absolutely everyone. This educational walk offers a wealth of information for those interested in green cuisine as well as people fond of herbal medicine. This nature guided walk is adapted to the interests of everyone and aims to teach people about the benefits that nature and our Ardennes forest can bring us. Simon is there to guide you and make you aware of the assets and secrets that this majestic forest, located here, just a few steps away, in the Ardennes holds. We are lucky to stay or to live in the Ardennes, so let’s respectfully enjoy what it has to offer.
Wéris, one of the most beautiful villages in Wallonia
If you have never been to Wéris, know that you will need to change that! Wéris is known for its warm atmosphere and ideal location. Located close to Durbuy, it is one of the most beautiful villages in Wallonia, and there is much to discover there: you can visit the Dolmens, the Menhirs, the Gallic village, the bread oven, its Romanesque church, the Pierre Haina, the Devil’s bed and the Place de la Pierre. Wéris is also surrounded by forests and pastures, so there are many possibilities for hiking, and the landscape is just magnificent! If you stay there with your family and children, note that you can walk around almost everywhere with a pushchair! Plus you will always remember the local’s hospitality, and the friendly atmosphere, where everyone knows each other. You can enjoy this mood and a snack at “Aux Lanternes” or at “La Pierre Levée”, where you can also taste the famous Wérisienne, a beer that is only served in the village and nowhere else.
I would describe Wéris as a pearl of the Ardennes, which you certainly should not miss visiting and discovering. I promise that you will keep some sweet memories.
The Pierre Haina
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Enjoy a stay in the Ardennes and discover wild and medicinal plants