During Dutch Design Week, e52 will be introducing you to the festival’s Hidden Gems. Nine special designers who we feel are the stand-outs of this edition. A different Hidden Gem will enjoy the limelight each day of DDW. Today: De Onkruidenier (“The Weedgrocer”)

De Onkruidenier (Jonmar van Vlijmen and Ronald Boer) works with unwanted nature in the city centre. Stickyweed, bishop’s weed and nettles: most people remove these plants from their gardens right away. But weeds just got a new job with Jonmar and Ronald. Have you ever tried park pesto or hogweed beer?

It made complete sense for Jonmar van Vlijmen to study landscape architecture. A plant-lover as a child, he had a job at the garden centre by the age of twelve. But just before graduating he kissed goodbye to that career, afraid of a life writing endless reports high up in an office building. In search of a more creative existence, Jonmar went to art school and spent years working as a designer. That’s until he stumbled across an Elseviers guide to wild vegetables and herbs during a clear-out – the book Grandma had left behind.

Jonmar was incredibly interested in the recipes in the back of the guide for everything from nettle croquettes to daisy cough medicine. He decided to go to the park himself and find some ‘weeds’. In no time at all, his house was full of them. He started hanging plants to dry on the heater and making beer out of hogweed. (And no, that last one wasn’t exactly delicious, but it certainly sets the scene.)

He was asked to offer tastings of his wild plants together with his partner Ronald, who grew up on a farm and previously worked at Proef restaurant in Amsterdam. Interest grew and people were keen to join him on his way. It wasn’t long before group expeditions began trawling through the city in search of useful weeds.

Jonmar hopes to shed new light on ‘unwanted nature’ through his activities. As well as being very knowledgeable about wild plants, the Amsterdammer is also bursting with stories – from how the Romans brought bishop’s weed to the Netherlands by planting it along the way so they’d have something to eat on the journey back, to the aphrodisiac effects of hogweed in the Middle Ages.

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The mobile field workshop

De Onkruidenier can be found at the Bergmannkerk near the Hallenweg during DDW. Together with Overtreders W they’ve developed a mobile workplace with harvesting benches, a field kitchen, a drying cabinet and work benches where visitors can discover the special uses of wild plants.

Jonmar had already visited Eindhoven’s Genneper Parks in preparation for DDW and was excited about the weeds he found there. Curious about De Onkruidenier’s beach greens, wild tea mixes and flower butter? Then follow your nose down to the Bergmannkerk.

De Onkruidenier: Bergmannkerk, Bergmannstraat 76

The Nine Hidden Gems of DDW was made possible through a collaboration with Dutch Design Daily and DDW curator, Katja Lucas. Want to check out the Hidden Gems for yourself? Urban Exploring Tours and KOGA will be organising a special bike tour every morning and afternoon where you will see the selected designers. For more information, click here.

Text: Renske Mehra | Photo: Frouwkje Smit