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Ground Elder

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer

This good edible green was brought over by the Romans as a food staple, but soon spread countrywide. The modern day gardener now spends fruitless hours attempting to get rid of it. We’ve found the easiest solution to keep this quick spreading plant under control is to eat it.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Ground Elder, Goutweed, Herb Gerrard, Bishops Weed
Scientific Name Aegopodium podagraria
Season Start Mar
Season End Oct
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Toothed, ovate and usually in groups of five, two lower ‘leaves’ can be seen to be splitting to appear as seven leaves in some specimens. Light green, shiney and translucent when young becoming dark green with a matt finish.

Flowers

Tiny white flowers on an umbel (umbrella shaped) that appear from May to June.

Stem

Hollow with a ‘u’ shaped groove, short, close to the ground and containing only one set of leaves until the flower stem appears.

Habitat

Woodland edges, roadsides, churchyards, parks, flower beds and many gardens, much to the gardeners annoyance.

Possible Confusion

Can look a little like Dog’s Mercury, Mercurialis perennis, pictured, but this has hairy leaves that don’t grow in groups of three and a hairy stem, unlike Ground Elder.

Very young Elder trees can look superficially similar but have a definate stem (later, trunk) rather than Ground elders leaves coming straight from the soil.

Smell

Like sweet parsley.

Taste

Like sweet parsley only better.

Collecting

The young translucent leaves are best for salads. The slightly older leaves can be cooked like spinach, but when the leaves become course and papery they are best left on the plant.

If you have a patch of Ground Elder keep cutting it back and young fresh leaves will grow back in no time.

Once Ground Elder flowers it becomes a mild laxative, a diuretic and a soporific so it is best not eaten once the flowers appear or one could fall asleep and wake up in all sorts of trouble!

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally it was used as a poultice to treat gout.

COMMENTS

25 comments for Ground Elder

  1. YOSSI shahar says:

    Many thanks for your lovely site

  2. Alex Hawkey says:

    The last paragraph on collecting made me laugh x

  3. Janan says:

    Would this be good to aid insomnia, as it is soporific?
    I have masses of this growing in a wild uncultivated part of my garden, and always thought it a nuisance, but now I’m planting things that are equally as robust, alongside it.
    I now see it in a different light, as it’s edible, and actually the flowers are pretty.
    Thank you for the website, it’s very informative.
    J Tay

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Ground Elder has soporific properties once it has flowered but you would need your own bodyweight of the stuff to have an effect and the other properties are laxative and diuretic so you could fall asleep and wake up in a terrible mess!

  4. Janice Sigston says:

    Thank you for this. I have a garden spot full of it. Looking forward to sampling it.

  5. Janet says:

    Hi – I’ve been cooking ground elder from my garden as an additional fresh vegetable during lockdown. I’ve fried it, added it to soups, and today I made a green sauce to go with some fish. For the sauce I blitzed it raw into some soya milk before cooking and was really interested that it made the most amazing froth – I wondered whether that could be useful in bread-making – I’m always looking for ways to give gluten-free bread recipes a bit lighter texture. The froth dissipated when I added salt and chick-pea flour to the sauce, so it might not survive in a bread recipe – but I’m tempted to try it in a herb bread, just to see! I wondered if anyone else had noticed this frothing of ground elder in milk?!!

    1. Erica says:

      How do I know if its defo ground elder

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        Look for the strange asymmetric bottom leaves, on younger shoots there may be only 5 leaves but as the plant grows the bottom leaves can split into two or even five leaves leaving the bigger leaf uneven on either side of the stem.

  6. Pop says:

    Added handfuls of Ground Elder to wild watercress and ransoms to make a soup. It was divine.

  7. Jo Vallis says:

    Hullo! This is lovely thanks.

    Can we freeze ground elder leave and stems?

    I’ve picked a lot and dont want to waste it!

    Thank you

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It’s best to blanch or cook leaves before freezing but if you separate them to freeze before placing in a container it can work.

  8. Matilda Upton says:

    I just wanted to comment on my 2 very different experiences of eating ground elder:

    1) last summmer, late summer. It was ok steamed, but nothing special. Tolerable as a leafy green!
    2) just now. April, young leaves in salad… exquisite!

    I recommend you try this again, if, like me you have been underwhelmed by past experience… it was really something else today, and it’s free!

    🙂

  9. Ronnie Scott says:

    A good way to preserve ground elder and other edible leaves is to use them to make pesto

  10. David McQueen says:

    We used to look at it as a weed until we discovered you can eat it. I now collect a fist full every morning in the Covid-19 lockdown – cut into shreds and put in a large jar of pickling vinegar which i store in the fridge to eat with dinner. Delicious. Clever folks those Romans.

    1. Jillian says:

      I have what I think is ground elder in my garden and yes, I have been at war with it as a gardener for 10 yes. I only see three leave in mine not the reported 5. Is the because I remove it as a weed before the additional 4 & 5 leaves appear or am I confusing it with something similar. I have in years gone by allowed it to grow and flower and was sure it was ground elder but did not notice the 5 leaves at that time.

      1. Eric Biggane says:

        If you can send in some photos of the plants and leaves to [email protected] we’ll try to ID it for you.

  11. faerie nettle says:

    I just found a little patch in my garden. Got really excited and created a little bed. Then realised it was under the elder tree! I am now making the assumption that these aren’t ground elder but hung shoots growing from the tree roots.
    Any thoughts? Are young elder tree shoots edible? Thanks

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Elder tree leaves are toxic but you should be able to tell the difference as young elder tree shoots will still have a woody stem unlike ground elder which has a soft green stem.

  12. Alex says:

    I was out camping a couple of weeks ago and found some ground elder. Picked it and made a soup with som shallots, a bell pepper and two boiled eggs. Absolutely scrumptious!
    Funny how perspective can turn a good source of food into an unwanted nuisance. Our ancestors would be pulling their hair out if they knew.

  13. Clare says:

    I used it instead of parsley in a Cullen skink soup and it was blinding.
    I’ll never pay a quid for parsley in the supermarket again.
    Lockdown foraging ahoy.

  14. Haddayr says:

    This is great! Are the roots edible?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The roots are edible but rather pithy and stringy.

  15. Claire says:

    I picked a luscious crop of ground elder from my garden and served it to my family like spinach without telling them. My son asked Mum, why have you put him in the spinach?

  16. Claire says:

    Should have proof-read the predictive text! My son asked “Mum, why have you put gin in the spinach?”

  17. Deva De Silva says:

    I have been at war with Ground Elder since the day I planted it in my previous garden despite my neighbor’s warnings. When I moved, I must have brought some roots entangled in the plants that came with me, which ravaged my current garden for 6 years. I have been pulling out wagon loads of them to save my flowering bushes getting drowned by what I called “The Damn Weed”. For years, I have been distressed by my failure to get rid of it. The day I read an online article which said, “if you can’t beat it, eat it” I have been doing just that. I juice it and make porridge with onions, garlic, ginger, and coconut milk for breakfast. I make a stir-fry for lunch by itself or mix it with curries such as pumpkin, potatoes, lentils or any other vegetable as it tastes so good with almost anything. For dinner, I make a fresh salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, lime, pickled garlic, and olive oil. I must say the fresh salad is the best out of all that I’ve tried! I love it and it’s the best green I’ve ever eaten and this comes from someone who eats greens like a rabbit. It also says that Ground Elder is good for arthritis. I’m gobbling them up in wagon loads now!

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