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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.


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.


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


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


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.


Like sweet parsley.


Like sweet parsley only better.


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.


39 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.

    2. Rho says:

      Can you give a few more details on your pickling method? Do you wash the leaves i n anything or pour boiling water over them? Do you remove the stems? Is the pickling brine just saved from pickles and reused? Do you boil the jars? Do you let sit out in covered jars to ferment or just goes strai ght to fridge once packed with brine? Im totally new to pickling a nd find a lot of assumptions left out.

  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!

  18. Lcimakasky says:

    My Ground Elder has flowered and is now brown and dingy looking, should I just leave it or trim it back? It’s July 20th, will it bloom again? (don’t know my Zone, Finger Lakes NY). thanks!

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      If you cut it back it should return, I’ve been cutting mine back all year and it keeps coming.

  19. Beth says:

    I couldn’t be more pleased to learn I can eat ground elder! It’s such a win ! 🌿💚🌿💚🌿

  20. caroline bishop says:

    Blimey I”ll have to try them, been pulling it up for years! Weird question but Does anyone know if it is a low FODMAP food? On this bloody diet. Many thanks.

    1. Rho says:

      Its a green so likely is low FODMAP as doesnt have any of the saccharides or gluten. My one question if it is similar to spinach if it is high in oxalates or lower like kale and cabbage.

  21. Suzanne Howland says:

    Has anyone tried to dry it to keep?

  22. Graham Hill says:

    My ground elder is the only thing that wants to grow in a dry dark corner of the garden under a large tree. I have been eating it for years and never managed to kill it. It grows up to the edge of the lawn and mowing it keeps it under control.
    I prefer to eat fresh like lettuce, with salt and a tiny spot of sugar, or citrus juice. Although absolutely fine chucked in any cooked dish you fancy. Never once have I felt soporific or the victim of bodily evacuations. Can’t say it’s effectively treated inflammatory arthritis, but neither have potent drugs!

  23. Paul Bonner says:

    Juat found your site. Nicely arranged information. 👍

  24. Georgia says:

    Great weed, I love it, many recepies in the internet, also to make lemonade. I love to use it in pancakes, scrambled eggs , its a great spice indeed. Tea aroma I find great too. Here some recommend not more than 3 cups.
    Found some warnings in the internet as well as to side effects and I would not eat the root as it has been described as poisonous albeit it probably won’t kill a healthy normal human being but its poisonous nonetheless. As to the rest of the plant and its side effects I do not know of any vegetable without side effects if consumed in horrendous quantities. Milk, for some people has side effects too. So best study the ingredients and your own physiological profile as to what you can tolerate.
    Ground elder was highly praised by the nun Hildegard v. Bingen respected till this day for her knowledge and medical advice other famous homeopaths agreed. If you study its profile, you realize that only a fool can buy vitamin pills if he has that thing in his garden. I will throw mine now away

  25. johnston emmanual says:

    ive been told that Aegopodium podagraria does not set seed in uk is this True?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It seems that various websites say it does, some say rarely some say not at all. I will allow some of mine to set seed and then try to grow any seeds that appear to try and find out.

  26. K says:

    This is a win/win! Maybe it’s too late in the year to eat it in late August, though, I have try it!

  27. Gillian says:

    Makes a great pesto
    I cut it back and use the new growth
    I liquidise it with mustard, oil, balsamic etc and add to soups and other dishes

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