Ground Ivy

(adapted from Eat Your Weeds!The Forager's Cookbook, p124)

We have chosen a keyword for this familiar creeping wild plant (we wouldn’t dare call it a weed in our garden because it is so welcome). The word is clarity.

Herbals will tell you the historical use of ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) to clarify ale, before hops were introduced to Britain; its old common name was ale-hoof. It has also been used to clear the congestion of a head cold, to soothe coughs and upset stomachs, and to treat migraine.

William Langham, writing in The Garden of Health (1597), had this recipe for meigrim (migraine): anoint the forehead and nostrels with the iuce [of ground ivy], vinegar and oyle or stampe [crush] the leaues with the white of an egge, & apply it.

Langham also liked ground ivy for toothache relief: Boile it with ginger in wine and hold therof in thy mouth. We haven’t tried it, but it sounds good!

Our own favourite use of the plant is as a spring cleanse for which we prefer it (as an aromatic) to harsher tonic herbs. The method of making ground ivy clari-tea, as we call it, is simplicity itself: gather two or three of the plants in flower, using all the above-ground parts. Put the plants in a small teapot, pour boiling water over them and leave the pot to steep for about 10 minutes.

The tea is chartreuse green and very clear, with a salty-sweet taste, and the potentially offputting musky smell of the raw plant has vanished. This fortified liquid can be used as a compress for headaches and bruises, in baking, as stock for a soup or in sweet dishes, like our ground ivy hot cross buns (Eat your Weeds!The Forager's Cookbook, p130). Below we offer our savoury scones recipe.

Ground ivy scones

Rub together until like breadcrumbs: 100g (1 cup) grated cold coconut butter; 0.5 teaspoon salt; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1 tablespoon ground ivy leaves; 240g (2 cups) flour.

Slowly fold in cold water until the mixture is moistened and will hold together in a soft ball (you’ll need about half a cup of water, depending on the type of flour).

Bake at 200C/400F for about 12 minutes, until there is light golden colour on top. Recommended with spring nettle soup!