Ground Elder

(adapted from Eat Your Weeds!The Forager's Cookbook, p114)

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a notorious garden weed, but considered another way can be a cut-and-come again tender leaf crop. If the leaves are young enough they taste good, and the more you pick the more new, succulent leaves you will have.

This is the secret of backyard foraging: keep eating your weeds when they are small and you will have a perpetual supply of fresh, tasty greens. Ground elder leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, along with the young flower stems, and in spring the white rhizomes are also tasty, somewhat resembling the taste and look of bamboo shoots.

Medicinally, ground elder is a familiar treatment for gout but also makes a useful remedy for inflammation in general, including relieving rheumatism and sciatica.

… upon good experience [ground elder is found] to helpe the cold Goute and Sicatica and other cold griefs.
– John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (1640)

I wouldn’t do without it [ground elder] as a vegetable and I use it frequently in spring over a 6–8 week period when the fresh young growth is available. I also use it later in the summer where it regenerates after I scythe the areas where it still grows in my forest garden.
– Stephen Barstow, Around the World in Eighty Plants (2014)

Ground elder bhajis

We don’t eat much deep-fried food but these Indian-style snacks are a firm favourite as a treat. In the words of one forager, they are all the tastier from being made of the bodies of the enemy (John Wright, Hedgerow, 2010).

Mix 250ml (1 cup) water, 140g (1.5 cups) gram flour (or chickpea/garbanzo flour), and 0.5 teaspoon salt.

Add 30g (1 cup) chopped ground elder leaves, 150g (1 cup) chopped onion, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds.

You will have a semi-firm paste. Put into hot oil (at 190C/375F) one teaspoonful at a time. Cooking time is a couple of minutes, then drain and serve the bhajis with wedges of lemon and a salad.

Our recipes for ground elder frittatas, filo pastry rolls and kimchi are given in Eat your Weeds!The Forager's Cookbook