Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria)
Ground elder is a pale green plant with tiny white flowers on an umbel. Leaves are toothed, elliptic–ovate and usually groups of three. Basal leaf is blade broadly triangular, 2 times with 3 leaflets. The stem has a small half pipe or trough. Stem leaves are 3-lobed.
Woodlands, hedgerows, gardens, graveyards, generally close to human habitation.
The first young ground elder plants can be found in May or even April in Finland. If you have a patch of ground elder keep cutting it back and young fresh leaves will grow back in no time.
This superweed contains iron, magnesium and vitamin C.
It is said that ground elder is a herb good for men´s prostate health and for easing joint pain like in rheumatism and arthritis. In the Middle Ages it was used medicinally as a poultice to treat gout. Ground elder has also been used for treating wounds or burns when a poultice of its leaves are applied on the skin.
The young translucent leaves are best for salads and the slightly older leaves can be cooked like spinach. Ground elder has a mild, carrot-like and parsley-like flavour and scent, making it a natural partner for vegetables and fish, and is good as a pot herb or salad ingredient. It can be used in salads, omelettes, pesto, pizza, savoury pies etc. Ground elder is particularly suitable in foods with basil, goat cheese and halloumi.
An interesting fact is that this plant can be effective in controlling soil erosion.
To be noted
Ground elder is also known by several other names like Bishop’s weed and goutweed. Be careful and do not confuse this plant with the poisonous Hemlock (Conium maculatum).
Photos: Aino Huotari, Anna Nyman