Spring Greeneries No.2: Ground Elder

Just like the stinging nettle, the ground elder (aka “goutweed” but I don’t like this name because in my nerdy opinion there is no such thing as “weeds” …) is just as well-known as it is undervalued. In fact, gardeners absolutely HATE it. Why? The ground elder spreads rapidly and seems to be immortal. Like really and truly immortal. There are a million suggestions on how to get rid of it on the internet and most don’t seem to work. The ground elder always comes back and will soon cover most of your garden, taking room and light from the other plants.

Which is just another reason why I suggest a change of perspective: Stop weeding, start harvesting! Plus, the ground elder is a little power pack. True local superfood.

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Trust me, you won’t need expensive algae and wheatgrass supplements in your smoothies any longer if you only make this extraordinary “weed” your friend (your bestie should become the stinging nettle though but I’ll explain that next). Just check out this chart which compares some of the vitamin and mineral contents.

chart1.groundelder

Say whaaat!? Interesting, isn’t it!?  Turns out, the ground elder is even healthier than Popeye’s magical vegetable! The only category where it loses the nutrition-battle is iron (however, there are three wild plants I know of that again beat spinach at its iron content: chickweed, plantain and the stinging nettle!).

But the very best news is: The ground elder starts growing early in spring and will never stop growing fresh leaves until the first snow arrives. Which means that you can harvest it all year around! But watch out, it’s important that you learn how to identify it since some people mistake the ground elder with other umbellifers that have similar white flowerheads, e.g. the poison hemlock. Unfortunately, the latter one is one of the most poisonous European plants… Bummer, huh? It could be your last mistake. But don’t worry, there are ways to distinguish the ground elder from his poisonous relatives. In fact, except their flowers, they all look completely different!! Simply pay special attention to the ground elder’s leaves and stem:

chart2.groundelder

As you can see, you don’t need to be a Carl von Linné to avoid a mix-up 😉

Once you have harvested some bunches, you can use it the same way as spinach: in green smoothies, soups, stir-fries, fillings, bread, pesto … Tipp: Just like spinach, it goes very well with ground nutmeg in savoury dishes. My personal favourite is a quiche though, you MUST try this one, it is so much better than if you do it with boring spinach. I’ll post the recipe in the following article about the stinging nettle, promised.

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