Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a perennial plant from the Apiaceae or carrot and parsley family. Also known as bishop's weed, bishop's goutweed, goutweed, gout wort, herb Gerard, wild masterwort, English masterwort, jump about and snow-in-the-mountain. It is commonly found in the British Isles and most of Europe.

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) - young leaves


Growing methods

Sow seeds in the spring under cover in pots. If growing from seed, fresh seeds need a period of cold before germinating. Pot on when the seedlings are large enough and plant them out in the summer of the same year. A self fertile plant it grows to about 60cm (2') in height and produces creamy white umbelliferous flowers from May to July in Britain. It likes damp shadowy places but succeeds almost anywhere and is a good ground cover plant.

Ground elder can also be propagated by division. Find some rhizomes (underground stems) locally and plant them out. They will grow. However, think carefully where you put this plant since it is very aggressive. It is termed an invasive weed and banned in certain places in North America. Rhizomes can grow up to 90 cm in a year. Stem growth can be restricted using a root container.

Other uses

Historically it has a range of medicinal uses, particularly for arthritis and rheumatism, but doesn't appear to be so popular today. Traditionally this plant was grown as a remedy for gout suffered by the clergy because of their rich diet, hence the name 'bishop's weed'.

Issues

Ground elder is not generally very popular with gardeners as once established it is very difficult to get rid of. You need to pull up all pieces of root because they will take and the plant re-establish itself very easily.

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) - older leaves


Raw edible parts

Ground elder is a very pungent plant, smelling and tasting a lot like sweet parsley. It's a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. The very young translucent stems, leaves and ground shoots from February onwards are edible raw. If you keep cutting the plant back new young shoots will emerge. Older leaves are very strong and far too chewy to eat raw. The leaves were (and still can be) cooked like spinach. The seed can be used as a condiment.

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