Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

This is one of the safest of the carrot (umbellifer) family to identify, and certainly the most common. Its serrated leaves are oval with a point and always grow in 3 groups of 3 from a grooved stalk, close to the ground, before sending up their flowering stems. Umbels of small white flowers appear in late May or June. Be aware of the dangerously poisonous members of this family, especially hemlock water-dropwort and hemlock.

This invasive plant introduced by the romans as a food staple is one of the most common edibles. It is used in homeopathy to treat arthritis and rheumatism hence it’s old name goutweed. As with most plants the young, fresh leaf shoots are best – before the leaf has even unfolded – good in salad. At this stage they have a glossy, translucent green colour that helps you to pick them out.

It has a celery meets lemon/parsley sort of flavour, making it a natural partner for fish. We’ve gathered you mature Ground Elder leaves, so it may be best to use the leaf and discard the stem (put waste in bin not compost, to be safe, you don’t want to introduce this to your garden). Mature leaves have a strong herbal flavour and are tougher so may be best chopped fine.

Recipes: tabbouleh, pesto, pot-herb, fry in butter.

Pocket Guide: Food For Free - Collins Gem

Facebook: Herb, Plant and Foraging identification workgroup – post pictures receive advice.