The name "ground elder" comes from the superficial similarity of its leaves and flowers to those of elder (Sambucus), which is very distantly related. However don’t think you can use the leaves of Elderflower in the same way; the leaves and raw berries of Elderflower contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause toxic build of cyanide in the body. Saying that, an experienced herbalist can use all parts of the Sambucus plant/Elderflower in a variety of ways. Now, back to Ground Elder….
The Romans are said to have introduced ground elder into England because of its pretty ornamental leaf and as a food, which it is still used as across Europe today.
According to some internet sources I found, old traders wrapped their vegetables into ground elder leaves to keep them fresh looking and smelling - the leaves are high in essential oils and helped to keep the other produce fresh and aromatic, too.
Mrs Grieves says that “ground elder is diuretic and sedative., and can be successfully employed internally for aches in the joints, gouty and sciatic pains, and externally as a fomentation for inflamed parts. The roots and leaves boiled together, applied to the hip, and occasionally renewed, have a wonderful effect in some cases of sciatica”.
I can tell you from personal experience, and apparently borne out by Hugh F-W, that if you eat the more mature leaves after flowering they can be somewhat laxative. You have been warned. Keeping picking it and it won’t go to flower so quickly. Simple. J
The leaves are quite aromatic, high in essential oils, high in antioxidants, vitamin C and E, loads of minerals, calcium, magnesium, carotene, flavonoids and fibre.
Here are some recipes I have collected over time; so try them if you are as desperate as I am to reduce it in the garden. Let’s face it, you can’t get rid of it so let’s enjoy it!
Buttered Ground Elder
400g Ground elder leaves and young stems
30g butter salt and black pepper, to taste
Take the young, green, ground elder shoots and add to a pan with the 30g butter and very little water. Season and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously, or until the leaves have just wilted. When tender drain, toss with the remaining butter and serve immediately.
Ground Elder Omelette (serves two)
1/2 to 1 bunch of ground elder
A little butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Pick young, bright green shoots of ground elder. Take them home, and wilt them in a frying pan in the butter. Beat the eggs, season them with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan. Cook for a minute or two, before putting the pan under the grill to finish off (or, alternatively, flip the omelette over).
Serve with crusty bread as a light lunch or starter.
Ground Elder Quiche
Short crust pastry (125g flour, 60g butter, a pinch of salt and enough water to form a pastry
1 bunch of ground elder
300ml of milk
Salt and pepper
A grating of nutmeg
100g of cheese, cheddar is ideal but a little parmesan added to it would help
Make the pastry (sift the flour and salt, rub in the butter to create a crumb texture, mix in enough water to form a dough). Roll the pastry out, and use it to line a greased flan dish.
Take the leaves from ground elder stems. Beat the eggs with the milk and a little salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix in the leaves and pour into the flan case. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the top, and bake in a moderately hot oven for half an hour to fourty minutes. Serve hot or cold.
Ground Elder Soup
2 bunches of ground elder
A dessert spoon of butter
A dessertspoon of flour
1 small onion
1 rasher of bacon (optional)
Salt and pepper
500ml chicken stock
250ml single cream
Take the leaves from the ground elder and rinse them. Sweat them off in the water left on the leaves for a minute, then take them off the heat.
Soften the onion in the butter (with the bacon, if using) and add the flour. Slowly add the stock, stirring all the time to make a smooth soup. Mix the leaves in and simmer for five minutes or so, before blending or rubbing through a sieve. Add in the cream and season to taste. Serve with crispy croutons.
Ground Elder Cooked as Asparagus
This is perhaps the best way of cooking ground elder... Take young, green shoots and steam them till warm, no more than a minute. Toss them in melted butter and serve immediately.
Ground Elder and Turnips
Peel and dice the turnips into large cubes. Heat a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the turnips and let them boil for 1-2 minutes until tender.
Remove the turnips, and season them, while they are still warm, with the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper.
Rinse the parsley and ground elder, dry both lightly in a dish towel, slice coarsely and add the turnips.
Mix well and sprinkle with elderberry flowers.
Serve the turnips with a leg of lamb or other protein of your choice.
Ground-elder and cottage cheese pie
Pastry made with:
200 g butter
200 g sour cream
350 g self raising flour
A pinch of unrefined salt
100 to 200 g young ground-elder leaves (A goodly sized bunch of the stuff!)
One large onion (about 100 g)
300 to 400 g cottage cheese, drained
1 tsp dried oregano or herbs of your choice to flavour
Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Making the pastry:
Melt butter over moderate heat but don’t let it brown.
Taking the saucepan off the heat, stir in sour cream, flour and salt.
Stir until well combined, then place into the fridge for about 30 minutes to rest.
Make the filling:
Wash the ground elder carefully, drain lightly.
Place onto a heavy, dry and hot pan, and heat until wilted.
Then rinse quickly under cold running water to stop the leaves from cooking further.
Press to dry the leaves thoroughly, then chop roughly.
Heat oil on a heavy frying pan, add onion and sauté gently for about 10 minutes, until the onion softens.
Add the chopped ground-elder leaves, cottage cheese, oregano, salt and pepper.
Give it a stir, then add most of the egg and stir again. (Save some to brush the top of your pie)
Take the pastry out of the fridge, divide into two.
Roll out the pastry to make a base and lid for your pie
Put in your filling, pop on the lid and press the edges tightly together, prick the top with a fork in a pretty pattern.
Using the rest of your egg, brush the top of your pie lid.
Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for about 25-30 minutes, until the pie is lovely golden brown on top.
Ground Elder Soup
2 good bunches of ground elder, younger the better, before flowering. 24 to 30 young stems.
2 tblspns butter
1 tblspn flour
1 large onion
500ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
250ml/½ pint single cream
salt and black pepper, to taste
If not vegetarian a good addition is:
2 rashers of light, smoky bacon, cut into strips.
Wash the ground elder in clear water then strip the leaves from the stems and chop lightly. If you like a bit more pungency and flavour chop up the stems too.
Add them immediately to a pan (do not drain), cover the pan and sweat the leaves for about a minute.
Add the butter to a different pan and add the chopped onion and bacon if you’re using it, until the onion softens.
Take it off the heat while you stir-in the flour.
Slowly add some of the stock, until it blends easily, then put back on the heat and add the rest of the stock, stirring all the time.
Add the leaves and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Blend with a stick blender or liquidiser then add the cream.
Season to taste and serve immediately.
Garnish with garlic flavoured crouton s if you like them.
For a little warmth add a sprinkle of chilli flakes or powder on the top of the cream.
If you have such an abundance of it, and find that you like it, you can freeze it too!
You have to have quite a quantity, because, just like spinach it will cook down considerably, but if you lightly steam it, cool it and place in freezer bags it will freeze successfully. You can take it out the freezer in small portions and quickly bring it to heat. Remember though it is already partially cooked, so don’t overcook it or that lovely goodness will be lost. Done in this manner it can last approximately 1 year.
Please remember, unless you are absolutely certain that the plant you are looking at is ground elder, then don’t risk it. Get someone else to confirm your identification, for which purpose there are many clear examples on the internet, and all experienced gardeners will tell you too!
Thank you to everyone who over the years, through the gift of the internet, has supplied me with the recipes…… I wish I had saved the links to you all. But many, many blessings.