Photo: Ground elder, stinging nettle and dandelion – Edible Amsterdam Dasarts 2008
Harvesting herbs and flowers, making ointments, enjoying the outdoors, and so much other fun things to do at this time of the year. More fun than sustaining a intimate relationship with the computer, so yes, it has been a bit quiet here. Also, I have been travelling around in Belgium and Holland like a nomad, to teach herbal classes. And all of this topless (laptopless that is, for anyone imagining other things :-) ).
But last Saturday, as I was exchanging some experiences about ground elder with other herbalists, one
of them exclaimed ‘But why don’t you write about that in your blog?!’ So here it goes…
Ground Elder was once intoduced here by the Romans, to supply their soldiers with fresh vegetables along the roadside. Of course they used a plant that knows how to survive in all circumstances, one that cannot be conquered. A vegetable that invented the slogan ‘all you can eat’.
The Romans continued their travels, but ground elder stayed. To invade all possible places in the countryside, forest and city: in lawns, under trees, in hedges.
This made the herb famous and well known by different names: rampant champion, gardener’s sadness. Bishop’s Weed (as this plant was used by monks to treat gout). Jack-jump-about. Or the poetic the expanding green hell. In other words: hard to exterminate. Even pesticide manufacturers risk a nervous breakdown, dealing with ground elder.
I know I’m risking my credibility here, but: I seem to have eaten so much of it in the parental garden over the past few years, that it disappeared.
Feel free to reread that sentence.
Yes, indeed, ground elder. Gone. Only by preparing and eating it, in vegetable pies, soups, salades, mashed potatoes, pancakes, bread, pesto,… Not one milligram of poison was needed, on the contrary: I was nourished by all the good things that it has to offer: vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, carotene (especially when eaten young).
It’s very versatile, the young tender leaves are delicious eaten raw, the older leaves can be cooked and have a parsley-like taste.
I know other gardeners would start an extatic dance of joy, but I am not so sure if there’s a reason to be so happy about this. Even more: I miss my trusted ground elder. I hope I can re-introduce it. What could be easier than a vegetable of which you can continually harvest without having to worry about diseases or special plant needs? Those Romans weren’t so stupid after all…
And as it turns out, I am not the only one: Goethe was also an enthousiastic ground elder collector. His collection of weeds can still be admired in the Goethe museum in Weimar.