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Ground ivy grows in a sprawling carpet-like mass, putting down roots as it creeps along horizontally. Vertical up-shoots have the mint family’s characteristic square-shaped stem and typically range in heights between 10 to 40 cm. The leaves are heart-shaped and hairy with a scalloped edge, and should be foraged when about the size of a quarter for optimal flavor and tenderness. The tiny lavender flowers begin to bloom in early spring and are slightly sweet. Ground ivy is entirely edible and has a green herbaceous flavor that is reminiscent of basil and sage with minty undertones. It can be quite strong when raw, but mellows to a deeper earthy tone when cooked.
Ground ivy is available year-round, but most desirable in the spring.
Ground ivy is known by a host of aliases: Creeping Charlie, Creeping Jenny, Gill over the Ground, Field balm, Haymaids, Cat’s Foot and Alehoffs. Botanically named Glechoma hederacea, it is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family with a long history of medicinal and edible applications. Currently, food scientists are researching Ground ivy’s anti-oxidant properties for use in food preservation.
Ground ivy is rich in iron, potassium and vitamin C. Its labiate flavonoids, common in much of the mint family, have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-ulcerogenic, and expectorant properties. It has also been used in the treatment of ear and respiratory problems, lead poisoning, kidney disorders, indigestion and headaches
To make the best use of Ground ivy, it should be cooked, dried or steeped in order to dissipate its robust vegetal flavor. It may be used as a dried herb in marinades and seasonings for strongly flavored meats like venison and lamb. Steeping Ground ivy creates a complex herbal tea that is best accented by honey and lemon. When preparing Ground ivy, keep in mind that it pairs best with bold foods. Flavors that it combines well with are: garlic, lemon, sesame, feta cheese, oregano, cardamom, clove and grilled meats
Ground ivy predates the use of hops in German beer making. In fact, the name Alehoff means “ale ivy” in German. Children growing up in Celtic parts of Europe were made to drink “Gill Tea”, a tonic brewed from ground ivy, for nine days each spring. Stories of Ground ivy being used to treat melancholy have been found Graeco- Roman mythology and even in 19th century American medical journals for the treatment of partial insanity.
Ground ivy is native to Europe and Asia, and was brought to New England with early colonists in the 1600’s. Today it can be found all across the United States, Western Europe, Northern Asia and Japan. Ground ivy grows in semi-shaded areas along roadsides, in deciduous forests, wetlands and prairies.
Recipes that include Ground Ivy. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Forage Wild Food||Asparagus and Pea Pilau with Ground Ivy|
|Eat Weeds||Ground Ivy Tempura|
|Eat Weeds||Tofu Marinated In Ground Ivy|
|Hunter Gather Cook||Ground Ivy: The Wild Herb Rub|
|Southern Forager||Wild Garlic and Ground Ivy Tourtière (Holiday Pork Pie)|