Ground-elder (Aegopodium Podagraria)
This pernicious ‘weed’ grows with vigour and enthusiasm in damp, shady places throughout the British Isles. The good news for all of us, including me, is you can eat it and enjoy it all the more because itis such a pest in so many gardens. Ground-elder is best harvested in Spring before it flowers: the young leaves can be added to the green salad bowl and are also delicious cooked like spinach and tossed in butter or extra virgin olive oil. We also make a delicious Forager’s soup with it (see recipe). Herbalists like John Evelyn and Nicholas Culpeper Wrote of its ability to cure gout and sciatica, hence one of its popular names, ‘goutweed’, or ‘bishop’s goutweed’.
Throughout the seasons one can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside –foraging soon becomes addictive. Many greens are edible and some are immensely nutritious. Arm yourself with a goodwell-illustrated guide and be sure to identify carefully and if in doubt – don’t risk it until you are quite confident. Don’t overdo the very bitter herbs like dandelion.
50g (2ozs) butter
110g(4ozs) diced onion
150g(5 ozs) diced potatoes
250g(9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a fewyoung dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress
600ml(1 pint) light chicken stock
600ml(1 pint) creamy milk
75g(3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon
extra virgin olive oil
wild garlic flowers if available
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk. Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked.Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle over the soup as you serve. Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.