Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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As part of my Sweet Wilds collection (desserts and sweet treats made from foraged and home-grown ingredients), here I introduce three ways you can turn Ground Elder into something sugar-coated. It has a tangy, refreshing flavour which is quite delightful!

Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ) also goes by the names; herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed, gout wort, snow in the mountain, English or wild master wort.

Why use Ground Elder?

Ground Elder contains good amounts of vitamin C and various other medicinal benefits including being used to treat rheumatism and arthritis.

Its names goutweed, gout wort (wort means plant of worth) and bishop's weed come from using this plant to treat gout which is the result of eating too much rich foods. Rich foods was the food of bishops and monks as far back as the middle ages.

Slice of ground elder cake with green icing and the fresh plant

1. Fresh Ground Elder leaf icing

Blend the leaves to a fine, herby pulp, mix with icing sugar the lemon juice to a smooth paste and drizzle over cakes or biscuits. Mixture makes enough to ice one cake.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp fresh ground elder leaves
  • 50 g unrefined icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
pan of cooking ground elder stems for candied stem sugar

2. Ground Elder stem sugar

This recipe is made from candying the Ground elder stems then blending them with sugar. Finely chop the stems and place in a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat. Allow to heat up then add the sugar and watch sizzle for a few minutes as the sugar and moisture is absorbed. Stir to check the process and take off the heat when the plant starts to become dry and the bottom of the pan white with the dried sugar.

Scrape off the sugar and allow to cool. Weigh the candied stem sugar and ad the same amount of sugar to a spice blender and blend to a powder with the candied stems. Use in Ground elder shortbreads.

Ingredients

  • 50 g ground elder stems
  • 25 g golden granulated sugar
  • Extra sugar (to be measured)
Ground elder sugar recipe

3. Dried Ground Elder sugar

Dry the leaves. I just leave them out in a warm room, but you could use a dehydrator or place in a warm (but turned off) oven. Blend to a powder and mix well with the icing sugar. Use to dust over Ground Elder shortbreads.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp dried ground elder leaves, powdered
  • 1 tbsp unrefined icing sugar
Making vegan spring shortbread biscuits

Do you have Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria ), also called herb gerard, bishop's weed, goutweed or gout wort, growing in your garden? Have you tried everything to get rid of it? Why not eat it! At least then you could appreciate it for all its herby goodness.

The traditional and simple way is to use it instead of parsley as a salad garnish or in cooking. Though if, like me, you have a sweet tooth, you may want to try making these. It's a straight forward recipe, quick, cheap and they last well, once made.

Ground Elder Shortbread Recipe

An unusual recipe that uses the stems and leaves of ground elder to give an edge of green and a little pungent twist to these simple biscuits. They keep well once made too.

Makes about 40

Ingredients

  • 250 g plain flour
  • 25 g golden granulated sugar
  • 35 g ground elder stem sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 160 ml light olive oil or sunflower oil

For the sugar dusting

  • 1 dessertspoon unrefined icing sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon dried ground elder leaves

In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugars and cornflour. Blend in the oil and massage to form a moist dough. Place in the bowl, cover tightly (I like to use a wax wrap over the bowl rather than clingfilm) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. At this stage you can leave it for a couple of days until you're ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4 and line a couple of large baking trays with baking paper. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough to out 3 mm thickness. Use a 6 cm biscuit cutter and, using a flat knife, move the cut biscuits onto the baking paper. Re-roll and cut the dough until you've used it all (or all you can).

Bake for around 15 minutes, or until golden. Leave for 5 minutes in the tray before moving to a cooling rack. Leave to cool before dusting with the icing sugar.

To make the icing sugar: Dry the leaves in a warm place, a switched off but still warm oven or a dehydrator. Use a spice, nut or coffee grinder to blitz them into a fine powder and stir well into the icing sugar.

Freshly baked ground elder shortbread biscuits (vegan recipe)

It is Spring and the gorgeous white blossoms of Blackthorn have appeared. These early Spring flowers are a welcomed sight and appear before the leaves.

As the saying goes; you can eat anything once! Here I explore the edibility of blackthorn flowers (Prunus spinosa), their flavour and potential benefits, plus a step-by-step recipe.


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According to my Danish friend, this is what green should taste like!

The colour and flavour of this tart is heavenly! Fresh sorrel leaves add a wonderful lemony tang to desserts and savoury dishes. I used Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) for this recipe, but you could use cultivated sorrel or a different wild variety that grows abundantly in your area.

Here I share the recipe. Common sorrel is also one of the plants I cover in my book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and on Spring Foraging Courses.

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Chunky pieces of dandelion root caramel brittle

Sweet, crunchy and good for you. This dandelion root caramel brittle recipe is laced with the detoxifying roots of dandelions and flavoured with homemade dandelion coffee. You'll also need to look at my recipe for making good roasted dandelion coffee. Alternatively, you can buy dried dandelion roots and dandelion coffee at health food stores or online.

Freshly dug up dandelion roots

This recipe is perfect if you've been doing some weeding and have a few, young-ish dandelion roots to hand. It's good to allow the roots to dry out for a day or two first - this reduces the water content and condenses the flavour. Dandelion roots are best to dig up in Autumn and Winter when nutrients are concentrated in the roots.

Something sweet...

Like many good recipes, this one came from experimenting and using the leftover syrup from another dandelion recipe I was creating. Ooh, there's so much to share with you! Remember to use the #sweetwilds and @rachellambertwildfoodforaging if you try this recipe, tweak it or have a foraged dessert or sweet treat to celebrate, I'd love to hear from you!

Dandelion roots drying out in the sun

Unrefined Sugars

It's a myth that caramel needs to be made with white sugar. This recipe uses unrefined caster sugar which retains some of the natural nutrients of cane sugar. I was brought up on sugar - the white stuff - and my taste for sweet just hasn't gone away. Rather than deny myself this pleasure I use unrefined sugars in my recipes. You may want to read my blog Sweet Wilds: A forager's confession.

This recipe is full of sugar!! Great for an energy boost but best to use sparingly. You can also crush the brittle in a pestle and mortar or with a rolling pin and sprinkle over cakes or desserts.

 

Dandelion Root Caramel Brittle Recipe

Crunchy, ever-so tasty dandelion sweets. The dandelion flavour is mild and good for you.

Ingredients

  • 100 g dandelion roots, washed and dried for a day or two* (see notes below)
  • 160 g unrefined sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon dandelion coffee liquid cooled
  • 1 tsp used dandelion coffee grains

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Chop the dandelion roots into approximately 2 cm lengths. Over a high heat, use a wide, non-stick pan and evenly sprinkle in the sugar and chopped dandelion roots. Stir together the dandelion coffee grains and dandelion coffee and splash into the pan. Do not stir, just allow the sugar to dissolve. This will also cook the dandelion roots a little too. Leave the mixture bubbling for 5-10 minutes, until large bubbles start to form and the mixture turns a chestnut brown. Pour over the baking paper and leave to set for about half and hour. Break into chunks, or crush for desserts, I like to eat it as a sweet treat when I could do with an energy boost. Store somewhere dry and use within a month.

*Dried dandelion roots can also be used. Use just 60 g if they are completely dried.

A plate of homemade dandelion root caramel brittle

 

I have a confession: a sweet and wild one. I can’t help myself, there’s something about the combination of foraging and sweetness that is irresistible to me. Give me any wild food and I automatically look at how I can make it into a dessert or sweet treat. Call it a specialism, a strength, or obsession if you will. But this is an area of foraging that I love getting my teeth into.

Nettle Energy Balls

The benefits of pleasure

I'm a great believer in the health benefits of pleasure; eating food that we enjoy can help relax the organs and get those beneficial digestive juices going. Foraging in itself can be satisfying and rewarding. Combined with creating a tasty meal or sweet treat can release positive neurochemicals around the body that boost the immune system, calm the nervous system and help counter stress.

We are built for a healthy amount of pleasure and our bodies respond positively to it.

Mint and Coconut fridge Cake

A word on sugar

My childhood was punctuated with home cooking, sugar and wild adventures. Home-made cordials, cakes and treats were a daily affair, thus my ‘natural’ sweet tooth was shaped. Since then, white sugar has had a lot of bad press, yet unrefined, from light to dark brown, retain a lot more of their natural nutrients. These are the natural sweeteners I now choose to create with, often reducing the sugar content and upping the minerals along the way,

Caramelised Almonds and Hogweed Seeds

Seasonal desserts

Each season I peruse the abundant weeds and forgotten plants growing locally and start experimenting. Infusing, simmering, drying, sieving, straining, blending. I get to know each of these wild foods and how to bring out the best of their flavour for desserts. I love the alchemy of the whole process and how I can create endless results from one plant. This is true, seasonal eating, albeit combined with a few kitchen ingredients and loving attention.

Birds eye view of sloe treacle tart

The perfect wild pudding

There are infinite possibilities of foraged ingredients in desserts. From jams and jellies, ice creams and sorbets, tarts and cheesecakes, cordials and syrups, cakes and biscuits, chocolates, sweets and fruit leathers, to cocktails and boozy desserts. I love creating around easily-foraged plants for both city and country dwellers and many of the plants i favour are available across Europe, North America and Australasia.

Which seaweed is best for setting panna cotta?

Sharing the sweet wilds

Some desserts are worth keeping to oneself, yet most of us know the pleasure of sharing good food with others. That's why I've started the #sweetwilds and now have a blog section dedicated to Sweet Wilds too. I won't be sharing everything at once - that would be too indulgent, wouldn't it! However I will be sharing over the coming months and years, including my lessons from disasters and sublime successes. Remember that I share tasters on all my foraging courses too.

All photos are by Rachel Lambert and are of real, wild desserts and sweet treats she has created, cooked, eaten and shared (mostly).

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