Wild Food: Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is an aromatic evergreen and a member of the Lamiaceae family of plants. Also known as the mint, dead-nettle or sage family. Online you'll find a lot of information about how to get rid of this plant as it can be an invasive ground cover. You could also eat it!
As a forager, I search out tasty and beneficial weeds as a source of food and medicine, including ground ivy. Here I share why! Plus my ground ivy song to help remember its qualities.
Why eat Ground Ivy?
Ground ivy is a prolific wild herb that can be used instead of sage, mint or thyme. It is astringent and can help reduce phlegm and inflammations. It can be used to treat hay fever and sinusitis. This wild plant can calm numerous irritations of mucus membranes in the ears, throat, chest or digestive system.
It is high in iron and it adds a fantastic earthy, sage-like, hint of mint flavour to drinks and dishes.
How to eat and use Ground Ivy
Use as a herb in pakoras, veggie burgers to beef burgers. The leaves and stems can also be juiced and used as a base for creamy, white wine savoury sauces.
Try crispy frying the leaves as an edible decoration or candy with egg white and sugar (recipe idea from The Forager Handbook by Miles Irving).
Back as far as the 15th Century it was used to flavour hops, hence one of its names 'alehoof' or 'ale herb'.
How to identify
Despite its name, ground ivy is not actually an ivy. However, it shares some characteristics. Like ivy, it is a trailing plant that climbs and creates ground cover. It is an evergreen and grows in similar environments to ivy such as; shady areas, poor soil, hedgerows, edges of woodlands.
This wild herb likes damp ground and can grow in the shade as well as full sun. I have found it in fields, travelling up hedgerows and along paths.
It is a dark green leaf, hairy and dull in colour (right). It has a scalloped 'frilly' edge and is heart or kidney-shaped. Sometimes where the two edges of the leaf meet, they overlap.
It is native to Europe but has naturalised in many places across the world including North America.
Ground Ivy Song
In 2019, while sitting inside my car with pouring rain outside, I wrote a song about this aromatic plant. I was camping in Wales at the time and couldn't bare getting wet anymore!
The timing was perfect and allowed me to reflect on this wonderful plant.
I kept revisiting the song over the next few days and weeks. The final version tells of where to find ground ivy, its characteristics, its smell, texture and how lovely it is to lie on a carpet of aromatic ground ivy!
Lyrics to the song
Dark hues of bluey-green Woodland edges you'll be seen Or maybe a field or hedge, Creeping round the edge (Chorus) Minty, sagey, furry, fairly Liking how you over-lap, over-lap You're travelling, trailing still With your heart-shaped, kidney frill Not like poisonous ivy, for she is rather shiny Chorus Trumpets of purple flowers I could lie with you for hours, For hours and hours and hours For hours and hours and hours Chorus
I wrote this blog in winter, as I wanted to highlight ground ivy as a winter herb for wild herb stuffing and more. You can of course use it throughout the year. It tends to flower in late spring to early summer.
Ground ivy is one of the wild edible plants I teach on my foraging courses.