Gill-over-the-ground, Creeping Charlie, Catsfoot, Run-away-robin, Hedge maids, Alehoof, Tunhoof ... these are just a few of the names given to ground ivy, a member of the mint family found in moist shady areas, along hedgerows and buildings, and creeping through gardens and lawns. Though often considered a weed, the plant's aromatic leaves have played an important role in culinary history. Brought to North America by European settlers, ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) has scalloped leaves about the size of a cat's paw (hence the nickname Catsfoot) and funnel-shaped blue or purple flowers. As a quickly spreading ground cover, the plant frequently provokes ire but if you're pulling it out of your yard, or perhaps foraging for edibles in the woods, it's worth noting ground ivy's culinary uses. The flavor is pungent and minty with the younger and smaller leaves being more palatable.
Prior to the introduction of hops to England in the 16th century, ground ivy was used to flavor, clarify, and preserve beer. Historically, ground ivy was also used in Europe and North America as a cure-all for everything from inflammation to congestion and tinnitus. Today people still use it in teas, soups, and salads. Due to its strong flavor, we wouldn't use too much ground ivy in a salad, but a few leaves provide a nice earthy, peppery punch. Have you ever eaten or brewed with ground ivy?
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
Read more from Emily »