Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ground Elder/Skvalderkål

Aegopodium podagraria

Ground elder in the edge of a ditch
Ground elder is found in many forests, in the edge of ditches and in fences. In gardens it is not very popular. This weed is very difficult to eliminate as it is usually growing among other plants. In some areas it is considered among the worst of weeds, since it is extremely invasive and crowds out native species. It is also known as herb gerard, bishop's weed and snow-in-the-mountain. It

Ground elder was introduced to northern Europe by monks from the south in the Middle Ages -and to Britain possibly already by the Romans , as a pot-herb and a medicine against rheumatism and gout (hence the common name). It has a long history of medicinal use and was cultivated as a food crop and medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. The plant was used usually as a food that should counteract gout, one of the effects of the rich foods eaten by the monks, bishops etc at this time. The plant is little used in modern herbalism.

All parts of the plants are antirheumatic, diuretic, sedative and vulnerary. An infusion is used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and disorder of the bladder and intestines. Externally it is used as a poultice on burns, stings, wounds, painful joints.

The plant is harvested when it is in flower in late spring to mid-summer and can be used fresh or be dried for later use. The leaves can be boiled like spinach, or fresh young ones can be added to a salad - too much has a laxative effect. The dried root can be grounded into a flour for baking.
So maybe we could eliminate some of this weed by using it in our kitchen - and it is for free!

It was probably introduced to Denmark by monks in the Middle Ages as a food and medicinal plant. It was used against indigestion, it was used as a spring fodder for the cattle and the pigs and small leaves for the chicken. In the kitchen it was used as a cabbage. A special dish at Easter 'Skærtorsdagskål' (Maundy Thursday Cabbage) contained 7 or 9 kinds of cabbage, and ground elder was one of them.

Nicholas Culpepper, a famous 17th century's physician said about ground elder:
'Upon experiment it is found to heal the gout and sciatica. It is also used for aching joints and other cold pains'.

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