Ground Elder Soup – A Springtime Seasonal Foraged Favourite

Ground Elder Soup
Delicious Ground Elder Soup. Photo; Alison Delaney

Ground elder soup is one of my favourite meals.

As we approach Spring, several species of the carrot family, Apiaceae are among the first greens to appear. These include the leaves of ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria. It’s a good time to look out for this aromatic plant and turn them into a simple yet hearty lunch.

The recipe I like to make, a LOT, is ground elder soup.

If I’m making it at home I prefer to blend the soup before serving; you can also use dehydrated and powdered ground elder, or just finely chop it. It’s all delicious.

Ground Elder Soup Recipe (Serves 4):

  • Remove the stalks from 4 large handfuls of well washed ground elder and cook in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  • Drain.
  • Sauté a finely chopped onion in a generous knob of butter until softened, add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir well.
  • Add 750 ml of vegetable stock, continuously stirring until slightly thickened.
  • Add the drained (or powdered) ground elder leaves, 250ml of milk (or cream), seasoning and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add more liquid if needed. Blend if possible.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Sounds good doesn’t it? Why not give it a try and maybe serve it with some scrumptious home made garlic bread.

Leave a comment below and tell us how it turned out!

Basket of Ground Elder
Basket of Ground Elder. Photo: Alison Delaney

Ground Elder – What Does It Look Like?

Ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria, is a very common and widespread plant that is often found in vibrant green swathes, often in shady, mildly damp locations and is frequently found in gardens or as a garden escapee. This plant is perennial, which means it grows back every year. Hence, people who don’t want it in their gardens, for example, consider it a “perennial weed”. If only they knew how to make this soup! But anyhow, with the plants being established, the leaves are amongst the first to appear in verges in early spring. Leaves are arranged in groups of three.

Leaf of ground elder
Ground elder leaves are arranged in groups of three and do resemble the leaves of its namesake, common elder, Sambucus nigra. The lower leaves usually have a sizeable side-lobe. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

It has hollow, grooved stems up to 100 cm tall and produces umbels of small white flowers in early summer. The scent upon crushing the leaves is highly aromatic and unforgettable once discovered. It has a long culinary history for good reason but the leaves are best collected before the plant flowers.

Ground Elder Stem
The thin, hollow, grooved stem of ground elder, develops a little further into the year than the leaves first appear. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Ground elder umbel
The white flower umbel of ground elder is superficially very similar to other members of the carrot family. Late June, East Sussex. Care should be taken to look at multiple features in order to ascertain a positive identification of any member of the carrot family, Apiaceae. Photo: Paul Kirtey.

Plants, The Law and Conservation

You should know the law with respect to picking wild plants and respect people’s private property.

Please read the BSBI’s Code of Conduct for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Wild Plants for guidance on best practice.

A Little Disclaimer

This article is not a complete treatment of all edible plants that might be available. Nor does it provide a complete treatment of all poisonous plants that may also be present in the habitat where you find the above-mentioned plants. If you want to learn more about plant identification you should invest in some good field guides. The safest way to learn about edible wild plants is for someone who already has the knowledge to show you in person. Any foraging you do on your own is at your own risk.

The most important thing to remember when identifying wild foods is:


Post-Script From Paul Kirtley, Chief Instructor, Frontier Bushcraft

The carrot family. Apiaceae, previously known as the Umbelliferae and still often referred to as the umbellifers, contains many species cultivated for food and found in your local food store. Familiar examples include carrots, parsnips, celery, celeriac, fennel, flat leaf parsley, coriander, dill, caraway and cumin.

This family contains many great wild edibles, in addition to ground elder.

There are also some poisonous plants in the carrot family too, some of them seriously so, including hemlock, Conium maculatum, hemlock water-dropwort, Oenanthe crocata, cowbane, Cicuta virosa, fool’s parsley, and Aethusa cynapium, along with rough chervil, Chaerophyllum temulentum, not to mention the skin-blistering giant hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum.

The carrot family is definitely a worthwhile plant family to get to know. What makes the Apiaceae tricky, though, is that the edible species often share many similarities with their highly poisonous relatives, notably many white flowers clustered into umbels, pinnately divided leaf structures and tapered, tuberous roots typified by parsnips.

Thankfully ground elder is one of the easier species to identify and certainly differentiate from the poisonous species. Even so, if you’d like to learn more about the carrots, it’s worth knowing what you are getting into.

If you’d like to learn more about how to approach learning members of the family, Apiaceae, then check out the following articles:

Approaching Apiaceae: A Practical Example Of Carrot Capture

Careful With Your Carrots: A Case In Point


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Alison has spent many years sharing her enthusiasm for all things nature with both children and adults in her roles as primary school teacher, green schools and environmental awareness co-ordinator, scout leader, guide with the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service and latterly via wild foods via Nibbling On Nature. Alison has worked with Frontier as a course assistant since 2013.

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8 Responses

  1. Alison
    | Reply

    This recipe is based on one in the very excellent book, “Edible Wild Plants and Herbs: A Compendium of Recipes and Remedies” by Pamela Michael

  2. Dave Welsby
    | Reply

    Thanks Paul, more like this please!

    • Alison
      | Reply

      Hi Dave, I’m pleased you like these simple wild recipes. There will be some more posted very soon. Alison

  3. Dave Howard
    | Reply

    Hi Paul, thanks for this interesting piece. I had no idea that the Ground Elder is edible. It grows like wildfire in my shrubberies, I shall have to try this tasty soup with plenty of garlic and onion. I also thought maybe steam the young leaves and have a couple of free range poached eggs on top.
    Thanks to Alison for writing the article.
    All the best, Dave.

  4. Alison
    | Reply

    Hi Dave,

    Ooh, you have a wild vegetable patch in the shrubberies. Nice. How did you get on with the soup, did you get a chance to try it? I like the sound of your steamed leaves and poached egg dish. I’m collecting more ground elder today to dehydrate, so that’s my lunch sorted. Thank you 🙂

    All the best,


  5. Marcel
    | Reply

    Hi Alison,

    Unfortunately, this plant is not available in North America, having been introduced to the UK by the Romans. Look good though.


    Warmest regards,

    • Mary
      | Reply

      What do you mean, not available in North America? We have tons. I personally have tons in my garden here in Buffalo, NY. Happy I do!

  6. Mirjam
    | Reply

    Hello! Can you add the stalks to this soup as well? Other recipes I’ve found only used the stalks (as the leaves may be tough).

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