If ever there was a useful wild plant that was overlooked it has to be the humble Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederecea), also known as Alehoof. When it comes to name calling- both are relevant- ground ivy because of the way in which it creeps across the ground and alehoof because the leaves are shaped like that of a horse’s hoof and the plant was used in the past to clarify and flavour beer before the introduction of hops and modern clarifying agents.
Ground Ivy is part of the mint family, incredibly common and found almost everywhere: hedgerows, woodland verges, gardens, fields and meadows. You would have to try quite hard not to find the stuff. One thing that can be confusing is the way in which it can appear in different environments: found in a field or open space where it receives plenty of sunlight, ground ivy will often grow upright with smaller more pointed leaves as opposed to rounded. The leaves themselves will also be a rusty/red/brown colour- this is largely due to over exposure to sunlight. In shaded areas such as woodland or hedgrows, ground ivy will spread itself out and creep across the ground, have broader, rounded leaves that are deep green in colour. One thing they will both have, from March to June is a purple flower at the base of the leaves, slightly orchid in appearance and quite similar to that of Bugle.
This is where multi-sensory foraging is key- Use your nose. The unmistakable strong scent of ground ivy cannot be confused with anything else: with notes of mint, thyme, sage and rosemary it is the ultimate all-herb. You don’t get many people that find the raw taste of ground ivy appealing, but then would you chow down on a sprig of rosemary? Robin Harford of Eatweeds.co.uk, turns them into fritters with a light tempura batter and finds them more than agreeable.
In medieval times, ground ivy was used to stuff and flavour haunches of meat- being plentiful and readily available for most of the year it was a free alternative to cultivated herbs. And that’s largely how we use it down at Hunter:Gather:Cook HQ- Either dried as a wild rub with a few other ingredients or fresh in haunches of Venison for the underground oven. It can also be used to make a pleasant herbal tea known as ‘gill tea’ useful as a diuretic, astringent and to ease indigestion.
After a bit of inspiration from Liz Knight of Foragefinefoods.co.uk who produces her own wild rub, I thought I would showcase ground ivy as the principle ingredient and use a few old favourites from the wild larder to create my own to use at HGC school- perfect for all our meat and fish. The one thing that you will have to do is dry out most of the greenery, this can be done by simply stringing it up in the kitchen near the stove or radiator for a week or so, alternatively you can spread the greenery in a roasting tin and put it in the oven at a very low temperature overnight (with oven door ajar).
Ground Ivy wild herb rub.
(Makes one jar)
- Ground ivy (dried)
- Ladys smock (dried)
- Mint (dried)
- Oxeye daisy (dried)
- Pine needles (Fresh and finely chopped)
- 2 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped and briefly oven dried)
- Zest of 3 Lemons (briefly oven dried)
- Salt & Pepper
All the wild herbs were gathered bunches, enough to fill your hand in a bouquet. The pine needles must be fresh as they didn’t have as much flavour when dried-pick them off the branch and place them in a bundle before chopping finely- careful, as they have a habit of flying everywhere!
As for the Garlic and the Lemon zest- spread them in a shallow roasting tin and place them in a fan oven at 100C for about 10 minutes- just keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
The rest is simple, strip the dried leaves of the stalks and place all the ingredients in a blender before whizzing for a minute. Add seasoning and a little sugar, whizz again, adjust seasoning to your liking and place in a jar for immediate use.
Other stuff thats been going on: We still have space in August at HGC school- mostly weekdays and a few spaces left on our Book on Course on Saturday 18th August (£80.00 per person). Also had a fantastic day fishing in the Pyrenees last week- regretably no fish- still trying to break the language barrier! Mind you, they are some of the most incredible places I have been whilst out here and there is still so much to explore. Back to blighty this week for a stag do...mine this time!