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Ground elder (trefoil, goat's foot)

Ground elder (goutweed, goutweed) is a widespread and readily available wild plant. When collecting, watch out for poisonous lookalikes!
Given the lack of nutritional information for this ingredient, we completed the nutrition table with values from reliable sources.
Macronutrient carbohydrates 65.14%
Macronutrient proteins 30.42%
Macronutrient fats 4.44%

The three ratios show the percentage by weight of macronutrients (carbohydrates / proteins / fats) of the dry matter (excl. water).

Ω-6 (LA, <0.1g)
Omega-6 fatty acid such as linoleic acid (LA)
 : Ω-3 (ALA, <0.1g)
Omega-3 fatty acid such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
 = 0:0

Omega-6 ratio to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed a total of 5:1. Link to explanation.

Values are too small to be relevant.

What is ground elder? Ground elder ( Aegopodium podagraria ) is a wild food plant. In Europe, ground elder is the only Aegopodium species.

Use in the kitchen:

Can you eat ground elder? Ground elder ( trefoil , goat's foot ) is a tasty wild vegetable. Raw ground elder is reminiscent of parsley and carrot in smell and taste, cooked of spinach .

The leaf shoots, leaves, flowers, seeds and shoots of ground elder are used, and less often the leaf stalks. The seeds taste spicy and the flowers pleasantly sweet. After flowering, the leaves usually taste stronger to bitter and are better suited for tea infusions or cooking than for eating raw. The leaf stalks, which also taste bitter, are rich in fiber. It is best to use young, juicy and thick leaf stalks from plants that grow in shady forests. The stalks are cut lengthways and the fibers are removed.

In spring, the young leaf shoots are particularly tasty as a salad base and raw food. Raw leaves can be used as a substitute for parsley, in bulgur and chickpea salad, smoothies , pestos or spreads. Cooked or steamed, ground elder tastes good in (cream) soups, in stews, in strudel, as a spinach substitute, as a vegetable filling, on pizza, in bread dumplings or in herbal soups.

Vegan recipe for carpaccio with wild plant salad:

Preparation : For four people, cut 4 tomatoes and 3 avocados into slices and arrange them alternately on plates. Arrange a salad mix of 20 g ground elder, 20 g spinach, 20 g nettles , 20 g rocket and 20 g ribwort plantain in the middle. Finally, pour the dressing made of 1 tbsp poppy seeds , 6 tbsp lime juice , 3 tbsp rapeseed oil , 0.5 tsp balsamic vinegar , 1 tsp agave syrup , 1 pinch of salt and 1 pinchof pepper over the carpaccio. You can find the full recipe HERE .

Recipe for fresh ground elder tea:

Preparation : For one cup (250 ml), pour boiling water over 2 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped ground elder leaves. After letting it steep for 5-10 minutes, strain the herb.

Vegan recipes with ground elder can be found under the note: " Recipes that have the most of this ingredient ".

Not only vegans or vegetarians should read this:
Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional mistakes

Shopping - where to buy?

Ground elder is practically impossible to buy in stores. We did not find ground elder in supermarkets such as Rewe , Edeka , Spar , Coop , Migros , Aldi , Lidl , Denner , Volg or Hofer etc. nor in organic supermarket chains such as Alnatura and Denns . Dried ground elder (goat's foot) is available online - mainly packaged as tea (Herba Aegopodii), also in organic quality.

Seeds or seedlings for the garden can occasionally be found online. Unfortunately, the range of weed killers available to combat ground elder is much larger.

Found in the wild - Season:

Where can I find ground elder? The three-leaf plant is often found in gardens, shady, damp bushes, light deciduous forests, on hedges and roadsides or in parks. The widespread and readily available wild plant prefers nitrogen-rich, loose and nutrient-rich clay and loam soils. 1

Ground elder leaves (leaf blades) are doubly pinnate or doubly pinnate and arranged alternately on the stem. The leaf stalks, which are up to 20 cm long, are angular and hollow. Flower stalks can reach a height of up to 90 cm. The inflorescence is an umbel, ie the 12-18 flower-bearing axils are attached together to the stem axis. The seeds are caraway-like schizocarps and the whole plant gives off the typical, parsley-like smell of ground elder. 1

Season: From March to April you can harvest the leaf shoots, in May the budding inflorescences, from June to August the fully blossomed flower plates and from July to September the ripe seeds. The main flowering period of ground elder is the months of June, July and August. Tender leaves of the semi-evergreen ground elder can be harvested almost all year round, because the leaves close to the ground survive in mild winters. 1,2


Ground elder (goutweed, goutweed) should be used fresh, frozen or gently dried. To do this, you can spread it out on a kitchen towel and let it dry in the fresh air. The plant parts should not be exposed to direct sunlight. If the plant parts rustle when you touch them, they are dry and you can chop them up with scissors. Paper bags, metal cans or brown jars are suitable for storage. 3

Ingredients - nutritional value - calories:

Ground elder contains minerals, vitamins ( vitamin A , vitamin C ), resin, essential oil, flavonoids and phenolic acids. 2 The high levels of vitamin C and copper are particularly noteworthy. 100 g of freshly harvested ground elder provides 2 mg of copper and 140 mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). 15,16

Higher copper values can be found in port wine (10 mg/100g), sesame (4.08 mg/100g) or cocoa beans or cocoa powder (3.79 mg/100g). More vitamin C is found in acerola (1,677.6 mg/100g), sea buckthorn berries (450 mg/100g), garlic mustard (261 mg/100g) or guava (228.3 mg/100). 14

You can find all the ingredients of ground elder, the coverage of the daily requirement and comparison values with other ingredients in our nutrient tables. In the article Nutrients explained you will get a detailed insight into the topic.

Health aspects - effects:

Since there is no evidence for the effectiveness of ground elder in popular indications, it is no longer found in newer pharmacopoeias. 1

Dangers - Intolerances - Side effects:

Coumarin is an aromatic secondary plant substance that occurs naturally in ground elder with a pleasant, spicy taste (also found in cinnamon , for example). The concentration of coumarin is highest in the leaf stalks. If taken in large quantities, coumarin is harmful to health. 4 If you use ground elder frequently, give preference to the young leaves and other parts of the plant rather than the stalks.

The thread-like roots of the ground elder contain the slightly poisonous falcarindiol, which is also found in carrots . Falcarindiol kills fungi and may have anti-cancer effects. Excessive consumption of the roots can lead to symptoms of poisoning such as inflammatory skin irritations or allergic reactions. 5,6

Use as a medicinal plant:

Ground elder is not a medicinal plant, which is why it is not used in conventional medicine.

Folk medicine - natural medicine:

What is ground elder good for? In folk medicine and natural medicine, ground elder is traditionally used for its gently calming, mild diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and deacidifying effects. It is used internally for gout and sciatica. Externally, the crushed herb can be used for compresses for gout, insect bites, burns and rheumatism or as a bath for hemorrhoids. 2.7

Occurrence - Origin:

Ground elder can be found in almost all of Europe and in the temperate continental regions of the Eurasian deciduous forest belt. Other distribution areas include Turkey, the Caucasus region, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Siberia. In North America, ground elder is an introduced neophyte. 1

Growing in the garden or as a potted plant:

Ground elder is a fast-growing plant and its root runners can take over the entire garden. If you want to grow ground elder, it is best to plant it in a large flowerpot or directly in the ground with a root barrier. Root barriers made of plastic or fleece that are at least 50 cm deep are suitable, stones and nets are not. Alternatively, ground elder can be planted in the garden in a pot. Withered flowers should also be cut off in good time to prevent self-seeding. 8

Today, there are variegated cultivars in green-white or white-and-white ( Aegopodium podagraria Variegatum or Variegata ), which grow less vigorously and are therefore better suited for growing in the garden or as balcony plants.


Danger of Ground elder has some poisonous to highly poisonous counterparts that also belong to the Umbelliferae family. Important identifying features of ground elder are the three-edged leaf stalks, with one edge rounded and the opposite side drawn in. The leaf shape is also characteristic, with three times three leaves. This saying may be helpful as a reminder: Three, three, three - you're in with ground elder.

The spotted hemlock ( Conium maculatum ) is one of the most poisonous native plant species. The stem is smooth, usually reddish-spotted or tinged with red. Another distinguishing feature is the plant's pungent smell. If the mucous membranes of the mouth come into contact with the spotted hemlock, the consequences of the poisoning include a burning sensation in the mouth, increased salivation, difficulty swallowing and paralysis of the tongue. Consumption can lead to nerve paralysis and respiratory arrest within a short period of time. 9,10

The poisonous marsh plant Broad-leaved Merk or Great Merk ( Sium latifolium ) is found mainly on nutrient-rich mud soils on the banks of inland waters in temperate latitudes. Symptoms of poisoning from eating the roots and fruits include vomiting and diarrhea. 11

Giant hogweed ( Heracleum mantegazzianum ) is also a very poisonous doppelganger of ground elder. Although the plant is significantly larger than ground elder and the stems are thicker and have red spots, the white umbel flowers can cause uncertainty - especially in children. Even skin contact with hogweed or giant hogweed causes burns that last for weeks and can become more severe when exposed to sunlight. 12

Fool's parsley ( Aethusa cynapium ) and goiter ( Chaerophyllum ) are other poisonous lookalikes of ground elder. Before collecting, find out more about these wild plants in order to be able to clearly identify ground elder.

The inflorescence of the ground elder is also similar to that of the yarrow ( Achillea millefolium ); however, this member of the Asteraceae family is a non-toxic wild plant and a traditional medicinal plant.

Animal protection – species protection – animal welfare:

Ground elder is a bee-friendly plant and between May and July its open disc flowers provide nectar for beetles, flies, hoverflies, wasps and bees. Ground elder is therefore well suited for sowing a bee pasture. 13

General information:

Ground elder ( Aegopodium podagraria ) is one of five to seven species in the genus Aegopodium in the carrot family (Apiaceae). 1,7

Alternative names:

Well-known alternative names for ground elder are three-leaf, goat's foot, goat's weed, schettele, fence-leaf, meadow holler, goutweed or tree-drop. Wikipedia lists numerous other names that are used regionally. 1

The German name Geissfuss or Geißfuß is a literal translation of the Greek genus name, consisting of aigos = goat and podos = foot. The species name podagraria comes from the Latin podagra = gout and indicates the traditional purpose of use. 7

In English there are numerous alternative names for ground elder: ashweed, bishopsweed, bishopswort, goatweed, pigweed, bishop's goutweed, English masterwort, ground ash, herb Gerard, wild masterwort, jack-jump-about, snow-in-the-mountain, goutweed, bishop's weed, ground elder or herb-Gerard.

Bibliography - 14 Sources

1.Wikipedia Giersch.
2.Fleischhauer, S. G., Guthmann, J., Spiegelberger, R. Enzyklopädie. Essbare Wildpflanzen. 2000 Pflanzen Mitteleuropas. 1. Auflage: Aarau: AT Verlag; 2013. Kräuter richtig trocknen und das ganze Jahr über verwenden.
4.Wikipedia Cumarin.
5.Wikipedia Falcarindiol. Ist der Giersch vielleicht doch etwas giftig?
7.Bown, D. Kräuter. Die grosse Enzyklopädie. Anbau und Verwendung. 2. Auflage. München; 2015. Dorling Kindersly. Giersch anbauen? Lieber nur mit Wurzelsperre! Die Verwechslung der Schafgarbe mit ähnlich aussehenden Pflanzen: gefährlich!
10.Wikipedia Gefleckter Schierling.
11.Wikipedia Breitblättriger Merk.
12.Wikipedia Riesen-Bärenklau.
13.Landratsamt Roth Kreisfachberatung für Gartenbau und Landespflege. Giersch ist eine vielseitige Staude. PDF.
14.United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nährwerttabellen.