Sunday, July 31, 2016

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria L.)


Aegopodium podagraria L.

Herb Gerarde groweth of it salts in gardens without setting or sowing, and is so fruitful in its increase, that when it hath once taken roote, it will hardly be gotten out againe, spoiling and getting every yeere more ground, to the annoying of better herbes.
--- Gerarde, The Treasury of Botany

After a long, long hiatus I've returned to my forsaken website, with a newly discovered (for me) edible plant!

I snapped a photo of this plant growing in our front yard, planted by the previous owner as a decorative ground cover in the flower garden. It turns out to be edible, although aggressively invasive and hated by many gardeners and homeowners throughout the world.

Naturally, I now love it!

Let's dive into the details and delights of Goutweed!

Carrot Family (Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae)

Common names

Ashweed, Ashweek, Bishop's Goutweed, Bishop's Weed, Bishop's Elder, Bishop Weed, Bishop Wort, Bishopsweed, Bull Wort, Dog Elder, Dwarf Elder, Eltroot, Farmer's Plague, Garden Plague, Goat's Foot, Goatweed, Goutweed, Ground Ash, Ground Elder, Herb Gerard, Herb William, Jack Jumpabout, Jump About, Pot Ash, Snow-On-The-Mountain, Weyl Ash, White Ash

Origin of the Scientific Name

"Aegopodium is from Greek "agios", meaning goat and "podion", meaning little foot; Little Goat Foot, from the shape of the leaf; "Podagaria" is also Greek, meaning gout of the foot.

The family name, "Apiaceae", comes from "apium", Latin for parsley. But beware! Not all of the plants in the family Apiacea are as edible as parsley or carrot. Some are deadly!

Origin of the Common Names

Seeds become detached and jerked to a distance by the wind, recalling the name 'Jack-jump-about'.

It was called Bishopsweed and Bishopswort, because so frequently found near old ecclesiastical ruins. It is said to have been introduced by the monks of the Middle Ages, who cultivated it as a herb of healing. It was called Herb Gerard, because it was dedicated to St. Gerard, who was formerly invoked to cure the gout, against which the herb was chiefly employed.

The plant is eaten by pigs, hence one of its names.

Plant Uses: Food

Brought to North America from Europe as an ornamental, used as a salad ingredient and potherb in the spring.

Salad ingredient and pot herb; young leaves and stems especially good in salads; older leaves cooked with cheese or added to fritters; made into a German green soup, called "grune suppe".

Leaves, raw or cooked, tangy; best harvested before the plant blossoms.

Rhizomes of Goutweed are NOT edible!

Recipe: Grune Suppe with Goutweed (Green Soup)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 2 large handfuls of young goutweed, washed well and chopped
  • Vegetable stock

Sautee the onions till soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. Add the potatoes and sautee for 3 minutes or so. Add vegetable stock (about 1 liter) and cook the soup until the potatoes are soft. Add the goutweed and simmer for about 5 minutes. Puree, dilute to desired consistency and add salt, pepper, chilies or other herbs to taste.

Recipe: Goutweed Pesto

(Note: The source of this recipe was a website written in Dutch. I've translated it through Google and edited it for clarity. The introduction is written by the original author of the recipe, not me!)

"If you can not beat 'em, eat' em." Last year I cleared my strawberry bed from all signs of Goutweed, leaves and roots and all, removed one by one by hand. But already Goutweed has completely filled the empty spaces. So, now I pick them and eat them!

  • 2 handfuls of young Goutweed
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • olive oil
  • pepper and salt

Put all ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor and run it briefly until well mixed, but not pureed. With food processor running, trickle olive oil until pesto has a nice, creamy texture. Enjoy on tomato soup or freshly baked bread! Serves 4.

Plant uses: Medicinal

All parts of the plant are diuretic; used to treat rheumatism, arthritis and bladder disorders.

Plant Dimensions

Typically 4-12 inches high, but may grow up to about three feet tall; leaves 2-3 inches long

Plant Type

Forb, with roots long, white and branching, stem erect and hollow

Fruit Type

Seeds small, similar in shape to carrot seeds


Leaves medium green in the wild; domesticated plants are variegated, with bluish-green leaves and creamy white edges; flowers are white

Flower Shape, Petals, and Arrangement

Umbel cluster, five petals

Leaf Shape, Arrangement, Attachment and Surface Traits

Glabrous, alternate, lobes ovate and sharply toothed

Leaves basal, divided into three groups of three leaflets, toothed, irregularly lobed


The veins of Goutweed terminate at the tip of a tooth. In the toxic hemlocks the veins terminate between the teeth. In the photo above, water hemlock is on the left, and Goutweed is on the right.


Funki Sock Munki,, for Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum' image,, Creative Commons,

Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group,, accessed 04JUL2016, for plant description

U.S. Forest Service,, accessed 04JUL2016, for plant descriptions, A Modern Herbal,, accessed 10JUL2016, plant description, common names and origins, and uses

Eat The Weeds,, accessed 09JUL2016, for plant descriptions, names and origins, plant uses, and the warning against water hemlock

Crafty Kitchen Witchery,, accessed 10JUL2016, for Grune Suppe recipe

Cathelijne,, accessed 10JUL201, for Goutweed Pesto recipe

John Lindley and Thomas Moore, authors of "The Treasury of Botany; a Popular Dictionary of the Vegetable Kindom", for the introductory quotation from Gerarde,, accessed 31JUL2016, Public Doman, published by Longmans, Green, and Company, 1870,, for image of water hemlock leaf veins,, for image of Goutweed leaf veins

Idaho Mountain Wildflowers,, for origin of the family name, accessed 31JUL2016