Ground Ivy Flatbreads (vegan, gluten-free)
Discover the wonderful aromatic flavor that ground ivy adds to these easy to make flatbreads. You can eat them with your favorite toppings, or have them as a tasty side to your curry, stew, or other dish of your choice!
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is a little edible plant that you will find growing in your lawn, in fields, on roadsides, and the edges of woodlands. A long time ago European settlers brought the plant to different parts of the world, where you can still find them growing abundantly today.
Many people see ground ivy as a 'weed' in their lawns, but these special plants actually have great qualities. They stay low to the ground, are shade-tolerant, and provide food for many pollinators. Since they spread by both runners and seeds, they can quickly colonize big patches. But there is more... they are edible, medicinal, and they have pretty little purple flowers too!
Ground ivy is known by many other names, which include creeping charlie, ale hoof, field balm, tun hoof, gill-over-ground, or run-away-robin. Some of these names go all the way back to the Middle Ages, when the plant was used in brewing traditional herbal ales (gruit).
Ground ivy has been an ally to humans when it comes to our health. Next to being a great source of vitamin C, iron, and potassium, the plant has also been used to treat ailments related to different bodily systems. In the past, ground ivy was often used to relieve headaches, coughs, ear infections, congestion, and colds. An infusion was used as an eyewash to treat eye disease or injury. Ground ivy was also used by some to treat fevers, kidney disease, asthma, indigestion, and sunburns.
Although sometimes considered 'invasive', ground ivy certainly has unique gifts within the ecosystems they live in. With their extensive root systems ground ivy plants can help heal disturbed grounds and offer protection against soil erosion. They are also loved by various insects, including various wild bees, butterflies, and gall wasps.
FINDING GROUND IVY
Being a resilient and adaptive plant, ground ivy can be found in many different habitats. The plant thrives in areas with shade and rich, damp soil, but can also grow in sunny or disturbed locations like lawns, pastures, or roadsides as long as there is enough moisture.
Ground Ivy is a creeping plant that grows low to the ground. Despite being small, they can form dense mats by sending out long runners just above the soil surface. Ground ivy is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and like mint, the plant can be distinguished by their square stem. If it's hard to roll the stem between your fingers, you might have found ground ivy! Also like mints, their leaves are arranged opposite from one another. They are rounded or kidney-shaped, with leaf margins that have rounded lobes. While typically green, the leaves can turn purplish when growing in sunny locations. If you look very closely, you can often see fine, sparse hairs on upper leaf surfaces. Ground Ivy's flowers are tubular or funnel-shaped, have a lavender color, and develop in clusters of one to three on short, upright stems.
Another great identifier for ground ivy is their scent. If you pick a few leaves and scrunch them up, you’ll discover that they have a distinctive and rather strong smell that can remind you of a mix of different kitchen herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary.
Luckily, there are no poisonous plants that closely resemble ground ivy. This makes foraging relatively safe, although it is always important to make sure you have found the right plant. Two plants that are sometimes confused with ground ivy (and often like to grow close-by) are purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) and henbit dead nettle (Lamium amplexicaule). These both have fuzzier leaves than ground ivy, and purple dead nettle's leaves are more pointed. A good quality guide book can show you more of the distinguishing features of each plant.
HARVESTING & PROCESSING GROUND IVY
In some locations, ground ivy leaves can be harvested year-round, but in Sweden or similar colder climates the plants die back during the winter months. The best moment to harvest ground ivy is when the plants are young. When they get older, they can get slightly bitter. Since the plants often grow in lawns or other spaces we humans interact with, it is important to make sure your harvest location is not sprayed with pesticides or contaminated in another way.
Ground ivy shoots, leaves, and flowers are all edible and can be used fresh or dried. Harvest by cutting off a section of some of the plants, and leave the rest. Whether with ground ivy or anything else in nature, it’s important to walk softly on the Earth and to forage with care. We are guests and receivers of gifts from wild lands and forests, so please consider how you can do this respectfully and only take what you need. If it feels natural to you, you could consider making a little offering in the form of a few words of thanks or a little gift to the plants who have so generously given parts of themselves for you to eat.
Before using ground ivy in your recipe, make sure the cuttings are free of insects, sand, and debris. After this you can give them a quick rinse and chop them finely. Ground ivy can also be used as a garnish, or as an addition to various dishes like salads, soups, drinks, pestos, or hearty bakes.
VISUAL GUIDE TO GROUND IVY FLATBREAD RECIPE
After learning a lot about ground ivy and foraging some of your own, it's now time for some fun in the kitchen! You can follow along with the images to work through different steps of making the flatbreads. At the bottom of this page you will find the full recipe.
GROUND IVY FLATBREADS RECIPE
Disclaimer: Every year there are people that are poisoned or experience other negative health effects from eating inedible wild plants or mushrooms that resemble edible species. For this reason it's essential to ensure proper species identification and to consult multiple quality sources for doing this. It's also important to always check and follow all local foraging regulations before you harvest anything in nature.