Gout Weed

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Greens/Pot Herb, Medicinal, Plants, Salad, Vegetable

Gout Weed, Aegopodium podagraria

Gout Weed does not sound too appetizing. Nor do some of its other names: Ground Ash, Ashweed, Pot Ash, White Ash, Ground Elder, Dog Elder, Dwarf Elder, Garden Plague, Farmer’s Plague, Snow-on-the-Mountain,  Jack Jumpabout, Jump About, Goat’s Foot, Bull Wort, Bishop Wort, Bishop Weed, Herb William and Herb Gerard…

Saint Gerard Majella

Herb Gerard? I happen to know this one: Saint Gerard, 1726-1755. His gout was reportedly cured by the plant but it was tuberculosis that got him at age 29. He’s the patron saint of expectant mothers. Gerard was a man of the cloth for only three years but managed to make a name for himself. He was nominated in 1893 for sainthood for a miracle that helped a pregnant woman.  He became a saint in 1904. Another attribute was he named the day and hour of his death. What I would like to know is how he managed to get gout as such an early age?

Usually compound leaves of three, sometimes five and seven

Gout Weed has a long history of medicinal use besides being cultivated for food. It was the main gout treatment. One theory is the clergy got a lot of gout because they ate better than most but reports about St. Gerard say he lived poorly, giving half of what he ever made to his mother and the other half to those more poor than he. All parts of the plant are diuretic. It has been used to also treat rheumatism, arthritis and bladder disorders. Some credit consumption of the plant, others external use in the area of the gout, such as crushing the root and holding it at the joint.

While it may have indeed been medicinal it was also a prime salad ingredient and pot herb in Europe. It is now naturalized in many areas of North America including most of Canada, the eastern United States excluding most of the Old South and West save for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Note the veins of Gout Weed leaf terminate at the tip of a tooth. In the toxic hemlocks the veins terminated between the teeth.

The young leaves of the Gout Weed are translucent and shiny green. Tender and aromatic, they are excellent additions to salads as are young stems. When older they are often cooked with cheese. They have been added to fritters as well. In northwest Germany Gout Weed is made into grune suppe, green soup. As for taste, opinions are divided. You either love it or hate it. As a vegetable it is very prolific and spreads by rhizomes.

Botanically Gout weed, or Goutweed, is Aegopodium podagraria, ee-guh-POH-dee-um pod-uh-GRAR-ee-uh, or, ee-go-poh-DEE-um pod-uh-GRAR-ee-uh. The genus, Aegopodium, is from the Greek words “agios” meaning goat and “podion” which means little foot. Little Goat Foot, so named because the shape of the leaf resembles the shape of a goat’s foot. Podagaria is also Greek and  means “gout of the foot.”

DO NOT CONFUSE THIS PLANT WITH THE DEADLY TOXIC WATER HEMLOCK.

Green Deane’s “Itemized Plant Profile: Gout Weed

IDENTIFICATION: Small, white, five-petaled flowers mid-summer, arranged in flat-topped clusters a leafy stem up to three feet tall. Seeds small, elongate, similar to carrot seeds, ripen in late summer. Rhizomes — NOT EDIBLE — are long, white, and branching. Leaf veins terminate at the tips of teeth.

TIME OF YEAR: Late spring to early fall.

ENVIRONMENT: Gout Weed is very accommodating. It has no soil preference nor is soil acidity or lack there of a problem. It can grow in full shade to full sun but does requires moist soil. Makes a strong and invasive ground cover. Requires little maintenance.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Leaves, raw or cooked, tangy,  reminds one of incense. Like many plants the leaves are best harvested before the plant blossoms. They can be added raw to salads, cooked in fritters, added to soups or used as a potherb.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie Nelson August 5, 2016 at 15:40

I think Bishops weed is beautiful !

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Anna Foley July 31, 2016 at 15:40

I wonder if the variegated kind jumps out of pots to grow in cracks on the driveway? I bought some for a pot which I have under an eave on my driveway, so it does not get a lot of water and nothing thrives there. Now I am beginning to re-think this plant and worry?

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erichard olsen June 18, 2015 at 22:53

We have gout weed in many beds on our property and as people described above, it is extremely invasive. It’s the worst plant I’ve ever dealt with, it’s only redeeming quality is that it actually tastes quite good, like a combination of carrot and celery. It covers the bottom of our raspberry patch and I’ve given up on trying to get it out of there. Next to the patch, where I mow, new sprouts pop up and these are the best tasting – about 3-6 inches high with slightly glossy leaves. The mature leaves are much too strong for me but my kids and I like the little ones. None-the-less, I would gladly be rid of it. The best thing I’ve found to combat it is persistence. Digging it out as much as possible, planting what you want, then for years … yes, years, persistently continuing to pick any that pop up on regular basis. I try to get every bit of root that will come. It’s soooo gratifying when you pull on a stem and a 12-18 inch length of root/rhizome comes out with it. But usually all you get is a little nub at the bottom of the stem and you leave with the knowledge that it’s still there and it’s probably never going away, at least not until the earth eventually gets encompassed by the expanding sun. Even then, this weed might just spread around the sun in a dense 3 foot mat and blot it out.

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Kelly King June 15, 2015 at 11:54

Never, ever, ever plant gout weed…. it is IMPOSSIBLE to eradicate! If you want to harvest it, just ask around there is plenty nearby that you can help remove. But I implore you not to plant it. Some was in a plant I received 20 years ago, and I’ve fought it every since. It has spread to 4 spots on the edges of our woods and I am working desperately to contain it. It will take over the understory and destroy the ecosystem.

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Green Deane June 15, 2015 at 12:26

Eat The Weeds!

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C May 22, 2015 at 18:53

When i moved to this home ten years ago this weed was not present, i believe it crept in from the park behind my property. It took over the back of the yard and now is out of control. Is there any pet safe things to apply to this plant to kill the root system? I did notice that it says there are some medical uses also, which i may be very interested in, and if proven safe and effective, who knew the solution to my health problem was a weed growing in abundance in my own backyard… however with some searching i found this at wellness.com : “Bishop’s weed: Limited available human study used 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP), a photoreactive plant compound from bishopsweed, for the treatment of tinea versicolor. Clinical studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Use cautiously in patients with photosensitivity as bishop’s weed may be photoreactive, and cause phototoxic skin damage, phototoxic dermatitis, and pigmentary retinopathy. Use cautiously in patients with bleeding disorders or taking anticoagulants, NSAIDs/anti-platelet agents, or herbs or supplements that increase risk of bleeding because bishop’s weed may have additive effects and increase the risk of bleeding. Use cautiously in patients taking drugs or herbs or supplements metabolized by cytochrome P450 as bishop’s weed may increase the effects of these agents. Use cautiously in patients with eye disorders, as bishop’s weed may cause ocular toxicity. Avoid in patients with known allergy/hypersensitivity to bishop’s weed, its constituents, or members of the Apiaceae family.”

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P. Miller May 10, 2015 at 21:14

Where I am ( western ny state) this plant is invasive to an obnoxious degree.
Despite that, it is not a terrible plant by itself, and has a not unpleasant smell and taste. But since they are so invasive in the damp woodland clearing where I am, I would not eat them unless forced to by starvation.

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Linda August 9, 2014 at 21:16

Just a note about ordered plants and seeds – in some areas, goutweed is greatly discouraged as it tends to take over parkland. It is so aggressive that native plants get displaced.

I have a few places neighbourhood where goutweed as spread beyond backyards and into large parkland areas. I harvest this. I would never plant it.

Note – I also harvest Himlayan Blackberry (another aggressive, non native species). I look forward to harvesting Japanese Knotweed (which is aggressively taking over the entire park near where I live)!!

Again, I would NEVER plant these on purpose! It is hard enough to erradicate where it has spread already.

Happy eating everyone. 🙂

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Glynis November 25, 2014 at 20:11

Just found this site, wonderful, and yes gout weed is edible and rumoured to have been used to feed soldiers but OH IT IS SO INVASIVE. Fine if you have nothing else growing but an impossible thing to contain in a bed with anything else. Literally, grew up and over several small, 3 foot, evergreens and destroyed them by shading out every bit of light. It leaves nothing beneath it. IT SPREADS EXPONENTIALLY, other than removing the soil completely and deeply, the best control method we have found is to cover it with a dark plastic for, wait for it, up to four years. Or you can mow, mow, and mow to keep it in check. If it was the only edible I had I would give it a spot but I have much more lovely plants, including massive dandelions, throughout my yard and woods. IF YOU MUST GROW IT, GROW IT IN A CONTAINER with screening or landscape fabric over any holes, and if you sink it in the ground, at least 2″ above the soil line. In a container you can take it with you if you move and not leave it for the next owner or your neighbour to have to wage an endless war, once they realize to late that it is mega invasive.

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Pat Mestern June 16, 2014 at 18:30

I have goutweed . . . and more goutweed . . . and more goutweed. Once it takes hold it takes over. My goutweed was planted in the 1880’s to feed the goats and sheep that grazed the area. If anyone wants seeds just let me know. I’ll keep a few flowering heads and dry the seeds. If one wants roots and is anywhere near Fergus, Ontario . . . . Just know that once goutweed takes hold, it S P R E A D S and is very difficult to contain. I’m not talking about the white/green leafed plant but the green plant which is very invasive. It’s a yearly “battle” to keep the plant contained!

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RM McWilliams August 3, 2014 at 00:15

Hard to feel sorry for someone who has free food, good both raw and cooked, nutritous and tasty – with no work but to harvest, prepare, and eat! 🙂

And, as you point out, it’s great for grazing/browsing animals, too!. Maybe a few of those solar-powered, self-repairing, minimal maintainence mowers could help you out: sheep or goats or alpacas, or…! One great features of these mowers is that they turn your unwanted ground elder into lamb, chevon, or ‘fluffy venison’! (Alpaca tastes a lot like venison, at least to us.)

All joking aside, hope you find a solution to your abundance problem that works for you.

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Joanne June 14, 2013 at 11:47

I live in Burlington Ontario. I’m already growing green colored goutweed, which is edible. My neighbor gave me white tipped goutweed recently. But I couldn’t find any differnce but the color. Somebody says white tipped one is not edible. Is it true?

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amk June 9, 2013 at 21:03

Gophers love it. Darn!

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Steve Rickards June 1, 2013 at 18:30

I live in a twin house in Philadelphia. Our hill in front is covered in pachysandra. Years ago, my neighbor had a tree cut down that had shaded the hill. While the pachysandra has endured, as soon as the tree was down, gout weed took over. From early spring until late fall, our ground cover is covered by a “volunteer” ground cover. We tried Roundup one year and almost killed off the pachysandra as well as the gout weed, but they both made a heroic comeback. Is there any way to control the gout weed short of denuding the hill?

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Jackie May 15, 2013 at 14:49

I have some of the varigated goutweed that my aunt gave me nearly twenty years ago. It did not spread very much and only gets about a foot or so tall. It is at the back of my house and I mow up close to it, so that may have helped to contain it. Also over the years the grass has almost smothered it out. I just now dug up what was left and am going to put it in pots to see if I can save it. I do not remember it ever having flowers, but it may have had. Does anyone know if the varigated variety has the same medicinal and food properties. I saw somewhere online it was described as an ornamental.

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Beth March 19, 2012 at 17:45

These websites sell a variegated form as plants if you’re not going to order the seeds: http://www.forestfarm.com/product.php?id=399 http://www.highcountrygardens.com/index/page/product/product_id/13

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RM McWilliams March 22, 2013 at 17:23

I have heard that the variegated form is less vigorous, equally hardy but less likely to spread beyond where you want it to grow.

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tony arcenas March 18, 2012 at 14:42

Hi Mr. Green Deane,
Thank you responding. I am from City of Riverside, southern CA. I tried looking for an expert on edible weeds locally sa suggested but has no luck. Maybe I don’t know how. I would appreciate it very much if y0u have any suggestion on how to find one. It is better to ask and expert than indentifying it by comparing it with a picture. All I know is dandelions which I eat every day. I think I have wild lettuce and other edible weed in my back yard that I would like to eat if I can, safely. Anyway Thank you in advance for your time and help.
Sincerely,
Tony

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Green Deane March 18, 2012 at 15:09

There are many teachers in California. Go to my website, run your coursor over “foragin.” A drop down menu will say “foraging instructors.” Click on it then scroll down to California. If there isn’t one near you email them and ask if they know of one near you.

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tony arcenas March 19, 2012 at 00:41

Thank you very much for your help.

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tony arcenas March 16, 2012 at 01:59

where can I buy seeds or seedling so that I may be able to plant and eventually injoy eating it.

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Green Deane March 16, 2012 at 06:39

Usually one finds the plant. Ordering them can be exensive.

http://b-and-t-world-seeds.com/carth.asp?species=Aegopodium%20podagraria&sref=15047

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