22 March 2015

Ground elder frittata

We recently did that thing, the one where you decide to move out of South London to Brighton, or to be more accurate, Hove. (I hesitate to conform to stereotype and use the word 'actually'.) We have a new garden. It is sunny, and a good size - a little overgrown, but full of potential. We have started clearing the garden, but with the onset of spring I noticed the appearance of ground elder. Ground elder is a fairly invasive, fast-growing plant, which can be hard to clear from a garden. It is a member of the carrot family, and has leaves that look a bit like celery leaves. Ground elder is edible, and I have heard that in the spring it makes good eating. I picked a young sprig, and gave it a nibble. It had a mild, pleasant flavour - somewhere between celery and parsley (both of which it is related to). Surprisingly tasty for a plant that can be the bane of many gardeners' lives. The flavour gets stronger and less pleasant as the plant gets older, particularly once it has set flower. Its edibility is in fact the reason why we have ground elder in the UK. Apparently it was introduced here by the Romans as a food plant.

Ground elder in the border

Unfortunately, ground elder is rather difficult to get rid of. If you try to dig it out, you must get rid of all the roots. New plants will otherwise appear from any root fragments left in the ground. The roots are quite brittle, which makes this difficult. Removing ground elder is one of the few occasions in the garden when I resort to chemical means. We had some in our old garden, and I managed to get rid of it by spraying it with glyphosate, and then digging up the plants once they had died off. I managed to get rid of most of it within a season, then took care to remove the odd plant that reappeared in following years.

We recently spent a day clearing a border in the garden, and I thought I would make a lunch with some ground elder foraged from the garden before we got rid of it. I picked a good few handfuls and made a frittata. It can also be cooked like spinach, and the young leaves make a pleasant addition to a salad. As with all things foraged, do make sure you positively identify ground elder before eating any. And don't eat any that's been sprayed with weedkiller.

(serves 3 to 4)

7 eggs
2 potatoes, peeled and boiled
1/2 onion
2 tbsp grated parmesan
2 generous handfuls young ground elder roots, washed and picked over
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.

Take an medium-sized oven-proof frying pan (one with a metal handle), and heat over a lowish flame. Add a little olive oil.

Dice the onion and soften in the pan. Meanwhile, beat the eggs. Dice the potatoes and roughly chop the ground elder.

When the onion has softened, add the potatoes and ground elder to the pan. Allow the elder to wilt a little, stir the ingredients, season with a little salt and pepper, then add the parmesan cheese and beaten eggs.

Cook the frittata on the hob until the egg is cooked around the edge, then place in the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg is set through. Remember that the pan handle will be hot.

Once cooked, turn the frittata out onto a plate and enjoy.

Ground elder frittata

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