Ground ivy grows in a sprawling carpet-like mass, putting down roots as it creeps along horizontally. Vertical up-shoots have the mint family’s characteristic square-shaped stem and typically range in heights between 10 to 40 cm. The leaves are heart-shaped and hairy with a scalloped edge, and should be foraged when about the size of a quarter for optimal flavor and tenderness. The tiny lavender flowers begin to bloom in early spring and are slightly sweet. Ground ivy is entirely edible and has a green herbaceous flavor that is reminiscent of basil and sage with minty undertones. It can be quite strong when raw, but mellows to a deeper earthy tone when cooked.
Ground ivy is rich in iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Its labiate flavonoids, common in much of the mint family, have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-ulcerogenic, and expectorant properties. It has also been used in the treatment of ear and respiratory problems, lead poisoning, kidney disorders, indigestion and headaches
To make the best use of ground ivy, it should be cooked, dried, or steeped in order to dissipate its robust vegetal flavor. It may be used as a dried herb in marinades and seasonings for strongly flavored meats like venison and lamb. Steeping Ground ivy creates a complex herbal tea that is best accented by honey and lemon. When preparing Ground ivy, keep in mind that it pairs best with bold foods. Flavors that it combines well with are garlic, lemon, sesame, feta cheese, oregano, cardamom, clove, and grilled meats.
Ground ivy is available year-round, but most desirable in the spring.