Say what you will, gardeners, but this little edge dweller is a knockout in my book! Known by many impressive names, such as Gill-Over-The-Ground, Runaway Robin, Lizzie-Run-Up-The-Hedge, Ground Ivy, and Glechoma hederacea among others... A member of the mint family, this Creep has square stems, paired (or opposite) glossy heart-shaped green leaves that are evergreen in mild climates, and beautiful violet flowers that are in bloom here in Athens right now. It can be found all over North America, prefering moist, fertile soil in the shade, but tolerating dry, poor soil in the sun, spreading by seeds and stolons which run along the ground, creating dense mats of it - much to gardeners' avail!
As with many of our most delightful wild greens, Creeping Charlie was brought over from Europe for its culinary and medicinal uses and proceeded to take root across much of North America, becoming invasive in some places and choking out some natives... just like many of the European colonists. Sigh. The good news is, wild bees are a big fan of Creeping Charlie, and it has wonderful benefits for us 21st Century North Americans in search of nourishing food and medicine... particularly the kind that is available for free!
Creeping Charlie leaves are rich in Vitamin C and have a delicious minty/peppery flavor. They are great raw or cooked - added to salads, soups, or sautéed! The leaves can also be steeped in hot water when fresh or dry for tea. The tea is purported to have a cooling effect on the body internally, and has been used for inflammation, kidney disorders, sciatic pain, and ringing in the ears among others. Creeping Charlie is used as a substitute for animal rennet in cheesemaking and also in brewing beer for flavoring, clarification, and preservation. I personally have found it to be a nourishing and delicious food and tea!
As always, I invite you to exercize caution while trying this plant and others for the first time. While many herbalists and wild food advocates claim that this herb is a safe ally, Creeping Charlie has been found to be toxic to cattle and horses, and has a very small amount of a volatile oil found in pennyroyal which is contraindicated in pregnancy. Please trust your body and do your own research!
Good luck in the foraging journey... and here's one more wild green rockstar to add to your list!