Vegan Dutch Apple Pie (Appeltaart) with Goutweed Flowers

   reading time: 7 min

May I present to you: another cake recipe with hidden wild herbs!

This time around the hidden wild surprise is goutweed also known as ground elder.

Unlike your classic American apple pie, which consists of course of a buttery double crust with pastry both above and below the spiced apple filling, with the upper crust often being latticed – this Dutch apple pie or appeltaart has a flaky pie crust filled with several layers of sliced golden apples. Unlike the American-style double-crusted pie, it is open faced (as the name taart / tart implies), and often topped with a buttery crumb topping
instead of the top pie crust. You can also add currants, apricot jam, lemon juice, rum and/or cinnamon to the filling, if you like.

So far, I had only used the leaves of goutweed or ground elder for recipes like my quick & easy wild herb salad bowl, sourdough bread with wild spring herbs, wild herb pesto, wild herb & garlic butter, or stuffed hazelnut leaves. But never for dessert, and never the flowers.

The Health Benefits of Goutweed / Ground Elder

The Latin word podagra, which can be found in the botanical name of goutweed / ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) means "gout" in Latin and – just like its common name "goutweed" – illustrates what the plant was traditionally used for medicinally: gout. Due to its anti-inflammatory and uric acid dissolving properties, it is also used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, as well as bladder and digestive conditions such as cystitis. In addition, it has been used to make poultices, and to treat burns and stings.

It is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, zinc and copper. It also contains several times more vitamin A, Vitamin C and protein than lettuce.


Where and How to Harvest Goutweed Flowers 

Goutweed or Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to Europe and Asia has also been introduced into North America. It prefers nitrogen-rich soil and grows in shady areas such as in damp shrubberies, woodland, grassland, on lawns, grass verges and near hedgerows. It grows to a height between 30 cm to 1 meter.

It is one of the first edible wild plants to show up in the spring, which is the best time to collect its leaves, and stays throughout the summer until late autumn.

As the plant ages, the leaves (and also the flowers) can still be eaten either cooked or raw, but they will become slightly bitter over time,
so the younger the plant, the better. In addition to that, the medicinal effects are greatly increased, and once the plant has started flowering, it should not be eaten in any great quantity due to its increased diuretic, laxative and soporific effects.

As a very robust and quickly spreading ("invasive") herb that is difficult to remove once established, gardeners often complain about it as an annoying weed. But I think, the issue is just that we've forgotten how to make use of it – just like the stinging nettle!

Although not related to the elder shrub (Sambucus), which produces the delicious elderflowers and elderberries, the name "ground elder" stems from the strong similarity of the leaves and also the superficial similarity of the
umbrella-shaped flowers. It's very important to know that young elder leaves are poisonous, whereas goutweed/ground elder leaves are edible!

Flavour-wise, the goutweed leaves are reminiscent of parsley, carrots, celery or even young peas or spinach, depending on who you ask. For me personally, it tastes like a mixture of parsley and carrot greens.

One of the easiest and best ways to identify goutweed/ground elder is the 3 x 3 rule: The leaves are divided into 3 groups of 3 toothed leaflets, which are sometimes regularly lobed or divided (the leaflets of the lower two leaf groups will sometimes grow together, making it harder to recognize the 3 leaflets), and the stem of each leaf is noticeably 3-edged / triangular.

Please be aware that goutweed is part of the family of umbellifers which include highly poisonous species such as
deadly poison hemlock, water hemlock, spotted cowbane, fool's parsley, rough chervil and various species of water dropwort!

Most of those poisonous
look-alikes will have finely divided and lacy leaves, like carrot greens, whereas goutweed has 3 groups of 3 toothed leaflets and a three-edged, hollow stem. So make sure that ALL criteria match when identifying a plant!

In late spring to early summer (May until July), the plant forms umbels of white flowers which consists of 12-25 flower stalks.

General Foraging Guidelines:

  • You should be 100 % certain you are identifying the correct plant. If you do not know what it is, DO NOT eat it! Do not pick if you're in doubt!

  • Don't harvest from contaminated areas such as busy roadsides, near industrial facilities, where dogs pee, along the edges of agricultural fields, old landfill sites etc.

  • Be mindful & harvest sustainably. Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply, and never more than 1/4 of a plant, ideally only about 5 %.

  • Leave the harvesting area litter-free.

Dutch Apple Pie with Goutweed Flowers

Preparation time: 1 hour 30 mins
Main ingredients: apples, spelt flour, goutweed flowers, vegan butter / margarine
difficulty level: easy
serves: 12
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, soy-free, low-sodium


1 1/2 cups (130 g) all-purpose spelt flour
2 tsp raw cane sugar
a pinch of salt
50 g dry sourdough starter (or add an additional 25 g of flour + 25 g of water to the recipe instead)
8 tbsp (200 g) vegan butter or coconut oil, chilled and diced into small cubes
3 tbsp ice water

6 apples, thinly slices (I used Gala and Golden Delicious, but Honey Crips is also great)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp raw cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp vegan butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) elderflower cordial (or another sweetener such as maple syrup, agave, or sugar)
10 goutweed flowers

pinch of salt

Crumb Topping:
1 cup (150 g) all-purpose spelt flour
4 tbsp (70 g) vegan butter or margarine, chilled and diced into small cubes
1/3 cup (70 g) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 200 °C / 400 °F.

Lightly grease a 26 cm- or 10-inch springform pan or pie dish.

To prepare the crust:

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, sourdough starter (or more flour and water), and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.

Add vegan butter, margarine or coconut oil, and cut into the mixture using a pastry cutter or a fork. Add ice water 1 tbsp at a time, until the mixture comes together. If using sourdough starter in this, it will be very soft.

Transfer the crust to your prepared springform pan or pie pan, and evenly press into the pan, pressing all the way up the sides to create a rim.

Place the crust into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, using a blind weight.

Remove the crust from the oven and let cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling and the topping.

To prepare the filling:

In a separate bowl, toss sliced apples with lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar and cinnamon.

Place a heat-safe bowl over a small saucepan filled with 2 fingers width of water, and gently bring to a simmer. Add vegan butter, elderflower cordial, vanilla extract, and goutweed flowers to the bowl. Allow to melt, stirring occasionally.

Once melted, remove from heat and pour over the apple mixture. Toss mixture to evenly coat. Set aside.

To prepare the topping:

In a mixing bowl (I use the same from making the crust), combine flour, vegan butter or margarine, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla.
Use a pastry cutter or a fork to work the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs of different sizes. Set aside.

To assemble:

Pour the spiced apple filling into the bottom of the blind-baked crust. Sprinkle the topping over the top of the pie.

Place in the preheated oven, and bake for 45-50 minutes
at 180 °C / 350 °F, or until the pie is golden brown and the apples are tender. Check the pie at 20 minutes to make sure the crust isn't browning too quickly. If it is, place a piece of foil over the top of the pie and continue baking.

Once the pie is done, remove it from the oven. Be sure to allow the pie to cool completely before slicing as the juices need to thicken.

Highly recommend serving this Dutch apple pie with (vegan) whipped cream.

Looking for more apple recipes? Here are some you might like:

Vegan Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream

Rustic German Apple Cake (vegan)
Apple Walnut Streusel Loaf (vegan)
Spiced Apple Butter (vegan)