Ellen Zachos: Backyard Foraging — Mugwort

Invasive weed or tasty soup? If we’re talking about mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) then the answer is both.

Photo of mugworth leaves.
Mugwort. Photo provided courtesy of Ellen Zachos.

The first time I found mugwort in my garden I thought it was a chrysanthemum left over from the previous fall’s planting. I left it in place, expecting a riot of bloom come autumn, but alas, all I got was more mugwort. The foliage isn’t unattractive, and it smells terrific, but it’s a thug in the garden and not something you want to let run rampant among your perennials.

Now I pull up every speck of mugwort I find . . . as soon as I find it. (And yet there’s always more to be pulled. . . . ) But rather than throw it on the compost pile, I bring it into the kitchen.

Mugwort is a traditional flavoring in several Asian cuisines, and the taste combines well with ginger, garlic, and sesame. You can find mugwort noodles and mochi in stores, and if you have your own supply of mugwort, try making this spicy spring soup. You’ll kill two birds with one weed.

Photo of mugwort soup with a mugwort leaf in a white bowl.
Mugwort soup. Photo provided courtesy of Ellen Zachos.

Mugwort Soup


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups tender, young mugwort leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk


  1. 1. Sauté onion in olive oil until softened.
  2. 2. Add vegetable broth, potato pieces, and 2 cups chopped mugwort leaves.
  3. 3. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the potato is soft.
  4. 4. Add 2 more cups of chopped mugwort leaves and the almond milk, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. 5. Remove from the heat, and let cool, then process until smooth with a food processor or an immersion blender.

The taste is earthy and herbal and green.  And if you’re not sure what that means, then why not pick yourself some mugwort and find out.

Photo of a mugwort stem and underside of mugwort leaves.
Mugwort ID: the underside of mugwort leaves is bright white. Photo provided courtesy of Ellen Zachos.

Text © Ellen Zachos.

Ellen Zachos

About the Author

Ellen Zachos is an expert forager and longtime foraging instructor. She is the author of six books, including The Wildcrafted Cocktail and Backyard Foraging. She is co-host of the Plantrama podcast and can be found online at backyardforager.com.

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