Nature's Secret Larder - Cleavers (Galium aparine)


Bushcraft Blog

Cleavers (Galium aparine)
24th January 2009

cleavers goosegrass Galium aparine

 goosegrass sprig 

At this time of year (Jan) you will notice lots of little green shoots popping out from the soil that look just like those pictured above. These are Cleavers or often more commonly known as goose grass.

Cleavers are so called because they ‘stick' to most clothing. As a child do you remember throwing them at each other? Thought so. Well, the seeds are also sticky because of lots of tiny hooked hairs. These seeds grasp the fur of animals and then at some point fall off and germinate. This is one reason why this plant is so successful.

As well as being as common as grass, it is actually quite useful too.

Greens: All of the green parts are edible, but best eaten when very young. You will need to cook it in boiling water for a few minutes before eating as this destroys all of those little hairs. Be warned though, old cleavers can be VERY stringy. I find the best thing to do is use the small shoots in ale making, mixing them with other greens such as nettles.

Seeds: the seeds start of life as green and as they mature they become purple. Once these are at this stage the whole plant is way past its best, but these little seeds, or sweethearts as they are also called still have one lasting use to leave an impression on you. Grab yourself a handful or two and roast them in a low oven. Once they are bone-dry grind them up and use them in place of coffee.


Marion on 03/05/12

My two greyhounds are obsessive chewers of fresh young cleavers shoots all year round when out walking - they chew but do not swallow. I assume there is something medicinal, good for the stomach or just dog-tasty about this plant!.

thebabycub on 19/09/10

The roots can also be used to produce a red dye.

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