Spring Foraging: 5 Ways To Use Cleavers

April 28, 2017

Welcome to week 2 of our Spring Foraging series!    Last week I introduced you to some wild edibles I found in my own backyard.

Today we’re going to dig a little deeper and focus on one of those plants I found and how I’ve been using it.  Today’s post is all about cleavers (Galium aparine,) also known as goosegrass or sticky Willy.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

Does a picture of cleavers remind you of any plants you’ve seen before?   Cleavers grows pretty much everywhere.  It’s a plant I’ve seen around my whole life but never knew how useful it was until recently.

What stands out most to me about cleavers is how sticky and clingy it is–it tends to cling to neighboring plants or it will attach itself to a fence and grow vertically. Cleavers tend to grow in open fields, thickets, woods, and on shores where there are other plants to cleave to.

Cleavers is an abundant plant, easy to find and identify, and cheap to purchase which makes it a great plant to get to know!

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

 

Cleavers as a Spring Tonic

In 1652, Nicholas Culpepper wrote this of cleavers: “It is a good remedy in the Spring, eaten (being first chopped small, and boiled well) in water-gruel, to cleanse the blood, and strengthen the liver, thereby to keep the body in health, and fitting it for that change of season that is coming.”

Cleavers is known as being a traditional spring tonic for a couple of reasons.   First, cleavers is what herbalists refer to as an alterative.  Alteratives are herbs that gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. They move us toward better health.

One of the ways that alteratives can work is by improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste through the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin.    Cleavers does this through the kidneys–it is a diuretic (it facilitates or increases urination.)

Another reason cleavers is a great spring tonic is because it helps to improve lymphatic flow, which is important for a healthy immune system.  After a long, cold winter, fresh spring cleavers is just the thing to get the lymph moving and eliminating waste and toxins from the body.

Cleavers is a gentle mover that is generally safe for most people and gentle enough to use frequently. When using cleavers (especially as food,) you will find the tips produced in early spring before it flowers are more tender and palatable.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

5 Ways To Use Cleavers

 

As a Potherb

You can add cleavers to any of your cooked dishes, just as you might add some chopped fresh basil or oregano.  I’ve experimented with this a bit, adding it to my soups and grain dishes.  Although cleavers has a bit of a “green” taste when eaten raw, it mellows nicely when added to cooked dishes.

I added 1/2 cup of minced cleavers to a big pot of soup and it was delicious!    I’ve also added it to a pot of brown rice as it was cooking.  It was an easy and delicious way to incorporate this herb into a meal.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

In Smoothies

Adding cleavers to your smoothies is another easy way to start incorporating this herb into your diet.

Cleavers has a mild taste so it was an easy addition to a couple of my green smoothies this week.   Here’s one of my favorites:

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

Tropical Green Smoothie with Cleavers

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup cleavers (stems and leaves)
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup diced ripe mango
1/2 frozen banana
1 tbsp chia seeds

Instructions: 

Blend in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately.

 

 

Cleavers Vinegar

I love making herbal vinegar so I had to prepare some with fresh cleavers!   Cleavers vinegar is easy to prepare and has many wonderful benefits!  I also added some fresh dandelion leaves to my vinegar.

If you make your own homemade salad dressings, simply substitute the cleavers vinegar for the lemon juice or vinegar in the recipe.

For more ways to use Cleavers vinegar, check out this post on making herbal vinegar.

 

You Will Need:

  • a glass jar with plastic lid

  • 1 part fresh cleavers (stems and leaves) loosely packed

  • 2 parts raw apple cider vinegar — I recommend this brand.

 

Instructions: 

  1. Wash and prepare the herbs.

  2. Place herbs in a clean glass jar with a plastic lid and store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.

  3. After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs from your vinegar and transfer your vinegar to a clean bottle.  Don’t forget to label and date your herbal vinegar.  Your herbal vinegar will keep for up to a year.

 

Cleavers Tea Infusion

Many herbalists feel that cleavers is best infused into cold (or room temperature) water. This is not to say that preparing cleavers as a hot tea wouldn’t be beneficial, but that the cold infusion would perhaps be more beneficial.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

 

Cleavers Cold Tea Infusion

Ingredients: 

  • 3-6 grams chopped fresh cleavers herb

  • 1 cup room temperature water

 

Directions: 

  1. Place your finely chopped herb in a teapot or glass canning jar and cover with water.

  2. Allow to sit on the counter for 8-12 hours.   Strain, sweeten as desired and enjoy!

 

*******************************************************************************************************

Cleavers Hot Tea Infusion

Ingredients: 

  • 3-6 grams chopped fresh cleavers herb

  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions: 

  1. Place your finely chopped herb in a teapot, cover with boiling water and allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

  2. Strain, sweeten as desired and enjoy!

 

 

Cleavers Pesto

Cleavers makes a surprisingly delicious pesto!  I made a big batch and froze part of it. Simply substitute the cleavers for the basil in your favorite pesto recipe or use my favorite recipe below.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups fresh cleavers (stems and leaves,) packed

  • 2 large garlic cloves

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

  • 1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil (this depends on how you’ll be using it.  I use less olive oil if using it as a spread)

  • 1/8 cup nutritional yeast (new to nutritional yeast?  You can read more about it here.)

  • pinch of  sea salt

 

Instructions: 

In a food processor, process the cleavers, garlic, nuts, nutritional yeast and sea salt until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse until smooth.

Serve immediately or store in a sealed container or glass jar in the refrigerator.

If freezing, freeze individual portions in an ice cube tray until firm, then transfer to a plastic ziploc bag or freeze larger portions in a half pint glass jar with lid.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

 

Cleavers Juice

Cleavers would also be a nice addition to one of your fresh juice recipes.  It does not product a lot of juice on it’s own, unless you have huge amounts of it.

You could also “juice” or puree your cleavers in the blender and freeze in ice cube trays for later use in soups or smoothies.

 

Spring Foraging | 5 Ways to Use Cleavers | Herbs | Herbal Remedies | Home Remedies | Healthy Recipes | Herbal DIY | My Healthy Homemade Life

 

 

To download all the recipes from today’s post,

Plus, a BONUS RECIPE,

Click Here

 

 

Stayed tuned next week for Part 3 of our Spring Foraging Series where I’ll be sharing some useful ways for using dandelion.

Let me know:   Have you ever tried cleavers?   What is your favorite way to use this wild edible?

 

 

 

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References:

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH

Natural Herbal Living Magazine.  March 2017.

The Project Gutenberg Ebook of The Complete Herbal by Nicolas Culpeper

 

 This site is for educational purposes only. It does not provide medical advice. Information found on  myhealthyhomemadelife.com  is meant to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider.

 


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22 Comments

  • Reply rachel May 1, 2017 at 10:41 am How cool! I am just starting to learn that some of the weeds I've been pulling out of my yard and garden all of these years are actually edible, so thanks for the very clear photos and recipes.
    • Reply Jen May 1, 2017 at 10:54 am You are so welcome, Rachel! I've been doing the same thing for years too!
  • Reply Arun May 1, 2017 at 11:09 am Great post Jen! Love the pictures! I can see that a lot of research that has gone into it. Fantastic!
    • Reply Jen May 1, 2017 at 1:06 pm Thank you so much, Arun! :)
  • Reply Stephanie | Adventures in Aussieland May 3, 2017 at 9:15 am I'm loving this series! I honestly had no idea what cleavers are. It's going into winter here in Australia but I'll have to save this for the future because I would love to give these recipes a go!
    • Reply Jen May 3, 2017 at 10:41 am Thank you, Stephanie! I'm so glad this series has been helpful. I've been having so much fun playing with these wild edibles!
  • Reply Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries May 3, 2017 at 1:32 pm I love the idea of this series! There's a whole world of edibles out there that I didn't know existed! I love how vibrantly green this plant is - it's also very pretty :)
    • Reply Jen May 4, 2017 at 9:33 am Thank you, Corey! I agree, it is a beautiful plant!
  • Reply Danielle May 3, 2017 at 6:37 pm I have never tried cleavers, but know that you should seriously package and sell a lot of what you make...you would make a killing!
    • Reply Jen May 4, 2017 at 9:34 am That is such a fabulous idea, Danielle! I love it!
  • Reply The Sun Mama May 3, 2017 at 8:47 pm I would love this both as a tea and as a pesto! Thanks for sharing!! :)
    • Reply Jen May 4, 2017 at 9:35 am You are so welcome, Sun Mama! I think you'd be so surprised by how good the pesto is!
  • Reply Sarah | I Heart Frugal May 4, 2017 at 8:37 am Although I have never tried these, I really like how you give us reasons for using cleavers. Then you give multiple recipes. I would love to try the smoothie!!
    • Reply Jen May 4, 2017 at 9:36 am Thank you, Sarah!
  • Reply Elena May 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm If someone asks me what cleaver is, I wouldn`t had idea to tell them, but after seeing the photo I recognize this plant. I never thought that I can use it in my kitchen as well.
  • Reply Jen May 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm I'm so glad to hear you learned something new, Elena!
  • Reply Leah May 5, 2017 at 2:18 am I have not tried cleavers and I'm not sure it grows in Australia.. I just googled it quickly.. I think it might be declared a pest in some states. But I came across a book for sale called The Weed Forager’s Handbook - specifically for Australia. You have inspired me to buy it and start foraging! :D And I have saved this for the pesto recipe. Yum
    • Reply Jen May 5, 2017 at 4:38 pm Oh Leah, I'm so happy to hear that! Happy Foraging! :)
  • Reply Leslie May 24, 2017 at 5:59 pm Just found you, and how timely!! I am trying to change up my eating habits and incorporate more "natural' ingredients. Today I roasted sweet potatoes and onions and halfway through I mixed in a handful of plantain leaves and finished roasting, then tossed in some quinoa. I am fortunate to live in the country with a "yard" full of many of the items you've mentioned. I'm looking forward to eating my yard! ;) Thank you for all the great information, it will make it so much easier to figure out how to prepare them!
    • Reply Jen May 25, 2017 at 3:56 pm Thank you, Leslie! I'm so glad to hear that! Your recipe idea sounds fantastic! I love how you added in the plantain leaves!
  • Reply Megan September 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm I had absolutely no idea sticky willy was edible!! We get loads of it growing wild in Scotland, I'll have to try some of these out!
    • Reply Jen September 15, 2017 at 7:49 am We have loads of them growing here in the U.S. too, Megan. I hope you give them a try! :)

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