Monday, May 14, 2012

Food for free... Cleavers bounty

I have just been for a little walk down the garden.  What a surprise.  There is cleavers everywhere. (aka, Latin name: Galium aparine beggar lice, clithe, cliver, cliders, goose grass, goosebill, hariff, gripgrass, catchweed ) If you have never come across it before, or the name/s don’t ring a bell, well it sticks like crazy to everything, and the seed pods get all tangled up in the cat’s fur and chickens feathers and my legs!  

Any way, there it is! It has gone wild, and, I don’t know about you, but when I see such an exuberance of supply, I think about what I can use it for, and, why it’s there.  Well the why is partly because I obviously didn’t weed efficiently, but also it is a very good lymphatic cleaner, and after the cold I have just had I can do with some of that.  I find nature always provides what we need.  

It is a very good diuretic, and soothing in conditions such as cystitis and other uti’s. Care has to be taken if there is an existing health condition such as with the heart or diabetes, where it could affect sugars. 

It is a fantastic topical herb, which means it can be used to great effect on the skin.  I make a macerated oil with it, and then use it for dry psoriasis and eczema.   It is also good made as you would a tea, then used in the last rinse if you suffer with dandruff.  If your scalp can have a tendency to soreness, it is very kind and reduces the inflammation and heals the cause.  There is some research being undertaken now to see if its alleged positive effects on cancer can be replicated, but nothing is out yet.  I do know it is very good on skin ulcers though from personal experience.

Animals can and do eat it and you can also eat it.  Now some people say you can eat it raw, but I would suggest that those people might also like to try Velcro.  It is rough!  But, when you cook it in a little water the rough hooks go and it becomes a tasty spinach substitute.  I like it lightly cooked with a little parmesan cheese on top, great as a nutritional addition to a bolognaise? Yes, it can form one of the ingredients for a home-made pesto.  It is very nutritious, especially if you pick the tasty, young tips.  You can use it like spinach or, add it to soups and stews, with onions and garlic and other tasty vegetables for its nutritional value.  Its taste is rather bland, so will take up other flavours well and not scare the kids away too easily.  Good for the tummy and the budget, it is free after all.  However, don’t try to eat it from midsummer on as it is just like straw, sticky straw at that! 

Mrs Grieve mentions cleavers in one of her recipes for a herbal beer. I have tried it and it is lovely and refreshing.  Here it is.

Take 2 gallons of cold water and a good pailful of washed young Nettle tops, add 3 or 4 large handsful of Dandelion, the same of Clivers (Cleavers) and 2 oz. Of bruised, whole ginger. Boil gently for 40 minutes, then strain and stir in 2 teacupsful of brown sugar. When lukewarm place on the top a slice of toasted bread, spread with 1 oz. of compressed yeast, stirred till liquid with a teaspoonful of sugar. Keep it fairly warm for 6 or 7 hours, then remove the scum and stir in a tablespoonful of cream of tartar. Bottle and tie the corks securely. The result is a specially wholesome sort of ginger beer. The juice Of 2 lemons may be substituted for the Dandelion and Clivers. Other herbs are often added to Nettles in the making of Herb Beer, such as Burdock, Meadowsweet, Avens Horehound, the combination making a refreshing summer drink.

If you want to take the time, collect and dry the seeds, grind them and use them as a substitute for coffee….  Well I don’t have that amount of time…. But you never know when that bit of information may come in useful. 

Disclaimer:  This information is not to replace a visit to your G.P or alternative health practitioner if you have a health concern.

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