Wild edible Goose Grass or Cleavers ( Galium aparine)
This foragers guide to Goose Grass or Cleavers will inform you of the following:
- When and where to find the wild edible
- A foraging identification guide – What the wild food looks
- Tasting notes – what the wild food tastes like
- Nutritional information on vitamins and Minerals
- A wild edible recipe
- Foraging walks in Le Marche Italy where you will hopefully find this and many other wild edibles
Other common names: Grip Grass, Lady’s Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Catch Weed, Bedstraw
You will recall this plant from your childhood. We picked them in the playing fields and threw them on the back of peoples school jumpers. Sticky Willy was hard work for the unwitting victim to remove but great fun for the perpetrator. Geese love eating Cleavers, hence the name “goose grass”. As well as being edible and nutritious Cleavers are in the same family as coffee and the seeds are dried and roasted, and then used as a caffeine free coffee substitute by some.
Where to forage Goose Grass
Also known as Cleavers, they creep along the ground and acrooss other plants, attaching themselves with their small grippy hairs which protrude from stems and leaves.
When to hunt Goose Grass
Cleavers grow all year round but are best when new leaves and flowers arrive in early Spring.
Identification of Cleavers
Foragers should look for the stems grow up to three feet and are ridged or quadangular. The leaves are simple, narrow slivers and appear in groups of six to eight. Cleavers have tiny, star-shaped, white-greenish flowers from early spring to summer and cluster in groups of two or threearound the leaf clumps. . The fruits are actually burrs of 1-3 seeds in a cluster; they are covered with hooked hairs which attach to passing animals and birds to aid dissemination.
Goose Grass tasting notes
Galium aparine is a great wild edible loved by the forager and bushcraft fanatic. The leaves and stems of the plant can be cooked as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear. However, the numerous small hooks which cover the plant make it less palatable if eaten raw- so whilst it tastes sweet and akin to peas it’s best cooked as this melts the small hairs .
Goose grass Nutritional Information
Properties: Vitamin C, Citric acid, phenolic acid, flavonoids, iridoids, Caffeine
We will soon be offering foraging walks that aim to provide basic skills for spotting, collecting and preparing wild edibles in the wonderful surroundings of Le Marche Italy; whose the food provenance and abundance is discussed on other food pages of this site. These walks can be included as part of any holiday, or a walking holiday or cooking holiday here in Marche Italy. Please let us know if you are interested and we will let you know when these start.
Cleavers & Aubergine Bake recipe
- 650g sliced (rounds) aubergine/ melanzane
- 150g goose grass tips
- 2 onions (sliced)
- 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
- 2 tbsp shopped Thyme and Rosemary
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 4 anchovies
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp flour
- 500ml grated pecorino
- 2 tsps tomato puree
- Slice aubergine, then lightly oil the slices, now grill them on a ridged pan for 2 minutes on high until wilted, turning occasionally.
- Steam the goose grass tips for 2 minutes and set aside.
- Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent, then add the tin tomatoes, mixed herbs, a pinch of salt, the four anchovies- finely chopped and the tomato puree. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime make up your cheese sauce mixing the flour and cold milk, heating the milk and adding the cheese.. When both the sauces are ready, layer a dish with tomato sauce, aubergine, cleavers and cheese sauce, then repeat until all used up finishing with a layer of cheese sauce on top.
- Pop in the oven at 180 degrees and bake until piping hot and bubbling, about 30 minutes.