Monday, 28 May 2012

Eat your weeds 2: Wild Garlic Leaf and Cleavers

Continuing with my 'Season of Weeds' showcasing the hidden merits within weeds and wildflowers my attention was drawn to Cleavers this week.

You know them well, slinky little fellows that fan out where they emerge from the soil and clamber up neighbouring plants with velcroesque, hirsute bristles along the stems and leaves which radiate from the square stems and stick to your clothes when you brush past them.

Known under a variety of monikers from Goose grass, Catch weed, Grip Grass, Mutton Chops, Robin Run-In-The-Grass, Sticky-Willy and the rather lovely Scratweed!

They have a multitude of reputed health benefits and are a favourite springtime nibble for many wild animals and are apparently still used in some parts of Sweden traditionally to filter milk which in turn infuses with the plants medicinal properties. So what’s not to love about cleavers?

I wanted to try my hand at making fresh ravioli. I set about creating a simple dish with foraged Cleavers, Wild Garlic and one of my favourite cheeses from La Fromagerie which resulted in.......

Pea, Cleavers and Goats cheese Ravioli with a Wild Garlic leaf and Walnut Pesto.

The results are in and the general consensus was that.......

A- The Cleavers were a bit grass-like with an astringent clean green flavour.
B- My pasta was improving being only my 2nd attempt at homemade and needed extra seasoning.
C- That Wild garlic leaf pesto had a metallic taste and was no substitute for traditional pesto.

I am noticing a pattern as to why the majority of us do not eat these plants but I'm hanging in there with hope that I will discover the most delicious weed ever!


17 comments:

  1. Hello Paul:
    The wild garlic leaves are very much in evidence in markets throughout Budapest and are clearly very popular with the local Hungarians. We do not recall ever having seen them widely available in the UK. However, we have yet to discover what dishes they actually find themselves in, but your post has piqued our interest to find out more.

    On a recent visit we made to a castle in the Hungarian countryside acres of Wild Garlic was flowering. It made the most spectacularly pretty sight. The white and green looking so beautifully cool and stylish in the sun under an azure blue sky.

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  2. Dear Jane and Lance,
    They are not widely available in the UK as far as I know, our leaves were foraged. I have heard that they are a popular item at the moment in fine dining establishments.
    I agree there is a cool effect with the pure white flowers against the dark green foil. You describe this so wonderfully.

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  3. You are an adventursome sort in the kitchen aren't you. I've never heard of cleavers here in Canada but it's probably out there and I just didn't know what it was. I won't be cooking any up though. Enjoy the week.

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  4. Thank you for your continuing research on this very important topic for us gardeners! You are a trooper! I'm still not eating my weeds, Paul ;) Not yet. Was hoping the wild garlic leaf would be decent, but metallic sounds kinda yucky :(
    Ta-Ta-4-Now!
    Loi

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    1. In defense of the garlic leaves I didn't have a guide as to how many leaves to include and I think I may have used too many which resulted in the only slightly metallic taste. So don't rule it out just yet Loi.

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  5. I think your weed journey is so fascinating! Our dog is a weed eater, he eats dandelion leaves. Not heard of cleavers here before. Keep experimenting, where are you getting your ideas of what to try?

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  6. Hi Cindy, I have heard that dogs are very fond of dandelion leaves perhaps they eat them to aid digestion.
    This isn't a lifestyle its merely experimental and for fun so I keep my eyes out on my travels for whats growing where and double check that anything I cook with won't turn me into a frog or a newt, then I just weave them into regular meals so long as the flavours kind of go together.......in theory:) Paul

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  7. Please write a post: eat your snails and aphids ;-)
    Markus

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    1. Some years ago I did eat snails on several occasion in France in one of my favourite cafes doused in copius amounts of garlic butter but I don't think I wish to try them again. I did it just for the experience. I'll stick with the weird vegetation thanks Markus :) Paul

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  8. Hi Paul,

    I didn't know what you meant with 'Cleavers', but when I saw your photo I new.....Just got rid of a whole bunch of it in my garden today!! It's the sticky plant, you can't get off your hands...:-). I didn't realise it was edible. It sounds exciting using it for ravioli. Love to hear if it was any good?

    Enjoy your new week!

    Madelief x

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    1. Hi Madelief.
      The new shoots are the edible part before flowering commences. I know horses and rabbitts love to munch on cleavers too. It was passable as an interesting meal, certainly not gross but certainly not lip smackingly delicious either:)
      Paul

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  9. Hi Paul First of all... thank you for all your lovely visits and comments to Tassels. My topsy turvy life has left very little room to visit my favourite blogs, but I was determined to start with yours this morning!! I had such a lovely giggle at your word "velcroesque" ~ couldn't think of a better word for them!! Over here in my harden I often use the "wild lettuce" to add to salads or as garnish as I love the shape of their leaves and I am a little "leaf shaped absessive"! You are adventurous and I love that in the kitchen!! We have a local weed akin to spinach here called "marogo" which makes and excellent pesto with walnuts! Happy grazing and cooking!...LOL

    Veronica

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  10. Thanks Veronica. I do need a little practice on that pesto and the pasta I'll be tweaking that recipe again I think. Happy Grazing !- I love that :)

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  11. Dear Paul,
    that was a surprise to me, that cleaver can be eaten too, - though: why not? Looks appetizingly green. I knew that Sweden used it for milk - in the German name "Labkraut" you can see it - "Lab" is used for the production of cheese and yoghurt too.
    I own a beautiful book (in German) by Oskar Matti: "A Poet at the stove. Spring in the Kitchen" publisher Hallwag. Matti uses all 'weeds' and wild herbs he can find - creating Violet mousse, nettle-spinach with currant and pine nut, cold lemon-clover soup with tapioka, and, and, and .. and the drawing of Flavia Travaglini were the reason why I bought it. It would please you!

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    1. Dear Britta
      Thank you so much for this information. I find it very interesting that such an inconsequential plant has more merits that I had first thought.
      I find the recurring images of cheese and weeds creeping into my posts. You'll never guess whats coming up next:)
      Paul

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  12. Might have mis-spelled the name: Oskar Marti it is

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    1. Thank you so much Britta, this will aid me in my quest:)
      Your recommendation is well received and it is now winging it's way from Germany to the UK.:)

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