Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Friday, 22 April 2011

Goosegrass


Goosegrass may be a common weed, but it's the first time its shown up on my plot and it's making up for lost time. Here it is trying to consume one of my larger compost bins. I'm always amazed at how much of the stuff can be traced back to one tiny stem in the soil. Thankfully it's doing a good job of suppressing most of the other weeds around it and is relatively easy to clear.

It's well known for it's velcro-like properties as the leaves and stems are full of tiny teeth-like hooks which stick to anything they touch. No wonder one of its other common names is sticky weed. When my niece comes to visit, she loves to find pieces of it to cling on the backs of our clothes. She then goes around giggling a lot until we twig what's happening and tear it off in disgust. This makes her giggle even more!

Other names for Galium aparine include cleavers, catchweed, everlasting friendship, grip grass, loveman, sweethearts, clivers, stickywilly, stickyjack, stickyleaf, robin-run-the-hedge and coachweed. Its seed is rather tenacious too and adapted to cling to e.g. fur to aid its dispersal. I often find one or two of them in my daily porridge as it's a common weed of arable fields and difficult to separate out for grain storage or during food packaging.

I'm beginning to have a rethink about weeds, especially as I seem to manage to get them to crop quite well up at the plot. Our ancestors thought much more broadly about what the land has to offer and made a much wider use of the plants they found. As goosegrass is such a rough textured plant, I thought it wouldn't be that useful, but I'm surprised to learn the seeds can be dried and roasted as a perfectly acceptable coffee substitute (it's related to Coffea arabica, the Arabian coffee tree, though lacks the caffeine of its cousin) and the plant can be used to make a tea if gathered just before flowering. The stalk has been used to strain milk and the plant also has quite a few herbal uses.

I've even found some recipes for a spicy chicken dish, plus a version of kedgeree. The link recommends that only the leaves are used as the stalks 'are like chewing on a doormat'. The Wiggly Wigglers blog extols the virtues of  Goosegrass Soup, though to be fair plenty of other weeds, plus lots of herbs are included in the recipe.

I nibbled on a leaf the last time I was up at the plot just to see what it was like. It was fairly bland in taste, but had a very different sensation to most foods I've tried. I managed to drag the leaf over my bottom lip and it felt very similar to a cat licking you if you've ever experienced their rasp-like tongue. Like nettles, this is definitely a foodstuff which requires some cooking ;)

Have you found a 'new' weed on your plot this year, or are you just battling with the usual suspects? Tell all in the comments below...

15 comments:

  1. I'm not so sure about eating Goosegrass but this year the wonderful Wild Garlic has somehow managed to come into the 'quiet' corners of our garden. Fantastic stuff as you can literally eat the whole plant, bulb as well. Lovely chopped into an omelette.

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  2. wartimegardening - welcome! We have lots of wild garlic in the woods around here but it hasn't invaded our garden yet. I love using the leaves, but as it's truly wild, I have to leave the bulbs well alone.

    Top tips from the lovely @Alysfowler: I love the young tips before it flowers cooked in butter with nutmeg grated on top. Also use it to balance more bitter greens

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  3. goosegrass sounds so interesting. so many weeds seem to have uses that most people don't realise. nasturtiums have taken over my front garden and i spent a while trying to keep them under control before i learned that they're edible, petals and all! :)

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  4. we have copious amounts of wild onions about, plus dandelions. the last place i lived specialized in rosa rugosa..what i called 'wild rose'. suckers everywhere, but sent them out a long ways before a plant would surface as they need something to grow upon.

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  5. wow! who knew all that about that pesky sticky weed? great info VP! we get it all over here too, and finding those seeds in my boot laces before I get home is a must!

    right now the nettles are going strong and I just learned the other day that the weed 'dock' which can be found growing near nettles will take the sting out if you rub dock juices on your stinging skin.

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  6. What an interesting post, learned lots - I will be more careful when I find it next time. I'm harvesting nettles just now, for tea, and they make a great soup, strong flavour with a swirl of creme fraiche. Also combine really well with Good King Henry, tomato and cheese for making pasties - eaten for supper they give power and big energy the next day for more weeding!

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  7. Hello, tnx for ur nice blog, it is very useful for me :)

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  8. If even weeds won't grow I'd seriously worry about the soil! I'm relieved to say there are plenty of weeds appearing on my new allotment - busy day for me tomorrow!

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  9. Wot is a weed?
    Apart from all the usual suspects, including stickywilly (thanks for such informative post by the way) I leave lots of things with the vague idea of rounding them up into sizeable drifts. The benefit of gardening in an old garden is that things long lost are continuously coming to the surface and I have 2 seedlings at the moment that I am very curious and indeed hopeful about.

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  10. I have discovered that my chickens love dandelions, which is useful! This year I've also used dandelion leaves in a mixed salad for the first time - just the young more tender leaves, and they have been very nice.
    A bit of advice on the goosegrass - do NOT let it go to seed, or you will regret it next year!

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  11. As a first-timer on the allotments I am discovering all sorts of new and vigorous annual weeds to complement the couch grass and very abundant dandelions. I rather like the taste of bittercress, though I'd prefer to have wild garlic - I picked some the other day on a walk in a local wood, delicious. One weed I find it hard to get rid of is the poppy - abundant. I rather like the idea of my plot being filled with them! Though not at the expense of the veges...

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  12. Cathy x. - hello! Nasturtiums have taken over one part of my plot. We enjoy them in salads and I pickle the seeds as a capers substitute :)

    Petoskystone - we have Rosa rugosa here on the estate. It's a common constituent of our hedgerows, so it got planted by the builders to blend in with the old hedgerows they retained as part of the estate's open space plans

    Joan - dock's soothing properties are one of my earliest plant memories. Handy how some always seem to grow where nettles lurk :)

    Jennifer - I like the sound of your pasties! I have self seeded Good King Henry on my plot, so will have a go at making some

    Arash - you're welcome

    CorshamJim - great to see another local commentor :) I've noticed some of the weeds are dying up at the plot - chickweed and Ajuga are really struggling. Busy times for me up at the plot too - lots of clearing and planting left to do...

    Robert - we could have quite a debate on whether weeds are really weeds!

    Lu - I fear it will be a constant battle as there's quite a reservoir of the stuff by the hedgerow bordering our site

    Janet - I've been tasting bittercress too - more on this another time

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  13. Wrestling with goosegrass both at home and the allotment. Quite a character though and I enjoyed your post. Will be checking my porridge more carefully in the future. I like one of its other names ~ Claggy Meggies ~ most apt :)

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  14. Ah, we have goosegrass too. It clusters around the less cultivated patches in our garden - its saving grace that it does pull out very cleanly roots and all, but I don't like the feel of its grasp on my skin so I try and wear gloves when I remember... Amazing to know that it has some culinary value too, though I suspect we won't test it ;-)

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  15. Anna - ooh another name for goosegrass - thanks!

    hillwards - I don't think we'll be eating it either ;)

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