The fields are brown, our boots are muddy, trees are bare and the sky is grey. It’s the time of year when hibernation is a clever idea, but if you are made of sturdy stuff & able to pick with numb fingers, there are treasures to be found right now. Low growing shoots & winter greens that’ll add well earned flavours to winter stodge…Right now the weedy apple of my eye is a truly delicious herb that I’m sure you all know, it’s just you probably don’t love it in the way I do..yet. Let me introduce you to the very clever Cleaver…
You might know this herb (it’s not a weed I promise) as sticky weed or goosegrass, gardeners amongst you will probably of battled with it’s leggy stems in the middle of the summer, jumpers covered in its sticky burrs as a long lasting memory of your encounter.. You might not have a very positive view of this plant, but bear with me, it’s one you should get to know right about now…. Cleavers have been used for centuries in herbal medicine, they make an incredible tonic, are thought to help push toxins out of the body & and are proven to support our lymphatic system – the glands which are all over our body & are key to healthy immune systems. Just as importantly maybe, they are natures very own brand of botox…try rinsing your face for a couple of weeks with Cleaver infused water & you’ll never buy an anti aging cream again….Cleavers have a unique taste, I describe them as being like new growth in spring – if you’ve ever stood outside on a spring morning & breathed in the smell in the air you’ll know the taste – it’s earthy, herby & full of life. And at this time of year we all could do with Cleavers in our diet, in the depths of the ‘run down’ fluey, broke after Christmas season the little weeds growing in our back gardens are natures free super food, and super they really are.
When you gather cleavers at this time of year, the stems are tender enough to eat – they are about 10cm long right now, easily identified with their slightly hairy appearance and whorls of sets of narrow leaves that grow up the stems. If you were pulling up metres of Cleavers last year from your garden, go to where they were growing & you’ll probably find the young shoots waiting to be gathered..
This recipe is for a simple, delicious and nourishing salad & bound to win your heart…
Wilted carrot, Cleaver & Ras el Hanout Salad
Gather a fat posy of cleavers, wash and dry them well.
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
tbsp ras el Hanout (I make Rose el Hanout which you can buy online but any good Ras will be fine)
Light olive oil or hazelnut oil
Lemon juice or a good apple cider vinegar
heat a glug of oil in a wide pan, add the carrots and cleavers with a splash of water and the Ras el Hanout and stir the vegetables for a few minutes until the cleavers start to wilt slightly and carrots sweeten.
Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of cider vinegar to give a subtle zing, season with a sprinkle of salt and leave to cool to room temperate.
Serve with flat breads, and curd cheese or chicken thighs with apricots & almonds – loverly.