Common name: Cleavers, goosegrass, sticky Willy, stick-a-back, catch weed, coachweed, scratch tongue, Lady’s bedstraw.
Botanical name: Galium aparine
Family: Rubiaceae (Coffee)
Worldwide distribution: Native to a wide region of Europe and north and western Asia. Naturalised in many countries around the world.
Local distribution: Common in the UK and Ireland.
Habitat: Hedgerows, roadsides, woodland and gardens.
Foraging season: Young leaves mid to late spring.
Goosegrass is that long hairy plant, well-known amongst children that are thrown on friends’ jumpers to get it stuck on each other’s back for a laugh. It has also been a long standing enemy of the allotment owner, as their ‘sticky’ seeds easily propagate and become a sprawling nuisance in beds and borders.
The tender young shoot tips have a mild flavour and can be used as a convenient vegetable to bulk up spring soups, stews and pies. Wilt them in butter and use in stir fries or omelettes. Use with nettles, sea beet and similar leaf vegetables.
It’s said the roasted seed produces a coffee substitute. It does make sense since goosegrass is in the coffee plant family.
Goosegrass is depurative, diuretic and astringent. Take 1 cup of tea made of fresh leaves three times a day to help tackle urinary problems and alleviate the pain of cystitis. It’s also a febrifuge that helps to bring down a high temperature and reduce fever.
Apply externally to ease ulcers and wounds or treat eczema and psoriasis. Just a word of caution: although not very common, there are some reported cases of contact dermatitis in sensitive people, which causes an unpleasant localized rash and inflammation of the skin when the irritant is activated by sunlight.