Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a common lawn weed. It tends to grow in shady, moist corners and is most well-known for it's ability to cling to clothing and hair. Children like to play with it---throwing it at one another in hopes it will stick or making it into garlands to wear as crowns, as I did when I was a little girl. Cleavers is one of the early spring herbs which were traditionally used as spring tonics. It is considered by many herbalists to be a superb herb for toning and nourishing the lymphatic system, as well as being a mild diuretic. It is high in vitamin C which may be one reason it was valued as a spring tonic herb, in addition to its lymph cleansing properties. The young greens may be cooked and eaten but my favorite way to enjoy the benefits of cleavers is paired with pineapple juice. I want to give credit to the herbalist I first heard mention pineapple juice and cleavers together but unfortunately, I can't remember who it was. I think it was either Susun Weed or Robin Rose Bennett. Whoever came up with this combination was brilliant because the sweet pineapple mixes with the green energy of cleavers to create a surprisingly delicious drink. I like to drink it early in the day rather than near bedtime when the pleasant rush and burst of energy it brings would not be as much appreciated.
Approximately 4 loosely packed cups young cleavers stems and leaves, washed
4-5 cups pineapple juice
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, optional
Loosely fill the blender with cleavers. Add mint leaves and pour pineapple juice over the whole. (Leave a space at the top of your blender to avoid overflow. Run the blender until the mixture is soupy. Cleavers should not be juiced in a juicer because the sticky leaves and stems will clog it. (Please don't ask how I know this!) Place cheesecloth or other fine cotton fabric (such as a clean handkerchief) in a mesh strainer and strain the mixture. It will take some time for all the liquid to drip through. Gather the corners of the cloth and squeeze all the juice out if it as best you can. (If your blender whips in a lot of air, the foam can make this somewhat difficult.) Compost the plant material and retain the liquid. Serve chilled. Makes 4-5 servings. This would probably be delicious with freshly squeezed apple juice substituted for half, or even all, the pineapple juice.
Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) seeds are said to be second only to amaranth seeds in nutritional value among wild foods. The small black seeds are reminiscent of poppy seeds and that is what inspired me to create this recipe. You can substitute poppy seeds but the nutritional value will be lower (not to mention they will lose the cool wildcrafting factor!)
1 1/2 cups flour (I use almond flour or half brown rice, half oat flour.)
pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lambsquarters seeds
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Hand form cookies into small flattened balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake about 6-10 minutes. The cooking time will depend a lot on your oven so keep a close eye on them the first time. Delicious warm or cold! Makes approximately 1 dozen.
Note: The lovely mug in the photo was made by my favorite clay artist, Tracy Shea of SheaClay Pottery. She's having a huge sale so now is a great time to hop over to her Etsy store and snag a gorgeous piece of pottery!