ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Goosegrass (Galium aparine) Wild Edible Green & Coffee Substitute

Updated on July 12, 2012
Galium aparine leaves and stem showing the sticky, hooked hairs and small white flowers.
Galium aparine leaves and stem showing the sticky, hooked hairs and small white flowers. | Source

Galium aparine goes by a host of common names that vary from region to region and include goosegrass, cleavers, coachweed, catchweed, sweet woodruff, rennet herb, loveman, chicus, clabber-grass, cleaver’s herb, cleaves, barweed, hedgerif, hayriffe, cleverwort, eriffe, stickywilly, grip grass, clithers, hayruff, clites, goosebill, clives, scratweed, mutton chops, everlasting friendship, robin-run-in-the-grass, bedstraw, hedgeheriff and no doubt many others.

Contary to it’s most often used common name, goosegrass is not actually a grass (by definition a monocot belonging to the grass family Poaceae) at all, but a type of low-growing, annual, herbaceous dicot. In fact this common weed is actually in the Rubiaceae (other members include madder, coffee and gardenia) family.

Goosegrass is native to parts of North America, Europe and Asia although it has naturalised and become a weed over a much larger range and now has a near global distribution.

Many of the common names of goosegrass including the names stickywilly, grip grass and catchweed all hint that this weed is rather clingy. These names have been given to this plant due to the prickly, hooked hairs that cover the leaves, fruits and stems, causing them to attach to clothing much like Velcro. These hairs can also be rather sharp and along with the sap can cause dermatitis and skin abrasions.

Mean children in Scotland play a cruel game with this plant which involves convincing the victim to allow it to be placed on their tongue after which it is rapidly removed, causing the hooks to slice up the tongue and cause it to bleed. The sharp hooks can also cause cuts to the mouths of livestock that feed upon it and it can be problematic when it infests grazing pastures. It’s also quite a vigorous grower and can out-complete other less vigorous species.

Galium aparine is an easily plant to recognise due to its distinctive features. Aside from the aforementioned hairs the stems are square in cross-section, similar to the way members of the mint family Laminaceae are. The leaves also appear to form in whorls of six lanceolate leaflets, although these whorls are actually comprised two single leaves each with two leaf-like stipules on either side of them.

Goosegrass produces small flowers in clusters from early Spring to Summer that have four petals, are star-shaped and green or whitish in colour. The flowers are followed by hairy, lobed fruits which can contain one to three seeds each. The hooked hairs help the fruit attach to the hair of passing animals and this is how they are spread.

All parts of Galium aparine are edible and although the sharp hooks make it not very appealing raw, cooking softens them up so that they no longer cause cuts. The bitter taste of the leaves doesn’t make this the most appealing of wild greens available, although there are reports of it being eaten regularly in poorer parts of China. The youngest shoots are the least bitter. As its common name suggests, goosegrass is a favourite food of geese who don’t seem too phased by the hairs.

As far as nutrition goes, goosegrass is rich in vitamin C and niacin (vitamin B3) as well as a number of minerals including silica and calcium.

The seeds make a reasonable coffee substitute when dried for a week, then roasted in a hot oven for 5 minutes, ground and steeped in boiling water as you would for ground coffee beans. Similarly to coffee and not surprisingly due to them both being members of the family Rubiaceae, goosegrass coffee contains caffeine although at a much lower level than real coffee beans.

The leaves can also be dried and infused into a tea. Use 1 oz (28 grams) per pint (470mL) of boiling water. The number of medicinal uses attributed to the tea of this plant is almost as long as its list of common names and it is highly valued by many herbalists.

The tea of Galium aparine is a lymphatic tonic, helping many ailments involving the lymphatic system including swollen lymph glands and tonsillitis. It also has a detoxifying effect on the bloodstream and may help with arthritis and psoriasis. Drinking the tea is also said to be relaxing and sleep promoting, and it may even have some ability to help treat the symptoms of common colds. Galium aparine is also a diuretic and consuming it can increase urination which can help to expel kidney stones.

The tea when applied to the skin externally can also be used to help the complexion, treat certain skin disorders as well as cuts, scrapes and burns. A poultice (a mash of the leaves) can also be applied externally to problem areas in a similar fashion and is said to be effective in treating insect bites and stings.

There are also a myriad of non-medicinal uses for this plant. The dried leaves have been used to stuff mattresses, the ability of the leaves to stick together and form a consistent matt means that the pilling that occurs when mattresses are filled with feather stuffing is reduced.

The roots of Galium aparine have been used to make a permanent red dye which has been used to colour cheeses. The stems of the plants can be roughly woven into a sieve for straining milk as practiced by the ancient Greeks and still in use today in parts of Sweden. Finally the crushed leaves also have the ability to curdle milk and can be used as a vegetable rennet in the making of soft cheeses.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)