Cleavers (Galium aparine) is best known as that weed you can stick onto your clothes – but it has a history of herbal use as a purifying tonic. Added to homemade lemonade it makes a refreshing and astringent drink.
Cleavers stems and leaves from your garden – two or three cups (gently pushed down)
Lemonade fruit or lemons – 3 big ones or 4-6 smaller ones
1/2 cup of sugar
A juicer, or a blender and a square of muslin
A 1-litre measuring cup
Make the cleavers juice:
It's probably easiest to harvest cleavers with scissors, snipping off the smallest, choicest looking lengths.
Wash the cleavers well, and make sure no bits of other plants have snuck in.
Put cleavers through your juicer, or if you don’t have one, into the blender. Whizz it up and then strain and squeeze through muslin.
This should make at least a quarter of a cup of juice. If you have more than that, you can freeze it for future use.
Note: When you juice it or blend it, you may need to add a couple of tablespoonfuls of water to make it process properly.
Make the lemonade:
Peel the lemons (or lemon fruit).
Put the peel into a pot and add half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water.
Turn on the heat under the pot and bring almost to the boil, stirring sometimes to make sure the sugar all dissolves. Leave to cool.
Squeeze the peeled lemons into the 1-litre jug.
Add a quarter of a cup of the cleavers juice to the jug.
Strain the cooled sugar/water/lemon peel mix into the jug.
Top the jug up to the one litre mark with cold water.
Chill (and decant if you like). Shake or stir before serving.
Variations to try
Add more or less sugar according to taste.
Use honey instead of some or all of the sugar.
Use chickweed (Stellaria media) instead of some or all of the cleavers.
Top up with tonic water instead of ordinary water.
Traditionally, cleavers has been used for a number of purposes, but especially for cleansing the lymphatic system. It’s a diuretic, so you might not want to drink TOO much at one time.
See the Plants for a Future entry on cleavers.
(It has other names as well as cleavers - they call it goosegrass.)
See my blog entry about Cleavers Lemonade.
Also - my gallery of local wild plants