Spring Foraging for Garden Cocktails - Cleavers



If you are curious about foraging and creating Botanical Cocktails then Cleavers are something to investigate. Cleavers or sticky weed are abundant in hedgerows in the months of April and May. The fresh young shoots have  a very interesting taste and  can lend something new to the Garden Gin Cocktail repertoire.

You can spot them in the hedgerows amongst nettles.  They have straggling stems which grow along the ground and over other plants. They attach themselves with small hooked  hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves. The stems can reach up to 3' or longer and are angular or square shaped. The flowers  are heart shaped, white -greenish flowers which emerge from early spring to summer. To harvest for our purposes you only ned the top 6" or so of the abundant plant. Use scissors to cut the tops of the shoots and choose plants well away from roads and other contamination



Cleavers are actually health giving and very good for the skin. In Celtic folk lore it is said that drinking cleaver infusions will make you beautiful. 

There is some basis of truth in this as Cleavers improve the function of the Lymphatic system and are also rich in Vitamin C,  Calcium, Sodium, and Silica. There is a long history of  Cleavers being used in herbal medicine both for its diuretic and anti inflammatory properties.

Cleavers compliment flavours like nettles, basil mint, elderflower, ginger, honey citrus, strawberries, apply, pineapple, kiwi, melon an tomato.


If you have the time to experiment with Cleavers  for your Spring Cocktails then you may be well rewarded. You can try cleavers with cocktails based on white wine, gin and vodka or tequila and pisco. 

A few things to remember is that its best to pick only the new Spring shoots and drink Cleaver juice in moderation! The best way to start is to infuse  your chosen drink. Take a handful of fresh cleavers and place them in a jug with your chosen alcohol. Infuse  in the fridge for a few hours or overnight- this adds a cool, green herbal flavour. Don't steep for too long and take them out before serving. Cleavers steeped in soda water is lovely with a dash of gin and rosemary or with mint infused vodka. 



How to make Cleavers Juice

Carefully wash a handful of green shoots, add water and blend. Fine strain and serve right away. Drink in moderation and not when pregnant.  


This recipe for a Cleavers Gin Sour is borrowed from Difford's Guide to Cocktails - it has a deep green colour which adds a bit of a wow factor and the egg white foam makes it look appetising.


Welsh Sisters Gin

Cleavers juice

Honey syrup
Lime juice
Muddled mint
Egg white foam.
Garnish with Mint, cleavers and egg white foam.


Blend a handful of fresh cleavers  with a little water until smooth.  In a shaker add in juice, Gin, honey syrup, lime juice and a little mint. Shake with ice, Pour into whiskey  glass and garnish with egg white and mint and cleavers.



We have borrowed another springtime recipe for Cleavers and Gin from a beautiful book by Liz Knight  called FORAGE. Full of recipes and tips for foraging this recipe uses Rhubarb for a Rhubarb and Cleaver Spring Gin  Reviver.



1kg rhubarb
300 g sugar
10 Juniper berries
100 g Cleavers
Thumb sized piece of ginger

1 Place the rhubarb in a wide pan, cover with 750 ml water and set over a medium heat. Simmer until its pulpy and has given it's colour up to the water.

2 Strain the rhubarb and pour the liquid through a muslin cloth into a measuring jug, topping up the liquid with water until it measures 500 ml . Pour into a pan, add the sugar, and heat until the sugar has dissolved into a clear syrup, turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool before pouring into a jug with the juniper berries, cleavers, and ginger. Infuse overnight, then strain out the cleavers and the ginger and the juniper and heat the liquid to boiling point before pouring into sterilized bottles. The mixture can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

3 Serve diluted with sparkling water or tonic and a splash of gin! We have used Morwyn Gin in this experiment and we found it delicious.

I am writing this blog  in April and the  Cleaver shoots are very young and fresh - and its quite possible that this spring time harvest will become a yearly ritual- so that by the  time July comes the Cleaver promise of gleaming eyes and skin will come true.