Everyone has a name for this plant that they cling to as tenaciously as the plant itself clings to woolly jumpers, usually the one they learned in childhood. To me it will always be Sticky Willy, a name for it Scotland but apparently also elsewhere. Others call it Goosegrass or Cleavers, and no doubt some other names, too.
Knowing it previously only for its virtues as a tool of practical jokes, and knowing that it’s covered in velcro-like hooks and that it has a very stringy feel, I’d never considered it as forageable until recently.
A couple of years ago someone told me of having squeezed and squeezed it for 10 minutes until it eventually released great quantities of liquid like a fire-fighting aeroplane opening its tanks. If it does release that much fluid, it makes me think that it might be worth experimenting with fermented Sticky Willy – one for the future.
I’ve also, just once, had a go at cooking it as veg – I can’t remember what method of cooking I used now. It was just alright, edible and not offensive, but it was still a bit stringy. I didn’t pay it a great deal of respect in the preparation of it though, so I am not blaming Willy. Not yet.
More recently I’ve started chancing upon it in foraging guides. Andy Hamilton, among others, suggests making a tonic of it (a non-alcoholic one, out of his comfort zone). I’m not particularly excited by the idea of tonics, but something is gnawing at me, urging me to find a good use for this plant. So here is Andy’s recipe manifest. It’s so simple. A couple of handfuls dumped in a jug, covered in cold water, left for 24 hours, then strained into a bottle, kept in the fridge and then drunk. A few glasses a day allegedly is good for the skin, or for signs of ageing at least, I don’t know that that’s exactly the same thing, really.
So, it’s been chilling for a couple of hours now. I can’t say that I’m relishing this prospect, but I’m now going to go and have a slurp of it. Look at the pictures while you await the verdict.
And that was… actually quite nice. Very refreshing. Distinctly grassy, a slight lemony tang, and a lingering aftertaste that is not unwelcome. It would be improved by a splash of vodka, but that might undo the alleged health benefits (though increase the well-being effect). I’ve had more fun in sticking it to unsuspecting friends’ clothes, but fun is not the goal here, so I’m going to recommend it as a tonic, too.
Actually, I did kind of have fun making this, I admit it.