Saturday, April 2, 2016

Foraged Chimichurri from Cleavers Weeds

So cleavers season is sort of winding down in Texas, just at the time it would be gearing up in the North. It took me by surprise, how early the foraging season is down here, and while I cooked a ton, I really didn't get to try everything I wanted with early spring greens.

So it looks like green slime, but it tastes good, I promise!
It's a shame too, because I found an incredible abundance of cleavers here, way more and much healthier, tastier looking plants, than I found in New Jersey. They reminded me of the patches I would find up in the farmlands around the Finger Lakes in New York.

If you read my earlier post about how to identify cleavers, then you know they must be boiled first, and I strongly advocate using a food processor for any preparation. That is especially true when the weeds are old, and extra stringy, as they are now. Some of these plants I harvested had leaf whorl nearly 4 inches in diameter--twice the size of when I consider them an "ideal" harvest.

My go-to wildcrafted preparation for cleavers is a grassy-herbal pesto, but when the plants are older like this, they loose some of their pleasant young-grass flavor, and take on an almost straw-like note. Tasty in it's own way, but you have to work around it. So I wanted to try something stronger, more heavily seasoned, and with steaks on sale, a chimichurri seemed the perfect way to go.

This is the best size to harvest cleavers, the ones I picked were twice as wide and a darker green.

Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce made with fresh parsley (sometimes cilantro too), vinegar, olive oil, spicy peppers, oregano and lots and lots and lots of garlic. So of course my dish was a bit non-traditional. I had to boil the cleavers, and I omit the oregano, as I think cleaver have a bit of an oregano flavor already, and I used a Serrano pepper instead of the traditional jalapeƱo. (It's what I had on-hand).

I only used one Serrano, so it wasn't super-hot. I DID use all that garlic though!
Chimichurri is primarily served over steak, but it's good on poultry, fish and veggies too. You could try mixing it into humus, or use it as a spread on sandwiches, for a pungent, spicy kick. Just watch yourself around friends after, it gives you some strong breath!

One final note of caution: take some time and make sure that cleavers are all you gathered. I have been doing this for years, and still I always get some other plants mixed in with my cleavers, and I catch it in the kitchen. Mostly it's just grass, but you never know. Cleavers adhere to other plants readily, and you can gather them without knowing.

Why let steak have all the fun? Chimichurri goes great on veggies, sandwiches, fish, poultry, and as a dip or marinade

Cleavers Chimichurri

Makes about 2 cups of sauce 

When boiling cleavers, use a lot of water for
your plants to move around in.

3 packed cups of cleavers
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 Serrano or jalapeno pepper,
seeds and mid-ribs removed
5 tbs. red vinegar
4 tbs. olive oil
1 tps. ground cumin
1 tbs. sea salt or kosher salt, more or less to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Bring 1-2 large pots of water to a boil. See my note on the image above. I worked in 2 batches, to make sure all the leaves got exposed to the boiling water. 
  2. Begin by cutting your cleavers into portions about 4" long, separating as you go. Take some time and make sure you haven't gathered any other, possibly toxic, plants in with your sticky cleavers. 
  3. When your water is boiling, add the cleavers, making sure they have a lot of room to move around. Boil for a solid 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Make sure everything gets exposed to the boiling water.
  4. Drain the cleavers. If you want, save the liquid and reduce. It makes a mild herbal tea or vegetable broth with kidney, liver and lymphatic supportive qualities.
  5. Roughly chop all the remaining solid ingredients. Add everything, including oil and vinegar, to the food processor, and puree. Taste and season as needed. 
  6. Allow to come to room temperature and serve with meat, fish or veggies. Chimichurri will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. 



  1. Looks delicious... Those are known as "sticky willy's" in Scotland

    1. I'm glad you like it!

      "Sticky willy's" generally sounds a little more vulgar over here :D