Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea

by Paul Kirtley

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Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, flower

The flower of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, is a very common plant of wayside verges, hedgerows and open woodlands. Until it flowers, however, it is easily missed. Greater Stitchwort is a relative of Common Chickweed, Stellaria media, and like Chickweed, Greater Stitchwort is an easily-collected source of edible wild greens.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, wayside

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, is a very common plant of wayside verges and open woodland. This photo was taken in mid-April in East Sussex, UK, the plants growing on a bank beside a footpath. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Narrow and lance-shaped, with the character of fresh, green grass, the leaves of Greater Stitchwort are arranged in opposite pairs, with each pair at 90 degrees to the pair below. The stems and leaves have rough edges. Greater Stitchwort flowers April to June and the flowers are white and about 20-30mm across. At first glance they appear to have 10 petals. In fact they have 5 petals, each of which is deeply divided.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, lanceolate leaves,  flower buds

Here you can see the lanceolate leaves and flower buds of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The green shoots can be chopped into salads, steamed or quickly boiled. You can eat the flower buds and flowers and these can make an attractive addition to a wild salad.

 

Recommended Books for Further Reading:

   

 

Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Foraging for Early Spring Greens: Some to Eat, Some to Avoid…

Conopodium majus: Pignuts and How to Forage for them

Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga

Primrose, Primula vulgaris: Wild food?

Common Dog-violet, Viola riviniana

 

Disclaimer

This article is meant only as a guide and is largely a record of my recent forages. It is not a complete treatment of all edible plants that might be available. Nor does it provide a complete treatment of all poisonous plants that may also be present in the habitat where you find the above-mentioned plants. If you want to learn more about plant identification you should invest in some good field guides. The safest way to learn about edible wild plants is for someone who already has the knowledge to show you in person. Any foraging you do on your own is at your own risk.

The most important thing to remember when identifying wild foods is:

IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!

 

 

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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.

 

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

mark o f

hey paul,

i was out in the woods too, and thanks to your blog enjoyed a nice wild salad of violet, ramson, ladys smock, primrose and cress. i saw some greater stitchwort but didnt know this was edible so thanks a mill! must try it now next time. u mentioned somewhere d roots of lesser celandine are edible when cooked??? keep em coming!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Mark, good to hear you’ve been enjoying some edible wild plants 🙂 Try the Greater Stitchwort next time too. To eat the Lesser Celendine roots, you need to wait for the leaves to be turning yellow. You must make sure the roots are cooked through to eliminate the toxins. You can roast them in the ash under a fire…

All the best

Paul

Reply

Mark Hotson

Hi Paul,

Thanks Paul.This is a new one for me. As you say there is loads of it about at the moment.Does the name imply that the plant is useful for making finer cordage? I did pick some yesterday and the stem appeared to have some slightly ‘stringy’ properties…..

This ‘explosion’ of weather has really brought the countryside alive.Where we live Dandelions appear to be really prolific, they are really dominating the pastures.The Wild greens from Lime leaves to Rosebay shoots are at there very best, every patch of ground seems to hold a culinary delight.

I tried some ‘raw’ Spruce tips the other day, whilst out on ‘ a wander’. I seem to remember reading that they were edible.I had two or three , very pleasant but didn’t want to over do it. Any advice ?

Thanks
Mark

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Mark

If the stems are a bit stringy and chewy then just concentrate more on the shoot-tips which will be less chewy. I’m not aware of Stitchwort being used for cordage of any description. I have read (The Wild Flowers of the British Isles, by Garrard and Streeter – see the recommended books at the bottom of the article) that the name goes back to the 13th century and the plant was used to cure stitches and other sharp pains. I have not tried this or had its effectiveness corroborated by anyone else. Nor have I any idea what the mechanism of pain relief might be.

It’s funny that you mentioned Rosebay willow-herb shoots as I munched on some just the other day and they were delicious 🙂

As for Spruce shoots, they do taste pleasant and contain vitamin C, but I don’t know if there are any toxins that limit how many you should eat. I’ll see if I can find out for you.

Other parts of some spruces have been used for food: There are records of native peoples using the inner bark of the Sitka spruce for food for example. But it should be remembered there a various species of spruce, so what holds for one might not for another. Also, a search on the internet finds people making things like this – http://www.flickr.com/photos/luizazlatovic/4632852470/ – which I haven’t tried making yet but could be worth a try….

There’s always more to learn or try… 🙂

All the best

Paul

Reply

Andy Miller

Hi Paul,
Really interesting blog post as usual 🙂 I have Stitchwort growing in abundance near where I live, but I have never picked it. I certainly know what I am doing tomorrow!

Keep up the great posts,
Andy

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Andy, there is a lot of it around at the moment. Let us know if you managed to taste any and what you thought of it.

All the best

Paul

Reply

Alison Delaney

I’m really enjoying the updates on edible plants I really hope you’re able to continue posting about different wild foods during Summer and Autumn too 🙂
Anyway, I’ve never heard about stitchwort as a salad ingredient before – I’m pretty sure it’s not in The Forager Handbook (my plant bible). I know where some is growing so I’ll give it a go – cheers Paul.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Alison

Nice to hear from you. I’ll do my best to keep posting useful and interesting wild food articles. You’re knowledgeable on wild foods Alison so it’s good to hear you’re still finding my updates useful 🙂 I learnt about the edibility of various members of the Chickweed family while working with Gordon Hillman on Journeyman courses. It is mentioned in his wild food book, although a little obliquely, under Lesser Stitchwort, Stellaria graminea, which is also edible.

Let me know what you think of Greater Stitchwort in your salad!

All the best

Paul

Reply

Alison Delaney

Mate, it’s like eating grass!! Exactly like grass!! Easily collected though and darned pretty. It won’t be the last time I have a nibble on the ole stitchwort :0)

Reply

David Southey

Very glad of your guide being so readily accessible, even while out for a couple of nights, else I would have missed out on a very pleasant meal including the Stitchwort! Brilliant timing and very handy indeed. Many thanks.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Dave

Great to hear that this came out just at the right time. I’m sure you would have coped with just the two steaks though… 🙂

All the best

Paul

Reply

Mark Hotson

Thanks Paul,

I may just have a go at making a spruce tip ‘syrup’……

I have just made some more Beech Noyaux. A Beech leaf and Gin concotion , a real ‘nut liqueur’.I made a bottle last year and left the leaves to soak in the gin for 8 weeks. A Woodsman’s answer to “G&T”..

Learning about Spring Greens is fascinating..every year I try to add a few more to my “collection”.This year we seem to have been bombarded by a bumper crop.

Some of my favourite ‘snacks’ at this time of year include; Nettle soup , Crispy Nettles , Bannock with Ransoms Garlic flowering heads , Pennywort salad and as mentioned Rosebay Willowherb shoots….

Superb Blog,
Thanks
Mark

Reply

Alison Delaney

Hey Mark. The Beech Noyaux sounds REALLY interesting. Any chance of a recipe? I’m assuming it’s only made using young leaves? Wouldn’t mind giving it a go – it’s right up my street :0)
Thanks a million
Alison

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Mark and Alison,

This is really great. It’s nice to see you sharing ideas and recipes on here. It’s interesting for everyone.

Thanks for sharing and making it a community here…

all the best

Paul

Reply

Mark Hotson

Hi Alison,

My recipe is as follows, I say mine – I found it on the internet a couple of years ago ;

Pick spring fresh beech leaves, a bag full , put them in a large jar/bottle and cover with Gin.Leave in a dark cupboard for four weeks.
Strain off the unwanted leaves, leaving a browny green gin. Add approx’ a quarter pound of sugar or honey to every pint. Then consume

Presto..Beech Noyau(x), A Nutty Gin Liqueur.

I am sure that Wild Food Gurus like Mabey, Whittingstall, Hillman & Mears have their own recipes. Paul may even have his own ‘slant’ on it !

Thanks
Mark

Reply

Alison Delaney

Thanks ever so much, Mark. I make a lot of wine and beer with foraged ingredients so it’s nice to try something a little different this time. I’ll let you know how i find it 😉
Alison

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Mark

Well this recipe is a new one on me. I may well have to try this – it sounds remarkably easy to generate something that sounds delicious….

Thanks Mark!

All the best

Paul

Reply

Alison Delaney

Haha I think it’s amusing that it’s the alcohol related comment that has got us talking :)))
Clicking on comments box – let’s see if this thing works 😉

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Amusing but not massively surprising! 🙂

Alison – Let’s see if you get a notification for this…

Reply

Alison Delaney

Hi Mark
Just thought I’d share what I’ve just learnt. You may well know this already but, apparently, adding brown sugar prevents the liquid turning green. I bought the gin yesterday and am picking the beech leaves tomorrow. I’m going to make a few small batches – one with white sugar, one with brown and one with honey. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the flavours compare. All in the name of research you understand 😉
Ali

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Alison

Good tip regarding the sugar. I hope the research project is going well?….. 😉

Cheers!

Paul

Reply

Alison Delaney

Finished making the different Beech Noyau: one with white sugar, one with brown and one with honey. They look so different from each other (pics on twitter) I think the white sugar looks the most appealing, the brown sugar looks like cola and the honey quite cloudy.
Taste wise, they’re all fabulous. I really mean that too – it’s an excellent drink!! Depth of flavour with brown is rather nice; honey gives a pleasant smoothness; the white retains more of the beech flavour that I was hoping for.
Delighted with the results. Thanks Mark for the recipe :0)

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Alison

Thanks for the update. I hope you didn’t have too fuzzy a head as a result of all your ‘sampling’?

And, yes, thanks again to Mark for the recipe.

All the best

Paul

Reply

Mark Hotson

Hi Paul,

Very easy to generate and even easier to consume. A little tip, when you come to add the sugar dissolve it in a little warm water first….. also try to get the newest fresh Beech leaves.

I put some in my coffee this morning !!! A Coffee Noyau liqueur, very nice ! Then went off to Stourhead to look at those magnificent trees and nature at it’s best by the lake. A rare day off with Lucy and some friends.

On our ‘travels’, I came across Herb Bennet and wanted to taste the root?? I had read it tasted of Cloves and was good for seasoning…it does ! Excellent for putting with cooked apples, perhaps, as a clove substitute ???

Look forward to hearing your comments on the nutty beverage ! I may toast the ‘happy couple’ with some on friday evening !

Thanks

Mark

Reply

Rik White

Is this where I leave a comment to see if the system is working?
Now to figure out how to subscribe to it.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Rik, yes now you’ve left a comment and ticked the check-box beneath the comment form, you should receive an update following this reply!

All the best

Paul

Reply

wjlacey

went and got some of these earlier man, on the same day i read this, they tasted like salad ha ha what can i say, love the fact that yor sites heping broaden my experience!!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

🙂 It is salad!

Good to hear you are learning stuff!

Reply

Mark

Hi,

Look foward to hearing about the Noyaux ‘concotions’ over the next month or so. Thanks Alison.

Ta

Mark

Reply

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