This Wild Plant’s Roasted Seed Will Amaze You

Butcher's Broom Coffee Recipe - Ruscus aculeatus

This weekend I wanted to make a coffee substitute, something that tasted ‘rich’. Something that I could ‘chew’ on.

My shop bought coffee-alternatives include the likes of Whole Earth Nocaf, Barleycup etc.

And when it comes to finding tasty “coffee” substitutes from the wild, I have always struggled with the more common substitutes such as dandelion or chicory.

Don’t get me wrong I really like them, but coffee isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when I sip on them.

No, I wanted something that actually had the deep rich smell of coffee, and that could, at a push, be a coffee analog.

Was there such a thing out there, beyond the human world, hiding in plain sight at this time of year? Some plant jiggling around trying to get me to notice it?

This year my attention has been caught by a prickly shrub called Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus). It’s ‘leaves’, actually they aren’t leaves but I don’t want to get all botanical on you, are tough and thick and tipped with a vicious spine.

Take an eye-glass or botanical loupe and have a look at its flowers. Talk about beauty hiding in what likely appears to most people as a drab, plain plant.

Chances are you have walked past Butcher’s Broom many times.

The bright red berries possibly attracting you, while your brain over rides any desire to stop and pay attention as it screams “Poisonous Plant”.

Butcher’s Broom is part of the Asparagus family (Asparagaceae), and the berries are indeed poisonous. If eaten they cause digestive problems and a condition known as hemolysis; the rupturing or destruction of red blood cells.

Yet within the fruit are two seeds. In Tunisia these seeds are first boiled, roasted, then ground and used as a coffee substitute.

It was this fact that intrigued me. And so I went and gathered a few of the berries to see if I could replicate what they do in Tunisia.

Butcher’s Broom Recipe : Ingredients

  • 200g butcher’s broom berries

Butcher’s Broom Recipe : Instructions

  1. First freeze the Butcher’s broom berries, then defrost and place the butcher’s broom berries in a pan of cold water and bring to a simmering boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain and gently mash the berries in a sieve, then pick out the Butcher’s Broom seeds. Rinse them and place on a baking tray covered with baking parchment.
  3. Roast at 200ºC in an oven for 20 minutes, checking regularly that they haven’t burned. You don’t want charcoal! The smell they emit while roasting is very reminiscent of coffee being roasted.
  4. Allow to cool, then either grind in a coffee grinder, pound in a mortar with a pestle, or blitz in a Nutri-bullet or some such device. The choice is yours. The seeds are hard and require a bit of work to grind.
  5. Place 2 -3 tablespoons of powder in a cafetière, and allow to brew for 15 minutes before drinking.

Makes: For every 200g of fruits, expect around 80g of seeds.

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About the Author

Robin is a forager and self-taught ethnobotanist. He specialises in wild edible plants and has been running foraging courses throughout the UK since 2008. He travels extensively documenting and recording the traditional and local uses of wild food plants in indigenous cultures.

Is that a wild plant? I don’t believe I know it. Maybe it’s not found wild in Ireland? I had a quick google and the root appears to have medicinal qualities. Interesting re seeds being a coffee substitute. I use mixture of dried Galium aparine seeds and roasted dandelion root….. but mostly I just drink coffee!
Kind regards
ps. I enjoy your book which I bought last year very much.


Around a year ago, I read that Butcher’s Broom was a potent anti-venom for snake bites, and that when consumed somewhat regularly, it hangs around in the body continuing to serve that purpose. The book also stated that it was popular for that purpose with mountain guides in certain areas.


Has anyone out there tried roasting the seeds from the the common “goose grass” weed (a member of the cleaver family)
Apparently it is related to the coffee plant and although milder, it does contain caffeine
Glenn & Rose
Christchurch (New Zealand)

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