Jul 10, 2014

Red Clover: Much More Than Just a Weed

By: Lawanda Jungwirth

         These are the things I knew about red clover before I began research for this column:

  • You can pluck the tiny tubular flowers from the flower head and suck on the inside end for a sweet surprise.
  • Red clover is one of four ingredients in Essiac tea, developed by a Canadian Ojibwa Indian nurse in 1922 to support the immune system. It is reputed to cure cancer. We gave it to our 10-year-old golden retriever who had cancer and it allowed her to live cancer-free for three more years.
  • Our current golden loves clover flowers and eats them like I wish I could eat candy.

 

         Now, I know much more about red clover. For one thing, it’s edible for people as well as dogs. For another thing, it’s good for you. Red clover is high in protein, beta carotene, most B vitamins, biotin, choline and bioflavonoids. Young leaves, harvested before the flowers fully bloom, can be eaten in salads or soups or cooked as greens and used like spinach. The seeds and dried flowers can be ground to flour. Seeds can be sprouted and used in salads or sandwiches or baked into bread. The flower heads can be used in lemonade or made into jam or syrup. The sweet flower heads and dried leaves can be used for tea alone or combined with other kinds of tea. The tiny florets can be pulled off the flower heads and baked into bread or pancakes.

         Red clover blooms from May through October and is found in fields and pastures, vacant lots, in grassy areas along woods and trails, and sometimes in your own backyard. Likes peas and beans, clover is a legume. Legumes have a unique ability to grab nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil. When the plants die, the nitrogen is available to fertilize other plants. Clover and other legumes are sometimes called “green manure.”

         Red clover was considered sacred by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Celts of pre-Christian Ireland. Early Christians linked red clover to the Trinity. Middle Agers believed clover would ward off evil spirits and witches.

         Clover is believed to bring prosperity, luck and health. While its powers for prosperity and luck may be imagined, its health benefits have been scientifically proven. The health benefits are too many to list here, but among them are anti-cancer properties, an aid to relieving menopause symptoms, relief of numerous skin and lung problems, and as a general feel-good tonic.

         There are many definitions of what constitutes a weed. No matter what your personal definition, you may have to move clover out of that category, since it has so many good qualities.

 

CAUTIONS:

  • Clover should not be ingested by pregnant or nursing women.
  • Some people may be allergic to clover and not know it. Go easy with it at first until you find out if you are one of them.
  • Make CERTAIN the clover you are using is ABSOLUTELY fresh or COMPLETELY dried, never in-between, never wilted or moldy. Moldy clover is how the blood thinner Coumadin was discovered – after it killed a whole bunch of cows.
  • Do not pick clover adjacent to roads or to fields treated with pesticides.

 

HOW TO DRY RED CLOVER BLOSSOMS:

Pick blossoms mid-morning after dew has dried. Choose fresh, newly opened flowers - do not pick withered or brown flowers. Remove leaves and stems and spread flowers on trays or a screen, leaving space between flowers. Place the tray or screen in an airy place, out of the sun. When completely dry, flower heads will be crisp. Store them in tightly closed jars away from light.

 

RED CLOVER LEMONADE

3 c. fresh red clover blossoms

4 c. water

2 – 4 T. honey

1 ¼ c. lemon juice

Bring water to a boil. Pour over clover blossoms in a teapot or jar. Allow to cool slightly and add honey to dissolve. When entirely cool, add lemon juice. Adjust the honey and lemon juice to your taste and chill in the refrigerator.

TIP: Freeze clover blossom in ice cubes and serve them in clover lemonade.

 

RED CLOVER HONEY JAM

2 c. fresh clover blossoms

1 c. honey or agave nectar

Gather blossoms early on a warm, dry day. Snip off stems and leaves. Place the clover in a jar and pour honey over them. Allow to stand for three days, stirring daily.

 

RED CLOVER TEA

Pour one cup of just-before-boiling water over two tablespoons of fresh or dried red clover flower heads. Let steep about five minutes; strain. Sweeten with honey or sugar to taste.

TRY THIS: Add two tablespoons of fresh peppermint or spearmint to the water for a different taste.

 

RED CLOVER SYRUP

4 c. fresh red clover blossoms

2 c. sugar or honey

1 ½ c. water

Crush blossoms gently. Combine all ingredients over low heat. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool, strain and bottle.

Use to soothe sore throats and coughs or to flavor tea.