Clover is a hardy perennial that has escaped cultivation and grows wild along roadsides and in fields, pastures and gardens across North America. The tough little plant gets short shrift these days, and many gardeners consider it nothing but a weedy nuisance that pops up where it isn’t wanted — like in beautifully manicured lawns.
But if you’re tempted to pull (or worse yet – spray) this plant, consider that every part of clover is edible.
Native Americans ate clover raw, or steamed large quantities of fresh, moist leaves between two hot stones. The roots, when dried, were dipped in meat drippings or oil. The dried seed pods and flowers were ground into powder and sprinkled on food or used to make bread.
There are several dozen species of clover with charming names like sweet kitty clover, meadow honeysuckle clove, peavine clover and cowgrass clover. But white clover (Trifolium repens) and red clover (Trifolium pratense) are most familiar. Both are edible and packed with beta-carotene, protein and a variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Clover is easily recognized by its sweetly scented little blooms and three-lobed leaves. Although clover is sometimes confused with wood sorrel, it’s quite easy to tell which is which. Clover leaves are oval in shape, while wood sorrel leaves look like little hearts. Additionally, clover leaves are marked on top with distinctive, whitish-crescent shapes, and if you look closely at a clover leaf, you’ll notice that the edges are slightly serrated.
Red clover, which is believed to be slightly more nutritious than white clover, is a robust plant that can reach a height of 24 inches. It has a taproot. White clover is a smaller plant that spreads by rhizomes.
Adventures With Clover
There are no particular tricks when it comes to integrating clover into your diet. The key is to keep it simple. For example, eat the blooms and leaves raw or dip them in a little salty water. You also can toss a few leaves or blooms into salads, soup or stir fries. Many people claim that clover (a member of the pea family) is more flavorful and easier to digest after it’s been boiled for five or 10 minutes, but you may have your own ideas. If you’re looking for a nudge to get you started with edible clover, here are a few easy ideas:
Clover tea is nutritious, comforting and is believed to be a blood purifier that helps the body eliminate waste materials. Gather flowers when they’re in full bloom, then dry them in a warm, airy spot away from direct sunlight. When the blooms are brittle, chop them loosely and store them in sealed glass containers. Place a teaspoon or two of dried blooms in a cup and add boiling water. Let the tea steep for a few minutes and strain out the blooms. If the flavor is a bit too “green” for your liking, stir in a drop of peppermint or spearmint oil or stir the tea with a cinnamon stick.
Arrange a handful of clover greens on a grilled cheese or turkey sandwich along with sliced tomatoes, lettuce or accoutrements of your choice. The younger the greens, the less bitter they will be.
Stir washed clover blossoms into fritter batter, and then deep fat fry until crispy.
Sprinkle the tender leaves and blooms on green salads, or as a garnish to add flavor and color to your favorite meat or fish.
Saute clover leaves and blooms in olive oil, and then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Mix a small amount of clover blossoms into cake mix or other baked goods. The blooms are reported to add a slightly vanilla-like flavor.
Be adventurous with clover. The culinary possibilities of this tasty little plant are nearly endless.
Have you eaten clover? What advice would you add? Share your clover tips in the section below: