Introduction: Red clover is grazed upon by many animals, both wild and domesticated. Humans also carry a sweet spot in our hearts for this lucky three leaf plant. Clovers are the leading flower of honey production and many of us have nibbled on the blossoms to satisfy a sweet tooth. This is such a sweet plant.
ID: Purple to magenta colored flower heads consisting of many tiny tube shaped florets. Leaves are grouped in 3s and are oval to ovate with a light green chevron pointing towards the flower head. Stem is coated in a light fuzz. Red clover can form in sprawling colonies or grow up to 16 inches tall.
Habitat: Found in open sunny areas such as lawns, weedy meadows, and fields.
Season: Late spring through early summer.
Parts used: Flower heads and leaves.
Nutritional: Red clover is a very nutrient dense plant. It is bountiful in vitamins A, E, C, B-2, and B-3. It’s wide diversity of minerals includes calcium, chromium, cobalt, lecithin, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and silicium and zinc. It is also high in antioxidants, especially isoflavones. It even contains some protein.
Medicinal: As an alterative, red clover cleanses the blood and increases blood flow to tissues. Some people use red clover flower tea as a mild sedative, to detoxify the blood stream, as an anticoagulant, and a spasmodic. It can be used for respiratory problems such as colds and asthma. Externally it is applied to eczema, skin sores, and skin cancers. Many women find it helpful in relieving symptoms of menopause from hot flashes to depression.
Studies have found that a proprietary extract of red clover isoflavones may slow bone loss and even boost bone mineral density in women, young and old. Preliminary research has shown that red clover stops and even kills test tube cancer cells.
Utilitarian: This legume restores nitrogen back into the soil.
Diet Inclusion Ideas: Red clover blossoms and upper leaves can be added to salads. They’re known to cause bloating if eaten in large quantities, but this can be avoided by soaking in salt water for several hours, or by boiling for 10 minutes.
Red clover makes a wonderful tea using both blossoms and leaves. If you wish to sweeten any tea, yet you’ve run out of honey, pick some of the blossoms and toss them in to do the trick.
The outer blossom florets can be dried and pounded into a nutritional flour. The core of the blossom is tough, so strip the outer florets to make it easier to work with.
When drying, your clover florets will be done with they take on a purplish hue. If they turn brown, they’ve been too dried out.
Cautions: Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women. Can cause bloating if too much is consumed.
Look alikes: Crimson clover. White clover. Wood Sorel All are safe to eat.
Folklore and Symbolism: In the middle ages, clover was carried because of the belief that it would keep evil spirits and witches at bay. The three leaves symbolize the trinity in christianity.
· Maine Primitive Skills School is not responsible for any maladies or injuries that may happen. Please forage responsibly!
· Take the time to do your research. Check and compare from at least two different field guides. Check with an expert before interacting with an unknown plant or fungi. Either a botanist or an experienced forager. Make certain you are 100% sure of the identification before picking.
· Before preparing a food or medicine make it a habit to check all plant material before using. Sometimes a leaf from a toxic plant may have accidentally ended up in the pickings. This happens to even experienced foragers.
· Do not mix an unknown plant or fungus in the same baskets or bags with the material you plan on consuming. Any potential toxins could be rubbed onto your known plants.
· Check the area you plan on foraging at for hazards. Be sure no pesticides were used. Make sure that there are no run off pollutants upstream such as motor oil, or livestock farms. Harvest at least 30 feet away from busy roads to avoid car exhaust contaminating the plants.
· Herbal remedies have this stigma of being completely safe to use. It is all situational. It depends on the person, medications that may interact with it, allergies, part of the plant, possible misidentifications.
· There are many constitutes and chemicals in plants and sometimes they might not agree with some individuals physiology. Everyone is different and will react to plants and fungi in differing ways and levels. Some flora can be detrimental to pregnant individuals and the fetus. Some plants will have an abnormal reaction in the body if an individual is on any medications. Example, feverfew will interact with blood thinning medications. Some humans may be allergic to certain plants. And some plants may exasperate an already underlying problem, such as burdock root naturally lowers blood sugar, so those with hypoglycemia are advised against using it.
· Due to all of the above, be cautious when trying a verified safe plant for the first time. Try only a tiny part and wait for 72 hours to make sure you have no adverse reactions. Do not try more than one new plant at a time to prevent confusion just in case you have a reaction.
· Be mindful in regards to dosage, and follow safe dosage recommendations.
· When out in the field, take proper care of yourself. Hydrate with potable water, wear proper footwear and clothing appropriate for fluctuating temperatures, and check thoroughly for ticks.
Foraging is a rewarding activity with healthy benefits. But like everything in life, there are potential hazards. Please forage responsibly.
Article by Terra