An underappreciated little plant that spends its life dodging lawnmowers and being choked by lethal herbicides. It adores mingling with long grass and triggers many a childhood memory of lazy summer days and highly frustrating four-leafed clover hunts. A few surprising facts: the clover plant is a member of the pea family and pollinators are rather addicted to the blossom, making it the most common nectar producing honey plant. This common weed is also one of the most important pasture legumes, adding nutrients to the soil and fibrous material that helps promote soil and it’s nutritious forage for all livestock.
The clover plant also offers us humans a few nifty benefits. It has been used as a herbal remedy as far back as we can remember, often in the disguise of tea. There are three types of clover plant – red clover, purple clover and white clover. The red clover is the most popular amongst herbal health-related properties, and although the white clover offers very few herbal benefits, it still has a good dose of vitamins and minerals.
On the plate… flowers can be added to salads, fried up, roasted and ground into flour. Small amounts of the young leaves can be sautéed and thrown into a number of dishes. However, do this at your own risk as they do require a special breed of taste buds.
Seasonal period: May to September
Where to find them: Garden paths, lawns, fields and wild meadows
How to recognise: The clover has three leaves, four if luck is on your side or you’re a leprechaun. They are oval shaped and often each leaf has a white V on it. The distinctive spiky flower has upward-facing petals, and the flower is small, pea-shaped flowers are borne in dense globular clusters at the top of slender upright stalks. The white clover flower usually has a pinky tinge and the red clover flower doesn’t look red at all. It’s pink or even purplish.
What to eat: Edible from root to blossom
Cleaning and storing: Gently shake each flower heads to get rid of insects. Give the leaves a good rinse.Use them immediately for the fullest flavour or dry them by laying them out of the sun for a day.
Cooking: The flowers are the foragers main delight. Just make sure you harvest them before they turn brown. They can be added to raw to salads (broken apart and middles discarded), fried up and sautéed down. They can also be dried and turned into a delicious, mellow tea and ground into flour and turned into vanilla-like flavoured baked goods. The young leaves can eaten raw in salads and the roots should only be cooked before eaten.
Medicinal uses: Infusions have been used medicinally for centuries, especially for respiratory complaints. Both white and red clover are regarded as blood purifiers. Clover is a traditional herb used in the treatment of cancer and it has been used to help women during PMT and menopause.
Know hazards: As with all wild food, go easy at first and make sure you are not allergic to it. ALWAYS eat in moderation. Do NOT eat this plant if you are, or may possibly, be pregnant.
Responsible foraging: Unless you are 100% sure of what it is and 100% sure that it is edible, DON’T EAT IT! Harvest only what you need from large, healthy patches. Consider pesticides, herbicides, pollutions and dog pee. Think about all that could, might and will have drifted onto your plants and pick wisely.