Is Clover Edible?
The White Clover Trifolium Repens and Red Clover Trifolium Pratense are tenacious plants that can grow in all climates.
It’s use as a basic ingredient dates back to the medieval time period where it was used in broths to combat witchcraft. Whilst not as glamorous as its previous status today the Clover is still widely used as a key ingredient in the production of Clover Honey. It can also be know to the avid suburban gardener as that unsightly weed that just won’t go away.
But is Clover edible? The Clover is, in fact, edible and has been consumed by indigenous Asian and North American cultures for generations specifically for its alternative healing properties.
Packed with Vitamins A and C, Clovers (especially Red) have a generous amount of fibre, carotene, and protein. It’s worth noting that all parts of the wild plant are consumable. Clover’s composition equates to 80% water and roughly 10% fructose sugars.
Eaten raw, baked, fried, juiced or powdered the traditional methods of consuming Clover have remained simple. These methods that are well known in the survival communities are now gaining a wider appreciation amongst casual campers.
Characteristics of edible clover.
The Latin term for the Clover, Trifolium Repens translates to the leafy creeper is the perfect description of this perennial plant. The Clover has over 200 recorded species that share traits. These include the inability to grow taller than 30 centimeters due to a truncated stem system. Many Clover species showcase a flowering head that is roughly 1 inch in diameter along with the signature heart-shaped clover leaves. Clovers are known for showing resiliency to extreme climates, weather, and flourishing at sea level to high altitude.
Uses of clover.
The Clover’s demand became prominent as the magical adversary to witchcraft in the 15th Century. By the 1600s the Clover was a national symbol of luck in Ireland and in Denmark it became a symbol of nationality. Today the White and Red Clover is labeled as an alternative medicine. It’s still used in Asia to cure a plethora of ailments from the flu, muscle pain and headaches, skin and respiratory issues to even cancer. Although there has been no major scientific research or evidence to support these claims by traditional healers.
During the 19th Century, the Clover seed pods emerged as a staple ingredient in fodder food for livestock. This was due to its high nutrient content and palatable taste that sheep and horses favored. With its ability to grow anywhere the Clover became somewhat of a commercial success. This saw it pollinate most of North and South America by commandeering livestock food and manure.
Is Clover Edible, foraging tips, ripeness.
A question that gets asked often is if Clover is poisonous? Clovers are not classed as poisonous but there have been rare cases of Cyanide occurrences found within White Clover Trifolium Repens. This unique event can occur in warmer climates due to a process called Polymorphic Cyanogenesis.
Cyanogenesis is a process that creates trace amounts of cyanide in a select few plants and fruits. A rare event, the plant or fruit requires specific conditions such as humidity to produce cyanide. It’s worth noting that should cyanide be found in Clover, the amount would be to minute to pose a real risk. However, It’s still rates enough for The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms to bookmark the Clover as a wild edible plant with toxic compounds.
Another rare feat that occurs in the Sweet Clover seed pods (Melilotus officinalis ) is the production of Coumarin. Coumarin is a known anticoagulant which can reduce inflammation. If you decide to ingest this Clover make sure to do it when you don’t have surgery scheduled over upcoming weeks.
When it comes to choosing a patch of Clover, try to avoid batches that look abnormal. Skip Clovers that are discoloured, dirty or covered with insects and fungi. Avoid collecting Clovers in suburban areas. Considered a pest of lawns, these Clovers are likely treated with harsh weed killers and chemicals.
Preparation & cleaning.
To harvest Clover, start by cutting above the rougher stubborn leaf growth. It’s best to cut the Clover close to the base as possible. Cutting high on the stem will likely separate the Clover bunch from its compact connect stem system. Clover cut this way will be challenging to store as the stems will be scattered and not attached to each other. Shake off any dirt, debris, dust or lady beetles and add to your bag to your heart’s desire.
As a rule of thumb you should always consume Clover raw or fully dried with nothing in-between. As mentioned previously, you want to avoid a nasty stomach ache from any potential Cyanide.
Although widely known in Asia as an edible wild plant, the Clover is not so subtle to the body. Digestive problems can occur due to the body struggling to process raw Clover. You can ease ingestion by drying the plant out thoroughly in direct sunlight. I usually boil or steep the Clover which cleanses just as well.
So what do they taste like? In my opinion, raw Clover leaves have a fresh earthy taste. Much like wheatgrass or green spinach. The flower bulb can be eaten on its own and presents flavours of subtle earl grey tea. Some of my friends have distinguished vanilla and bean flavours when made into a tea. Although some survivalists have labeled the taste of Clover as bland and unappealing that takes some getting used to.
Introducing wild clover into your diet.
There are a few methods to introduce Clover into your Outback eating routine If you are low on other filler herbs. Below I have listed a few ways you can slowly include Clover into your camping meals.
Salads—Dice a few Clovers and mix in with other greens such as Coriander, parsley or spring onion and use as a side salad with your chosen protein.
Soups—Add leaves of Clover to your desired stock or broth. This can also apply to sauté with meat or fish in a creamy sauce.
Wraps and sandwiches—Dry the Clovers and use like lettuce or spinach in your wrap or sandwich. The sweet earthy flavour will add an authentic taste to your meal that you wouldn’t find in your trendy café back home.
Tea—If you want to add spice to your average Green Tea, you can steep some dried Clover. The flower will give you the most robust flavours. Make sure to test the waters first. Opt for a small amount at first and build your tolerance as steeped Clover may cause mild bloating.
Dried—The safest method of consumption, air and sun-dried Clover can be added to dry goods or pounded into a flour. Crisping it over a campfire and using it to garnish some pan-fried fish adds a fantastic texture.
The edible Clover is often classed as either beneficial plant with health benefits or an obnoxious pest to a prized front yard. If you are stuck in a real emergency situation, the edible clover might be that lifesaver that gives you enough energy to get you through a rough spot. It’s no surprise that native communities in India and North America have taken advantage of its nutrients for centuries. We suggest you start introducing small amounts of wild Clover into your diet. This is only if there is no other alternative. Just make sure to carefully monitor for any allergic reactions before increasing your intake.
A mushroom and clover salad? Well click here to read our article on How to Store Wild Mushrooms for some fresh salads.