We commonly think of clover as the lucky little leaf that has ties to St. Patrick’s Day. But what exactly is it?
Technically speaking, the binomial name for clover is Trifolium, which in Latin means ‘three leaves.’ It can be commonly identified by its three heart-shaped leaves, which are often marked with a distinctive white chevron or ‘V’ in the center. Red and white clover have colorful red and white blossoms that can be easily picked and either dried for use as herbal remedies, or eaten fresh like other edible flowers.
The health benefits of clover are vast. Red clover specifically is found to be high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, thiamine and vitamin C. Menopausal women who take red clover might also improve their cardiovascular health and reduce menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, because of its ability to help balance estrogen levels. And while white clover is not usually eaten or used as an herbal resource like its red counterpart, it is known to be relatively high in protein and is also safe to consume. Clover can also be used topically as a salve, cream or oil to help skin conditions such as eczema.
So you can eat clover? Yes, you can! Chances are you’ve consumed clover in some form, namely if you’ve ever had clover honey which is typically sweeter and cleaner than other varieties. But you can also eat the leaves and flowers either raw, sauteed, boiled, or even steeped as tea. The younger the greens are the less bitter tasting they will be. And the roots are generally recommended to be cooked before eaten for taste purposes.
Clover leaves tend to have an earthy, grassy taste, which is why cooking and seasoning them is preferable over raw consumption. And when added to baked goods, the flowers have been reported to add hints of vanilla to the overall flavor of the dish.
So where can you begin using clover as an ingredient? To prepare clover as herbal tea, simply steep the dried flower buds – primarily from red clovers – in boiling water and steep for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours or even overnight. It’s been reported that the greater the steeping time the more vitamins and minerals will be extracted.
Treat clover as a base for a fresh salad, much like arugula. Or for a simple side dish, briefly saute a handful of washed greens in olive oil and lightly season with a little salt and pepper. Find more clover recipes at Rose’s Prodigal Garden, like homemade syrup, pancakes and even biscuits.
Be adventurous in your cooking with clover this St. Patrick’s Day and beyond. The possibilities and health benefits of this lucky little leaf are seemingly endless.
March 5th, 2012