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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Red clover flower

This Red Clover is perfect for eating while walking, gathering to put on salads or for tea. The beautiful color really adds to the presentation of the salad. Pick the whole flower, then when eating or putting on a salad, pull the flowers out by holding the base of the flower with one hand and pulling out a few flowers at a time. The base is edible, but has a slight bitterness.


Season: Greens: Spring & Summer. Flowers: Summer


Urban, Rural or Both: Both


There are four kinds of clover that I'm familiar with in Southwestern Ontario. There is Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), White Clover (Trifolium repens), Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) and Yellow Clover or Black Medick (Medicago lupulina). Technically, Yellow Clover is not a true clover, but it is in the same legume (Fabaceae) family. There are other clovers, but where I am from they must be rarer, as the four above are the ones I see most of the time.


Greens:

All are edible, but don't eat much of any of them raw, or you will get a stomach ache. I like to eat a few red clover leaves raw when out on walks - I prefer the taste to the others. White clover leaves cooked makes a good green for cooked foods. Just put them in a pot, bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain the water and put the Clover leaves in stir-fry's, or other cooked foods. The taste this way is mild. You can use the others this way as well, just cook them longer - simmer for 10-15 minutes.


Flowers:

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) flowers are small, but very tasty and unusually sweet. Because of the beautiful purple/pink color, they make a salad look nicer. It doesn't take many to add the color to the salad. A few Red Clover and a few Dandelion flowers look fantastic on a green salad.

I see them everywhere I've been, so they should be easy to find.

My favorite use for them is when out walking, pick one, base and all, then pull out the flowers (tube shaped) and just eat them while walking. A few of them gives you more energy, and there is a thirst quenching quality to eating them.

For a nice tea, pick a good handful, pull out the flowers from the green base, put in cup, put boiling water over, and let sit for a few minutes, strain and drink. Quite sweet on its own and distinctive.

When they go brown, they are too old to eat. Hard to mistake for anything else, sweet, thirst quenching, great looking on salads, nice tea, grows almost everywhere - what more could you want from a free wild flower food?

The dried flower heads of the Alsike and White clover can ground into flour to be used with other flour. I've done it, but found the effort wasn't worth the result. My experience with the clovers boils down to this: Nibble on a couple of Red Clover leaves when out walking, eat Red Clover flowers in salads, use small amounts of White Clover leaves in other foods, and don't bother with the other two. Do more research, read other peoples ideas on the subject and make up your own mind.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

This is a very easy plant to grow at home if you want. Not usually necessary, as it can be found all over. Just wait until the flowers have turned to seed, gather and spread where you want them. There is nothing else to do.


Descriptions:


Red Clover:

Trifolium pratense range

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


red clover leaves 01 sm

These are some very healthy looking Red Clover leaves.


trpr2_005_lvd

Red Clover drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)


White Clover:

Trifolium repens range

White Clover (Trifolium repens) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


White Clover leaves

White Clover leaves.


White Clover flower

White Clover flower.


trre3_001_lvd

White Clover (Trifolium repens) drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 358)


Alsike Clover:

Trifolium hybridum range

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Trifolium_hybridum_-_roosa_(rootsi)_ristik

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum). (By: Ivar Leidus CC BY-SA 3.0)


trhy_001_lvd

Alsike Clover drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 357)


Yellow Clover or Black Medick:

Medicago lupulina range

Yellow Clover or Black Medick (Medicago lupulina) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


melu_002_lhp

Yellow Clover or Black Medick (Medicago lupulina). (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento)


melu_006_php

Leaves. (Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


melu_001_lvd

Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 351)





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Important Notes when Identifying
Some Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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