Clover - A nutritious edible weed
Clover (part of "Edible Weeds in Los Angeles")
Information, folklore, recipes, and resources -- all about the delicious, nutritious clover plant.
Clover is one of the most famous of weeds, commonly sharing space with grass in lawns.
Clover is viewed by many as having folkloric and religious symbolism, but it can also be viewed as a food!
The types of clover I see most often growing here in Los Angeles are white clover and red clover. This page will look at both of these species.
Getting acquainted with clover
Clover - Trifolium
The binomial name for white clover is Trifolium repens. Red clover is Trifolium pratense.
All of those are Latin words. Trifolium means "three leaves", repens means "recent, sudden, or fresh", and pratense means "found in meadows."
The clovers are native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. They were introduced to the Americas by settlers. Clover is commonly used as fodder for livestock and is also a valuable soil builder.
The clover, of course, has three leaves. The leaves are oval shaped and often each leaf has a white V on it.
Clover has a distinctive flower with many spiky, upward-reaching petals. White clover start out white, but as the plant ages, the flower may become slightly pink in color. Red clover flowers can be varying shades of pink or even purplish.
Buy clover seeds!
If you don't already have clover, you can grow it on your own!
The word "shamrock" is derived from the Irish word seamróg, which means "clover". White clover is the real Irish shamrock.
A lot of popular images you see for shamrocks show leaves that look more like our friend the wood sorrel, but clover is the real thing.
A couple of videos about red clover.
Nutritional info about clover
I didn't find much in the way of nutrition facts about white clover. All the data I found about white clover described it's nutritional value to livestock, and I'm not sure how that would translate to human nutrition. It is known, however, that it's relatively high in protein.
Red clover has been studied more. It is said to be a good source of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine and vitamin C.
The leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots of clovers are all edible.
The young leaves, taken before the plant flowers, can be eaten raw in salads. As the plant matures, cooking the leaves is recommended. The dried leaves are said to add a slightly vanilla-like flavor to baked goods. In my own experience with clover leaves, I found them to be rather bitter (maybe I picked them at the wrong time). I stick to the flowers.
The roots should be eaten cooked.
The flowers and seeds are the parts of the clover that are of greatest interest to most foragers. The flowers are used raw in salads as well as sauteed, stir-fried, or fried as fritters. They are also popular for making teas and wines.
The flowers and seeds can be dried and ground into a flour.
Here are a few clover recipes:
A set of red clover recipes, including tea, lemonade, juice, pancakes, and biscuits.
This page of flower recipes includes a recipe for pickled clover.
A few red clover wine recipes
There used to be a recipe online for snickerdoodle cookies with dried white clover flowers in the batter, but the link has disappeared. So sad.
Some cookbooks that include
The clover has been regarded as a symbol of luck since ancient times. In the middle ages, it was believed to be able to ward off evil spirits.
It is said that St. Patrick used the three-leaved clover as an illustration in order to teach the Trinity.
A four-leaf clover is said to bring even more good luck than a three-leaved one, guaranteeing success in love, good health, or riches.
A two-leaf clover is supposed to aid young women in learning the identity of their future husbands.
Medicinal uses of clover
White clover infusions have been used medicinally for centuries, especially in response to respiratory complaints.
Red clover is used for respiratory ailments as well, but it is also sought as a remedy for many other conditions. They are used for treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The phytoestrogens in red clover are often used by women looking for natural remedies for menopausal symptoms. Other chemical components in it are thought to be protective against cancer.
Both white and red clover are regarded as blood purifiers.
Herbal books that discuss clover
There are also some menopause-related books that talk about red clover.