My daughter and I played around with the sweet offerings of red clover over the weekend. This common perennial herb (also part of the legume family) grows naturally anywhere and everywhere around here in the Midwest as well as throughout a better part of the U.S.
It looks beautiful in flower arrangements of course, but more importantly, it’s another wild edible for all of us to explore. It’s considered to be very safe and beneficial, but as with all wild edibles, I always like to stress the importance of moderation and doing your own personal homework to find the best uses for you, especially when utilizing it for its’ medicinal properties and in larger, more frequent samplings.
Red Clover is a natural source of many nutrients as well as isoflavones and can have an estrogenic effect when consumed as a staple. It’s a versatile herbal remedy for conditions such as congestion, asthma, chronic coughs, skin inflammations, menopausal symptoms. It’s stimulates the immune system, aids digestion, offers cancer protection, is a blood purifier, has a blood thinning effect and can have moderate hormonal effects.
At our house, we like to use the blooms in salads, teas and lemonades, or to decorate summertime cakes. Morning is the best time to harvest and you always want to ‘know’ your picking spot if it’s outside of your own yard…pick in clean, wild areas that are free of any harmful spraying activities with pesticides or other chemicals. You can use the Red Clover fresh or dried.
I like to harvest enough to fill a bucket and then arrange in a vase as I go about preserving them. Rinse what you’re going to consume and the petals can be tossed in with your summer salads or you can pop a few of the fresh florets in some freezing trays to create beautiful ice cubes. They’re best kept whole for the cubes…if you make them out of the loose petals, as the cubes melt in your drinks, you’ll have a lot of ‘floaters’ and even though they’re good to ‘eat’with your beverage, a lot of people don’t want to have all that floating around in their drinks. Freezing Tip...if you want the entire floret encased in your cube, fill just the bottoms of your tray with water, add your red clover and then freeze for a few minutes to hold in place. Top off with remaining water and continue freezing. (I don’t usually bother with that step, because I don’t mind some of the petals protruding from the cubes.) Great for iced tea, lemonade or other refreshing summer chillers.
You can dry the flowers and the leaves and use in teas or soaking baths. For tea, brew a couple teaspoon/per 8oz boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. For a soaking bath, you can mix with other dried wilds/herbs, bundle up in a gauze or cheesecloth bag and let steep in your hot bath water……then, sit back and RELAX.
Cheers to the abundance of backyard wild edibles and to all of us learning more about their benefits and uses!