Sunday, July 19, 2009

Red clover, red clover, come on over...

Even if you are new to wildcrafting (harvesting wild edibles), or lack a knowlegable person to take a walk with you, you can feel pretty confident identifying and using Red clover (Trifolium pratense). It is common in fields, waysides, and probably your lawn. The reddish rounded flower head has long been a source of many a childhood "honey feast". Remember nipping off the ends of each floweret and letting the tiny drop of nectar enchant your tongue?

The groups of three leaves, with the lighter v-shaped 'chevron' on each leaf, is distinct. The smaller white clover has the same pattern, but the white-tinged-with-pink flower color is totally different. Often found growing together, the red clover towers over it's sweet little neighbor.

The open flower heads are easily harvested. Just pop them off the stem, discarding the first leaves under the sepal if you want only the flower. Use only the freshly opened flowers, the brown heads have lost their good stuff.

It takes a little time to fill a bowl, but oh, what bliss to be outdoors on a sunny day, walking slowly from flower to flower, drinking in the fragrant air!

Harvesting red clover blossoms is a perfect opportunity to include a child on your walk. Easy to identify and fun to pluck, the clover welcomes them to the world of wildcrafting.

Be prepared for some interesting conversation...bees, butterflies and GRASSHOPPERS are always found in clover patches!

Wildcrafting is a joyous, calming connection with nature.

When your container is full, there are several ways to use and preserve this sweet kiss.

Drying the flower heads can be as simple as spreading them on a sheet and air drying in an undisturbed place. I like to use the dehydrator, mostly for speed of processing. It's a busy time, with daily harvesting of many different plants.

Red clover can be made into a tincture, with many medicinal qualities. The blossoms, fresh or dried, may be made into tea or an infusion. Red clover oinment is skin soothing.

Red clover fritters are on my "try it" list. The blossoms and small leaves are often used in wild salads.

This is prime red clover time - it blooms from late June through September, depending on your climate. When the red-purple blossoms show up in the hay field after the hay is harvested, I start picking and drying. Red clover has so many medical benefits (cough season is waiting in the wings), I don't want to be without it.

Here is a link for some details on Red Clover - apologies for the advertising, but the information is very complete - worth a read:

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