The warmth of summer sun blankets the ground in the Appalachian Mountains. As I stepped out the robin gives and alert call and swiftly zips across the yard and disappears into a thicket. In the direction that she flew I see the reddish pink dots that stand a little taller than the surrounding grass. I eased over to the edge of the yard and bent down to pluck a single head from the plant. Red clover was one best parts of summer as young boy on the farm. During one of my long walks with my grandfather he stopped and pulled up a couple of red clover flowerheads. He would grip a few of the individual florets in his teeth and gently pull them from the base. They were full of sweet nectar and by freeing them from the base one could enjoy that sweetness unencumbered by grassy part. That’s how I was introduced to red clover. My brother and I would often pick a few as we played the countryside. Occasionally we’d get a dry one that wasn’t quite so awesome but for the most part they were like natural candy. No wonder the cattle would sometimes push through the electric fence to get to the clover.
As I got older I learned that all clovers are rich in protein. Peterson’s Field Guide says that the raw leaves and flowerhead is hard to digest raw but that soaking them in salt water for a while and boiling for fifteen minutes makes it so they can be eaten in quantity.
The dried flowers are a an awesome herbal tea that has some health benefits.
These days we know that smoking anything is not a good idea but Native Americans included different types of clover in “Kinnikinnick”. Contrary to popular belief Native Americans rarely smoked pure tobacco. Kinnikinnick loosely translates as “things mixed together” and it seems that everyone had their own recipes based on the purpose of the smoke. I can remember some of the old timers talking about generations of Mountaineers prior that kept a jar of red clover for their pipes. At one point there was a marketed tobacco substitute for people who were trying to quit smoking that used red clover as a base. I’m not sure why but seems to have been taken off of the market for some reason.
The last use listed by Peterson’s Field Guide is as a four. I do have to wonder what a non grain based flour made from clover might mean to someone who has a grain sensitivity. (⚠️ please remember that I claim no expertise in anything medical. ⚠️) The technique I found by searching the internet seems pretty straightforward. Dry the flowerheads at low temperatures and grind them in a blender until you have a fine powder.
Clover is usually easy to find in large quantities but it can also be purchased at agricultural supply stores as a soil amendment and livestock fodder.
For me red clover is a harbinger of sweet memories. But then again, I just might find a way to keep a patch handy to occasionally enjoy.
⚠️Please remember that my blog is a photography blog and that Forage Friday is only intended to be a conversation starter and not a substitute for proper training in survival or foraging.
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