May 062008

While many of the herbal bloggers are busy on planet Dandelion, I’ve been off in a different direction. While I adore Dandelions, they’re not very common here, and my attention generally remains on what’s abundant and available. To this end, I’ve been laying on the river banks with my face buried in this season’s most prolific wild green, Sweet Clover!

Chances are, wherever you live (in N. America) there’s some Sweet Clover (Melilotus spp.) flourishing nearby, and if not, it’s certainly easy to grow in your garden. This plant must have a million uses, but my current favorite one is as food. Before flowering, it has a sweet rich vanilla tastes with a kind of sharp afterbite. After flowering, it’s somewhat more bitter but still fantastic tasting.

Every year at the Wild Women Gathering we make pot after huge pot of aromatic Sweet Clover brew. It’s lovely with honey, but also amazingly pleasant just plain, either steaming hot or chilled. We also chop up the leaves and add them to salads, sandwiches. stuffed grape leaves and even soups. They have a very distinctive flavor so you don’t need alot. Another favorite is Sweet Clover pesto, usually made with half Nettle and half Sweet Clover for an energy charged spoonful of vibrant wild taste.

I’m in the process of creating some Sweet Clover honey wine as well and am also working on lacto-fermented Yarrow/Sweet Clover Ale. And don’t forget plain ol’ Sweet Clover honey too! For wines and other fermented preparations, I tend to use freshly dried plant because it brings out the vanilla flavor in an amazing way and also because it minimizes the unpleasant blood thinning effects that rotting Sweet Clover can have upon the body. This is probably an unnecessary caution, but one I’ve made a habit of nonetheless when it comes to fermented Sweet Clover products. If anyone has made a fresh Sweet Clover wine or ale, I’d love to hear about it.

Rhiannon’s favorite way to eat Sweet Clover is to graze on it, face first while crawling around on all fours down by the river and pretending to be an elk. Sometimes she even gets grownups to play too πŸ˜‰

A medicinal profile of this lovely plant is coming soon too!

PS: Don’t get confused, this isn’t Red Clover or White Clover of the Trifolium clan, this is Melilotus, and either the yellow or white will work.

  9 Responses to “Playing in the Sweet Clover”

  1. Hey Kiva,
    What are you using to ferment the ale? anytime you want to talk more indepth about ales and fermented herbal beverages I would be most appreciative :big smile: I am really digging into this area lately, have so much to learn and having so much fun…..the herstory behind the alewife is fascinating…..I will be attending a traditional alewife workshop focusing on woods ales about a week from this weekend and am looking forward to it so much….

  2. Hi Shawna! I love fermentation πŸ™‚ In this case, I’m just using whey added to a sweetened yarrow infusion, really simple. Sometimes I use wild yeasts too, or berries to introduce the yeast. I have never yet used a storebought yeast of any kind. My method usually works great and produces lovely tasting beverages, but it is extremely informal and laid back. I don’t use grains or malts usually, just herbs and honey and sometimes juice for wines. So I don’t properly know what the names of my beverages should be, but they’re good!

    I’d love to talk to you more about all of that too, and wow, that sounds like a great opportunity with that workshop!

  3. Yeah, I figured whey- personally I don’t like to ferment that much with whey for veggies but as for ales I’ve had some really great ones with whey, that turn out awesome. I am all for informal and laid back πŸ™‚
    I’ve been playing with some store bought yeasts for fun, but generally I am too cheap to purchase them when you can do it for free….
    I don’t have any experience fermenting fresh clover, Trifolium or Melilotus- either one- always heard that was not the thing to do b/c of the whole coumarin fermentation issue, and I heard if from trusted sources so haven’t felt motivated to test those waters……
    I will let you know if I learn any great tips at the ale workshop…..

  4. mmmm. waiting eagerly for your melilotus post. I just strained out my tincture from last summer. For shame! It smells lovely and tastes very strong!


  5. for your sweet clover brews… are they teas or infusions? I just found a patch of it today, yippee! I think I’ll try a cup of tea first. I was wondering if it was okay for infusions too, as I’ve had some flowers become very bitter with long brewing.

  6. Well, sometimes it’s tea, sometimes it’s infusion and sometimes it’s actually a decoction because it gets boiled accidentally in the pot before we notice and take it off the fire. It all tastes good πŸ™‚

    Especially with the fresh plant, I’ve never noticed any problems with it becoming very bitter.

  7. yum! ate some flowers and had some tea. it tastes like almonds and cherries to me. thanks so much for the introduction to my new plant friend!

  8. Hello,
    I alternate living between Ventura county, ca and a little farm north of Madison, Wi
    I dried oregano from Wis here in Ca under the very reliable sun. I wish to ask
    if you sell small plants. My interest is yarrow, eve. primrose and Sweet Annie.

  9. margaret, first of all, I definitely don’t recommend drying herbs in the sun (that seemed to be what you were saying you did), they need to be dried in the shade to retain their precious volatile oils.

    Second, I don’t really sell anything. I do consultations per donation, and occasionally sell/trade herbal preparations. And besides, Sweet Annie is a foreign plant and I deal almost exclusively with native plants of the Gila. I suggest you find someone local.

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