Hey Look Me Over, White Sweet Clover.   10 comments

This is an important update to a previous post.  If you read this post before, please accept my apologies; and do read it again.  Most of the original remains, with updated information in bold print to illustrate the importance of RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH.

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We live in a magical Queendom; fraught with a plethora of overlooked, delicious surprises, such as White Sweet Clover, Melilotus alba, also known as white melilot, or sweet-scented clover.

White Sweet Clover is a biennial, standing on hardy, smooth, erect, branching, stems, between 4 and 6 feet high.

The leaflets are narrow, grouped in 3’s, variable, ovate to oblong, from 1 to 2 inches long, with faintly serrate edges.

The tiny flowers are white, pea-like, and numerous, running along spikes.  White Sweet Clover grows along river and stream banks, in fields and waste places, throughout the continental U.S., flowering in July and August. White Sweet Clover has a distinctive, vanilla-like, sweet fragrance, which is greatly intensified upon drying.

The clovers, are a diverse family of plants; widely spread around the world as nutritious forage for animals. Honey bees love the ‘sweet clovers’.  The Melilots are also used by folks as flavorings for tobacco, soups, breads, and cheeses, as in the Swiss green cheese Schabziger.

My first thought was to try White Sweet Clover in coffee.  Adding 1 tablespoon of the dried herb, per pot, right in with the ground coffee, gives a light, smooth vanilla-ish flavor.  And then it occurred to me that White Sweet Clover could be helpful in making other, less palatable, medicinal herbs a bit more doable!  So, I collected a good amount of White Sweet Clover; which when dried, weighted out to 6 ½ ounces.  Doing research on the medicinal and culinary applications, lead me to tincture 4 ounces of the dried herb; for my medicine cabinet.  However, I found little (other than what I’ve already written) on White Sweet Clover’s culinary usage.

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THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE I WENT WRONG

The red flag is, “I found little on White Sweet Clover’s culinary usage.”

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And then it hit me!  Could I replace expensive, store-bought vanilla with White Sweet Clover tincture?  The thought seemed too good to be true.

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How does that saying go?  “If it seems too good to be true that’s because it is!”  

The other day I checked out a favorite foraging guide from the library.  When I wrote this article I certainly did not have this book checked out; or I would have never tinctured White Sweet Clover.  


In “Wild Edible Plants Of New England” Joan Richardson writes about White Sweet and Yellow Sweet clover,  

“It was discovered that these two clovers contained a chemical called coumarin.  As these plants ferment and spoil, a product known as dicumarol is formed.  Dicumarol, taken into the body, acts as an anti-vitamin – that is, it blocks the ability of the body to utilize vitamin K, a substance vital in the formation of blood clots.” (1)

Apparently when animals eat large amounts of these spoiled clovers, they hemorrhage and die.  Although the White Sweet Clover flowers were dried when I tinctured them, the word, “ferment” in Ms Richardson’s statement, troubles me.  Does the change from coumarin to dicoumarol happen in alcohol?  I don’t know; and can’t seem to find the answer.  Therefore, I dumped out my tincture; and strongly recommend against anyone else tincturing either of the Sweet Clovers.  It is far better to be safe then sorry.

This year I will make, only, tea from fresh and dried

White Sweet Clover.

The sweet clovers are regarded medicinally as being demulcent, tonic, expectorant and diuretic. (2)  Anyone taking diuretic medications should avoid using diuretic herbs.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time.

REFERENCES:

(1) Wild Edible Plants Of New England, Joan Richardson.

The Globe Pequot press.  1981

(2) SHAKER Medicinal HERBS, Amy Bess Miller.

     Storey Books.  1998

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10 responses to “Hey Look Me Over, White Sweet Clover.

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  5. Reblogged this on Forageporage's Blog and commented:

    This is an important update to a previous post. If you read this post before, please accept my apologies; and do read it again. Most of the original remains, with updated information in bold print to illustrate the importance of RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

  6. It’s always important to err on the cautious side when using herbs and other plants. Thanks for following up and issuing the correction!

  7. Pingback: Springing Into Summer, Along the Wareham River. « Forageporage's Blog

  8. I found that infusing white clover in rosewater makes for a lovely scent. As per Cupeper (I think?) I dab in on the temples against headaches.

  9. Er- that’s *Culpeper* of course. Nice blog! I’ll be back…

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