Clover is one of the most easily recognizable plants people come into contact with. It grows in the wild, in yards, in gardens, and even in waste places. Many people would be surprised, though, to find out how many health and nutrition benefits this plant has.
There are many species of clover, and every one of them has value in nutrition and medicinal uses. The most commonly used kinds of clover are red clover, white clover, and purple clover, yet all species have the same general properties. Even alfalfa, which is closely allied, has the same uses and benefits.
There are also very few other plants that closely resemble clover. This makes the plant easier to identify than many others, and also means that there is far less danger in accidentally selecting an inedible or poisonous plant species. It also means that a general description should be unnecessary, though there are some things to note about the plant and the various species of clover.
Clover is a legume. That is to say that it is among the relatively few kinds of plant that has the ability to capture or 'fix' nitrogen out of the air. This can be seen on the roots in the form of tiny nodules. This makes clover an excellent rotation crop, particularly when tilling it under to produce richer soil for the following year's planting. It also explains why it is so highly prized as feed for herbivorous animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, and rabbits. Note: Clover is so rich that except in small quantities, it is a good idea to dry it before feeding it to animals. Otherwise the animals may founder.
The clover plant is also healthy for people. The leaves, steamed or boiled, produce a sweet potherb. That is, there isn't the bitterness often associated with many other potherbs, like spinach, dandelion greens, or mustard greens. For some people, this may mean that the herb is a little too bland, however clover does well when mixed with onion, garlic or other spices. Many people like it with just a little salt, pepper, and butter, drained. It also makes a great soup or stock for stews.
The leaves and blossoms of clover are high in iron, vitamin C, and many other healthful minerals and vitamins. It can be considered a dark green vegetable, so the same healthy aspects that exist in spinach also are found in clover.
The leaves and blooms can also be added raw to green salads. They don't distract from the flavor of the other vegetables, yet they do add nutrients, and color in the case of the blooms.
Clover leafs can even be used as a slightly sweet seasoning herb for cooking, and the plant can expand on dishes that use vegetables, while not taking away from the flavor but while increasing the nutritional value those dishes have.
Medicinally, brewing two tablespoons of clover leafs in a cup of boiling water, covered, is an effective aid for colds since it is an expectorant and helps to loosen phlegm. The tea is also a soothing drink that can aid with liver and blood ailments. The flavor is mild and blends well with honey as a sweetener. Note: If used medicinally for an existing medical condition, when possible, avoid table sugar. Sugar is a complex substance that must be broken down in order to be used by the body, unlike sweeteners such as honey.
Clover has a several important redeeming qualities when considering health and nutrition. It is easy to find. It is easy to harvest. It tastes good, yet is bland enough to add to other foods without radically changing the flavor of those foods. Few people have adverse effects from eating it. But most importantly, it is so filled with minerals and vitamins that it is more worth eating than many foods that are commonly sold. It is hard to go wrong with clover.