White Clover – Trifolium Repens: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Covercrop of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, nisoobag+oon. Not to be confused with white sweet clover, white clover is the blanco version of red clover. Used less medicinally and culinarily as its red cousin, it’s like a runner-up clover, but still useful. Most people looking into white clover are thinking cropcover or groundcover options.

White clover – trifolium repens
White clover – Trifolium repens
alsike clover
Alsike Clover

If you hunt you’ll likely find the uncommon hybird of red and white clover, “alsike”. We also have the yellow flowered “hop” clover. These are all European imports. We have no native trifolium species in Ontario.

Edible Uses of White Clover

Like red clover, the whole plant is technically edible. The leaves and seeds stand out: The tender young leaves can be used like spinach. And if you like sprouting, white clover seeds can be used same as red clover. Clover can be hard to digest, but cooking or soaking in salt water helps.

The dried flowers have a honey like scent and make a pleasant tea.

High in protein.

Medicinal Uses of White Clover

White Clover is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, and Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage centers around its astringency, so for example, a flowerhead infusion for diarrhea, a tea wash for boils, etc. Red clover is more popular medicinally.

Alternative Uses of Dutch Clover

You’ll find clover recommended for the bees, though not as often as dandelions. But here neither are native. And native plants are more nutritious to our native insects (for instance dandelion lacks amino acids they need). Dandelion pollen is kind of like junk food for bees, or so I’ve heard, and they won’t do well if it’s all that is available. And unfortunately non-native plants can crowd out more nutritive plants.

Native symbiotic relationships have developed over thousands of years. It’s hard to crush a Facebook meme and it seems all you hear about is dandelions in the spring. And many of us learning about native plants started out with letting the dandelions grow, or sowing clover instead of plain grass. I did both! And I still have dandelions and clover in my acre.

Growing Trifolium Repens

Clover seeds are easy to find. Clovers especially like clay soil. It does beat a grass lawn, it is a nitrogen fixer, and bunnies and pollinators will eat them. But there also are native alternatives to look into that work for groundcover in sunny lawns and that are superior food sources for local wildlife.

Small pussytoes is a beautiful groundcover that can withstand traffic. I see it growing naturally with wild strawberries which also work nicely as a ground cover. Usually there’s yarrow in the mix too. Prairie smoke is a popular showy plant to consider.

American plantain among other plantain can be quick to spread and fill a large area.

Also see the growing info on blue-eyed grass for a grassier native yard.

WARNINGS

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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REFERENCES

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

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