Common name: Red clover

Scientific name: Trifolium pratense

Family: Fabaceae (Pea)

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There are many species of native and introduced clovers in Ireland. Two are common and widespread – the White clover (Trifolium repens) and Red Clover (above).

Recognition:

Both white and red clover have the characteristic globular flower head of many small pea flowers, but they differ in colour and the shape of their leaves. White clover is a contender for being the true shamrock (seamr óg means “young clover”) and has leaves made up of 3 rounded leaflets. Red clover has more pointed leaflets again grouped in threes (Trifolium means three-leaved), frequently with slivery crescent-shaped markings on them.

Food:

Both clovers contain nectar, good for pollinators and thirsty walkers alike, as the nectar can be easily sucked from the flower as a sweet treat. (If the flower remains on the plant, it will refill with nectar in about 1 hour, so you’re only depriving the bees of nectar if you pick the flower!). Clover leaves are an edible protein-rich green, tasting better when cooked with additional flavours. The flowers can be added to breads, soups and stews; they look pretty broken up into salads and add a delicate pea-like flavour. Clover seeds can be ground up for use in bread (traditional in Switzerland) or sprouted.

Medicinal uses:

The flowers of red clover are used to make a sweet-tasting tea to treat skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis, to clear lymphatic congestion and balance hormones.

(Part of Douglas Tidy Town’s Foraging Trail)