Wild in Your Backyard: Foraging Fridays

Ah, the elusive Elderberry. The Morel Mushroom. The Fiddlehead Fern. Just a few of the stars in my foraging sky, the ones that seem hopelessly out of reach when living in the city. Even in many suburbs, the pickins can sometimes be slim. Yet, when foraging, the most simple of truths apply:

(And what did Dorothy learn? “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”)

Just so!

Clover! All types of clover are edible, and make an excellent addition to salads. You can cook it like spinach, but I think that's a little unnecessary. It tastes like a mild green. It's suggested that the leaves are picked before flowering, but I don't think it matters so much.

Clover is prolific all over the United States, and is considered a pesty weed since it crops up frequently in lawns. I happen to have a giant tub of white clover (Trifolium repens) growing amongst my container garden. I was given a nutrient mix for rehabilitating soil, last fall, and so I gifted it to the soil in a large metal basin, that had been heavily used over the summer. The mix contained lots of clover seeds, since clover fixes nitrogen in the soil. The tub is now a lush miniature forest of clover, and is also home to a hummingbird sage, a strawberry plant and some wildflowers. It’s the cheeriest little party on our deck.

All parts of the clover are edible (you need to cook the root). The flowers may be eaten raw, cooked in fritters or made into tea. Red clover is a highly prized medicinal herb. Bees are frequent visitors of clover flowers, so don't pick 'em all, but also...the more flowers you pick, the more clover will make!

I planted red clover in my garden plot next door last summer. It has thrived, growing into a nice lush patch. Except….the reason I was letting it take up so much space was so that it would flower…the flowers make a wonderful nourishing tea, especially for lactating mamas…and the damn wonderful thing won’t flower! Gardening in San Francisco = Patience + Frustration.

Red Clover blossom. I didn't take this picture. I would have except...oh that's right...MY RED CLOVER WON'T FLOWER. Argh!

Thankfully, an upside to living in a large metropolis is access to goods and services…for now I can trot down to Scarlet Sage and buy a little bag full of red clover for a few pennies.

Here is Susun Weed to tell you all about Red clover tea:

Like she says, Red clover makes a delicious iced tea. I drink it in moderation, since it is slightly detoxing and can make my tummy a little woozy.

Even if you can’t find red clover, I guarantee you can find white, probably by walking no more than a block. In Shasta Co., the spring wildflower display often features the grace of crimson clover:

This is for all you Children of the 80’s: Crimson and Clover:

This article was obviously painstakingly put together in a very cute and simple way…lots more info on clover.

And since you can’t really watch the first one without watching the end:

(The costumes and the whole general era of this movie makes me swoon).

The Disclaimer

Think with your stomach! Do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. It is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. You’re an adult. you can make your own choices.

Have a great weekend! Eat salad!


8 thoughts on “Wild in Your Backyard: Foraging Fridays

  1. how i love your disclaimer. and all your choices of movie clips- susun weed rocks. i have one single red clover flower in my yard, and now thanks to you i feel wonderfully wealthy, given your flowerless condition. i put in a few “new” plants among my veggies this spring when i “weeded” them out of my neighborhood coffee kiosk’s flower bed (i trade a teensy bit of garden maintenance for his spent grounds for my compost- good trade because i also get free medicinal/nitrogen fixing weeds out of the deal!!!)

  2. And now I feel like some sort of stalker, leaving three comments on your blog in one night.
    I’m going to share a link to your lovely foraging post in my link-share tomorrow. I hope you don’t mind. 🙂
    How is it that I had no foggy clue that clover, of which there is at least an acre of surrounding our home all year here, is edible. You just rocked my world! 🙂 Muchas!

  3. Dear Mary, why are all your posts so timely and amazing?!?!? No but seriously, I was just lamenting the lack of clover out here a few days ago and planning to plant some as a part of a cover crop to add nitrogen to my poor soil. This little plant is actually one of the things I miss about living in the city. Red clover wreaths and tea and bouquets and greens…

  4. Oh I was also gonna tell you that I have a little post coming up about eating wild harvest including bracken fern. Definitely inspired by your own sweet self.

  5. i love red clover. susun weed got me into it oh so many crazy years ago, her childbearing years book. brigitte says it grows near places where there are cancer causing agents….hmmmm. pretty plant, wants to help. i love it so much.

  6. Hi there, I have a few thousand questions! Soooo…. you pick the red flowers and then dry them and then put them in a pot to simmer for say five minutes? And what about the dried flowers that turned brown before I got there? Will they make a nice tea? And do the leaves make a tea too? Thanks for your help! I’ve enjoyed rummaging through your thoughts…

    1. hi max! yes, dry the red clover in a dark and dry spot. make sure the flowers are well ventilated by placing on a wire rack or screen. to make a medicinal infusion, place 1/4 cup dried flowers in the bottom of a mason jar, pour hot water over them, filling the jar and let steep for 1-8 hours. the longer the steep, the stronger the brew and the medicine.

      harvest only fresh flowers! leave the brown ones alone.

      they make a wonderful tea, astringent and similar to black tea. don’t use the leaves, except to eat fresh.


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