Sunday, June 26, 2011

Experiments with Red Clover

Clover's pink, purple or white flowers clustered in globular heads can often be found on grassland between May and October.. Their trifolate green leaves have pale to white markings.
How about some interesting clover facts to start:
  • Both the flowers and leaves of red and white clovers are edible (unless you're pregnant or breastfeeding.)
  • The leaves are a great source of calcium and protein.
  • Red clover is slightly better for you than white because it contains more of the medicinal good stuff including salicylic acid from which aspirin is made, and something called genistein,"which is thought to inhibit blood flow to cancerous growths" - Miles Irving.
  • Its dried flower heads and seeds were used to make bread during the famine in Ireland.
  • Bees are the only insect with tongues long enough to pollinate the flowers.
  • As members of the pea-family they have amazing nitrogen-fixing capabilities.
  • It was the Druids who imbued the four leaved clover with Celtic charms. It was thought to discourage malevolent spirits which was  lucky indeed.
  • Single ladies, put a two leaved clover in your right shoe and go out for a walk. The first man you encounter is supposed to be the one for you (or, at least, his namesake is!)
  • The world record for the number of leaves found on a clover is a massive 52!
Let me tell you this, I've eaten clover. I've picked the flowers as a bimble nibble, I've occasionally gathered the flowers and leaves to prettify salads, I've bought clover honey - hmm pushing it now? I have to admit it, I've pretty much neglected clover of all kinds. There must be more to it than I've given it credit for. I've actually always enjoyed the taste so why haven't I seen more recipes with clover as the star, it might have prompted me to use it a bit more. Time to trawl the internet and do a few experiments of my own to see what joys I've been missing out on. It was the Prodigal Gardens website that came up trumps with these recipes.

Red Clover Syrup
4 cups red clover flowers
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
  • Place the flowers and water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 mins.
  • Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
  • Remove the flowers using a piece of muslin, making sure to squeeze as much juice from the flowers as possible.
  • Add the sugar to the water (you can add 1/2 an orange at this stage if you like) and simmer gently for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
  • When the liquid looks quite frothy on the top and resembles honey when drizzled onto a cool plate, it's ready to bottle into sterilised jars.

I was pleasantly surprised by how this turned out. It has a taste not too dissimilar to clover honey. This syrup is superb poured over porridge, pancakes and ice cream.

Red Clover Pancakes
2 cups plain flour
1 cup clover flowers pulled apart
2 eggs
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup red clover blossom syrup (or honey)
2 tspns baking powder
1 tspn salt
1/4 cup oil + a little extra
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another.
  • Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry whisking together thoroughly.
  • You want a mixture that can be poured but one that isn't too runny. Add extra milk or flour if needed to achieve the right consistency.
  • Cook on an oiled griddle or frying pan over a low heat.
  • Serve with butter and/or red clover blossom syrup.
The clover gave these a beautifully delicate flavour.

Red Clover and Almond Scones
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups red clover flowers pulled apart.
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter
3 tspns baking powder
1/4 tspn almond extract
  • Place the flour, baking powder, butter and almonds in a food processor and whizz to form a crumbly mixture.
  • Add the eggs, buttermilk, almond extract and flowers and whizz again until combined.
  • Using an icecream scoop, spoon onto baking parchment and cook in a pre-heated oven 200 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

I have to admit, other than an aftertaste of almond, I found these rather bland. Nothing that a couple of tablespoons of sugar wouldn't sort out, I'm sure. I'll tweak the recipe and have another bash at them. I really want to make this work because, although you sadly can't taste them, the little flecks of purple and pink running through the scones are unbelievably pretty.