Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Collecting Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Flowers For Tea

I am lucky to live near a field full of Red Clover.

Trifoilium pratense
It grows everywhere at this site! No chemicals are sprayed, it's wild and this resource is just lovely - free. One bonus, the turf only gets mowed once a month, so this clover constantly revives and renews bloom.

As the botanical name indicates, it has three leaved foliage (tri-folium). Also notice the greyish green band on each leaf, as a clear ID marking.

Growing close to the ground, sometimes hidden in the grass.

Flowers stand taller from the base foliage and can easily be seen from a distance.

Last week, even this late in the season, I stopped and finally picked a paper-bag full. Why?

Many of my grow your own, DIY gardening books mention Red Clover as one of the best herbs, suited for tea. It has many medicinal properties and is known to be refreshing mixed with peppermint tea.

To Pick:  You want lovely pink flowers that are more pink than brown, like the photo below. When picking, place the base of the flower between your index and middle finger and with your thumb pull up and the flower will easily pop off without being damaged. You can leave the basal leaves, but I remove as many as I can while picking.

How I dried them:

First, I washed them. I am sure there are those who believe washing the flowers will reduce the medicinal potency, but how many little bugs I saw in the bag after collecting made my mind up. WASH. I washed with cold water and let them soak for a minute or two.

When removing leaves or extra stem length, I dipped them into another bowl to shake off any bugs. I tried my best to get rid of them, but some were so tiny. After shaking off the excess water, I laid them down on a roasting pan with holes and clean paper towels to help dry them off further.

Above: you can see all the bits and little bugs at the bottom of the bowl. Be thorough - some of these bugs were thrips. You don't want thrips to come into your home if you have beloved house plants.

I decided to use my dehydrator for drying. I would rather just let it sun dry in a window sill, but this dehydrator will make sure any unwanted bugs will not stay on the flowers.

I laid them out with a lot of space between each flower. This allows a lot of air to circulate around each so they dry evenly.

I set the dehydrator at the lowest setting. It may take longer, but I want the flowers to hold as much of their natural potency as possible.

 I dried them over-night.

The vibrant pink colour has diminished a bit, although much of the flowers kept their coloration. I read that the flowers should have more pink than brown after drying.

The flowers should be dry to the touch, but not crispy. The florets should still stay intact.

To avoid squishing them, I decided to store the dried flowers in a mason jar. I poked a few holes in the top lid and will store it in my dark pantry. Ready to make some tea.

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