Red clover (Trifolium pretense) is a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia and Africa and naturalized in North America. The flowers have a long history of use in traditional healing systems as a diuretic, liver and blood cleanser and expectorant. Because the flowers contain compounds called isoflavones that exert estrogen-like effects, red clover is commonly used to ease unpleasant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. The herb is also associated with decreasing the risk of heart disease due to anticoagulant properties that appear to improve circulation.
The pink-to-violet colored blossoms are also a good source of nutrients, including vitamin C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and thiamine. A strong infusion applied topically as a wash is refreshing and helps to ease various inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. The whole flowers can also be used in an herbal steam.
Red clover flowers are a pleasant tasting and visually appealing addition to tea blends, baked goods, soups and salads. The flowers also make an excellent culinary vinegar for use in making salad dressings and vegetable marinades.
Red Clover Vinegar
2 cups organic red clover blossoms (1 ¼ cup if using dried)
2 cups white vinegar
3 tablespoons raw honey
½ teaspoon sea salt
Place blossoms in a large mason jar or similar container with a tight-fitting lid. In a saucepan over low-medium heat, bring the vinegar, honey and salt just to the boil. Pour vinegar solution over blossoms. Place a square of cloth or wax paper over the top of the jar (to prevent rusting) and position the metal lid on top and secure with a metal ring or cap. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks. Strain, reserving the finished vinegar in a clean jar.
To make a tangy vinaigrette:
½ cup red clover vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; whisk briskly to blend. Transfer into a jar or cruet. Shake well before drizzling over salad greens or vegetables.