This past weekend, we had some Romanian friends come visit the garden to see what’s “growing on” these days. As I led them around, they nodded approvingly at the tomato seedlings being hardened off outdoors, they smelled the lavender, and tasted the kale and the arugula.
Just as I got to the bed with the onions and was showing them how they could eat the onion flowers, Gabriella muttered, “I wonder…” and began to search around the edges of our raised beds among the weeds. She picked a crimson clover and put it into her mouth, then spit it out. She shook her head, and went back to scanning the ground. Then she picked another, shorter clover with waxier looking leaves and ate it. “Aha!” she said, “Sour clover!”
She and her friends used to look for these tangy clovers as children in Romania, and she recalled how they would grow in abundance around her family’s well. It turns out that when I tasted one myself, it reminded me immediately of the new sorrel that I had planted in the garden just a couple weeks ago. This is no coincidence: both plants contain a mild toxin called oxalic acid, which gives them their characteristic tangy taste, similar to a sour apple. No worries, though—scientists generally agree that small amounts of oxalic acid are quite harmless, and sour clover can be harvested and sprinkled in salads without any negative effect on the person who eats it.
The latin name for sour clover is Oxalis montana, and it is also commonly known as wood sorrel (to no surprise!) This tasty little plant grows in relative abundance in Open Lotus Garden, and I can’t wait to mix it into a salad of many different greens for a wonderful variety of complex tastes that you’ll never be able to find in even the fanciest of grocery stores. I’ll bet sour clover would be fabulous in a salad with some shredded kale, a bit of spicy arugula, and some peppery nasturtium flowers and leaves! Who needs thick ranch dressing? Not me!