Chile Pequin

Scientific Name(s): Capsium annuum
Abundance: uncommon
What: fruit
How: raw, dried, roasted
Where: borders
When: summer, fall
Nutritional Value: assorted beneficial chemicals
Dangers: HOT!!!

Chile pequin bushes are medium-sized, averaging about two feet high and three feet across.
Chili Pequin

Close-up of Chile Pequin bush.
ChilePequinBush2

Chile Pequin fruit starts out green and turns red.
Chile Pequin

Close-up of Chile Pequin fruit. Note the small size of both the fruit and the leaves.
ChilePequin1

Chili Pequin

Chile Pequin

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
ChilePequinTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
ChilePequin

The tiny chile pequin peppers are some of the hottest known (Scoville rating 100,000 - 400,000) and add a wonderfully fierce fire and delicious, smoky flavor to dishes. They are hottest when they are young and green then lose a small amount of fire when they turn red but are still extremely hot. Use them any way you would a commercial hot pepper including sauces, salsas, or to add a "bite" to assorted pickled veggies or eggs. Dried, ground-up chile pecans are a common sight on the table of many older Texas families.

The peppers appear after the tiny white flower dry and drop off the plant. These bushes can not handle full Texas sun but usually grow best in the partial shade of some larger plant. They do need regular watering otherwise they'll drop their leaves if they get too dry. The bushes may be knocked back by frosts but will return if the roots survived. Mulch the plants in the fall to help protect the roots from the cold. If several mild winters pass in a row chile pecans can actually achieve the size of a small tree!

Growing chile pecans from seeds isn't easy as they evolved to pass through a bird's stomach where the acid weakens the seed's tough coat. You can mimic this acidizing by soaking the seeds in battery acid or pool-cleaning acid for 1-3 minutes followed by rinsing then planting. Generally handling the battery acid is a risky thing so if you try this make sure you are wearing safety googles, protective gloves, and old clothing. Also please dispose of the acid properly.

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Cleaver

Scientific name: Galium aparine
Abundance: plentiful
What: seeds, leaves, stems
How: seeds roasted for coffee, leaves/stems raw though better cooked; tea from stems & leaves
Where: fields, yards, woods, sunny areas
When: Fall, Winter, Spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamin C
Other uses:
Dangers: They can be eaten raw but their tiny hairs irritate most people. Cooking them removes this problem.

A single strand of a Cleaver plant, ready to be boiled.
Cleaver.jpg

Cleaver seedlings which can be eaten raw at this point.
Cleavers

Young Cleavers past their raw edibility stage.
cleavers

A mass of mature Cleavers.
Cleavers

CleaverRuler

Close-up of Cleaver leaves.
Cleaver

Cleaver Leaves

Close-up of cleaver flower.
CleaverFlower

Mature Cleavers.
cleavers.jpg

Cleaver seeds.
Cleaver Seeds IGFB8

Fresh Cleaver tea!
Cleaver Tea

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
CleaversTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Cleaver

These common weeds pop up in late fall and by spring they form huge clumps of clingy, vine-like plants. In some circles cleaves are known as "backpacker colanders" as a large clump of them can be used as a field-expedient colander for straining pasta of rinsing berries.

Cleavers are covered with tiny, stiff hooks which allow them to cling to most fabric and pet hair, leading to their other common name Velcro Weed. The leaves of very young Cleavers are rounded but as the plant matures the leaves grow long and slender. Mature stems are square with noticeable groves. Seeds are small, round, and very clingy!

Cleavers are often used as a source of vitamin C in assorted bottled fruit juices and the same vitamin C benefits can be acquired from cleaver tea. Take fresh, green cleaver leaves and stems and chop them up before steeping in hot water for 10 minutes. The resulting tea will have a beautiful green color. Cleaver tea has a mild "green" taste which can be made more interesting by adding leaves, flowers, or bark of more flavorful plants.

Only the youngest, smallest Cleavers can be eaten raw and they can't have developed any of their "stickiness" yet otherwise they'll stick to your throat when you try to swallow them. When still tiny and unstick they taste like peas. Slightly older Cleavers, while still tender, make a good boiled greens addition to your meal. Be sure to drink or somehow use the resultant broth as it's rich in vitamin C. If after boiling 10 minutes the Cleaver stems are still stiff/woody the plant is too old to eat but the broth will still by good to drink.

Clover - Crimson

Scientific Name(s): Trifolium incarnatum
Abundance: uncommon
What: seeds, flower
How: seeds ground into flour, sprouted; flower raw or dried for tea
Where: sunny fields and ditches with moist soil, landscaping
When: spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: calories


Field of crimson clover
Crimson Clover Flower IGFB9

Young flower just beginning to turn crimson.
Crimson Clover

Mature flower head. They are much more elongated than white and red clovers
Crimson Clover IGFB

Close-up of leaf. Note the fine hairs along the leaflets' edges.
Crimson Clover Leaf

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
CrimsonClover-TX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
CrimsonClover-NA

The sunny fields of east Texas turn fiery red in the springtime with thousands of Crimson Clover flowerheads. This durable, prolific wildflower can often be found growing profusely in road medians thanks to Lady Bird Johnson's Texas beautification program. Beware sticking your nose too close to inhale its sweet aroma as both butterflies and bees find its nectar quite delicious!

Though lacking the medicinal properties of Red Clover, Crimson Clover's flowerhead makes a pleasant tea and can be used either fresh or after drying. I've never smoked it but based on my experience with other clovers, it's likely it'll be just as good.

The seeds have a long history of being collected and ground into flour. The individual seeds are small but it's relatively easy to harvest many of them to add to other plant seeds you've gathered. These seeds can also be sprouted into highly nutritious microgreens using standard sprouting techniques.

Being a nitrogen fixer, Crimson Clover makes an excellent fallow crop for revitalizing depleted soils. They prefer near-neutral pH soil with good drainage for optimal growth. A thick mat of this will often choke out other weeds which is either good or bad depending on how hungry you are. :-)

Sweet Clover

Scientific Name(s): Melilotus officinalis
Abundance: common
What: flowers, seeds, leaves
How: flowers in tea, seeds raw or roasted then ground into flour, leaves in salads or cooked
Where: Neglected areas, fields, yards
When: late winter through summer
Nutritional Value: starch in the seeds, protein in the leaves

Sweet Clover plant.
Clover - Sweet

HopClover

Close-up of Sweet Clover leaves.
HopCloverLeaf

Close-up of Sweet Clover leaf top.
Clover - Sweet

Close-up of Sweet Clover leaf bottom.
Clover - Sweet

Sweet Clover flowers.
Clover - Sweet

Clover - Sweet

Close-up of Sweet Clover flowers.
SweetCloverFlowers

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
SweetCloverMap_TX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
SweetCloverMap_NA


Sweet Clover have the same three-leaf shape as regular clover but the plant itself grows upright to over a two feet tall. Its leaves look similar to those found on the prostrate Black Medic plant. Its young leaves can be eaten raw but can be slightly tough. The yellow flowers can be used to make a sweet clover tea. These flowers eventually form individual seedpods each containing one seed. These seeds can be eaten raw or roasted then ground into flour. Like most seeds they can also be boiled into a porridge or gruel.

Like other clovers, hops clover can fix atmospheric nitrogen, turning it into a form usable by other plants. For this reason it is a good "weed" to let grow in your garden as it will fertilize nearby plants.

Clover - Red

Scientific Name(s): Trifolium pratense
Abundance: uncommon
What: leaves, flowers
How: leaves raw or boiled; flowers tea or smoked
Where: sunny fields
When: spring, summer
Nutritional Value: protein, assorted medicinal compounds

Red clover (plus some white clover around the edges)
RedClover

Clover - Red

Close-up of red clover flower. Note the white "V" chevrons on the leaves (somewhat hard to see in this picture).
RedClover2

Clover Red

Extreme close-up of Red Clover flower.
Clover - Red

Red clover leaf. Note the white "V" on each leaflet.
Clover Red

Red clover stems are hairy.
Clover Red

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
RedCloverMap_TX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
RedCloverMap_NA


Red clovers fill fields and country roadside ditches with bright splashes of color. They form thick colonies of plants, usually well under two feet tall. They are often planted on purpose along Texas roadside for their color and beauty.

Red clover leaves and flowers can be eaten raw but they are easier to digest if boiled for a bit. More often the flowers (fresh or dried) are made into beneficial tea. Seep/simmer (don't boil) the red clover leaves and flowers in water for about ten minutes to release its full flavor and helpful chemicals such as salicylic acid (aspirin), trypotphan (sleep inducer), genistan (anti-cancer agent), and estrogenic chemicals.

Red clover turns purple as it dries. If picked still red and allowed to dry it creates a delicious flavored smoke. However, don't bother trying to smoke flower heads which dried still on the plant, they aren't nearly as flavorful.

Clover - White

Scientific name: Trifolium repens L.
Abundance: common
What: leaves, flowers, root
How: leaves-raw or cooked before flowers appear; flowers-raw, cooked, dried for tea or flour, also smoked; root-dried then cooked
Where: lawns, fields
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: protein
Danger: soon after picking white clover can form dangerous cyanide.

A patch of White Clover.
clover.jpg

Close-up of leaves and flower.
Clover White

Very close-up of White Clover flower.
Clover - White

Clover leaves (right) are rounded while Wood Sorrel leaves (left) are heart-shaped.
Wood Sorrel Clover

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
WhiteCloverMap_TX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
WhiteCloverMap_NA

Many homeowners wage chemical warfare on patches of white clover in their grass without ever realizing that this plant not only produces nitrogen necessary for healthy grass, it's also delicious and nutritious! Both fresh or dried clover flowers can seeped in hot water to make a fantastic, naturally sweet tea. The leaves and roots can be added to stews, soups and other simmered dishes for a boost of protein. I like adding it to tomato-based sauces whose acidity helps break down and "pre-digest" the protein, making it easier for human stomachs to digest it.

The flowers and leaves must be used either within 30 minutes after picking or left to dry for 4-6 weeks. Soon after being picked the plant starts producing cyanide compounds and in an hour or less they can become dangerous to eat. If left to dry for 4-6 weeks these cyanides will disappear. For this reason one should NOT include clover when making sauerkraut, kimchi, or other fermented greens as the fermentation process doesn't interfere with the production of cyanide.

Dried white clover flowers make a very pleasant tasting herbal smoke.

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