The flowers of red clover (Trifolium pratense) make a mild, spicy-sweet herbal tea. Red clover grows wild in many locations throughout the United States and can be planted in home gardens as well. You can make a tealike infusion from fresh red clover flowers or preserve the flowers for later use by air-drying them or putting them in a dehydrator.
Finding Red Clover
Red clover is a European native that grows as a weed throughout much of the United States. It is a short-lived perennial or biennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. In agriculture, red clover is used as an annual cover crop and forage crop, and often it grows near the farm fields from which it spread. If you grow red clover in your garden, be aware that it is a vigorous plant and may become invasive. To control its spread, remove its flowers before they produce seeds, and hand-pull extra red clover plants.
If you harvest the flowers of wild red clover plants, avoid the plants that may have been affected by pollution or treated with herbicide or pesticide. Harvest well away from roads and fields that may have been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide. Also avoid harvesting under roof drip lines near a house.
Harvesting its Flowers
Start harvesting red clover flowers about one week after the first of those flowers appear in early summer. Harvest by pinching or snipping the blossoms, leaving the rest of each plant undisturbed so it can make more flowers. About three harvests of flowers off red clover plants are possible each year.
To preserve the purple-red color of red clover blooms, pick them early in morning before the dew has completely dried.
Using Drying Processes
Spread harvested red clover blooms in a flat-bottom basket or on a drying rack. Ensure the blooms are not touching each other.
Place the basket or drying rack in a place that is dark, warm and dry with good ventilation.
Turn the red clover blooms every few days. They will dry in one to two weeks.
Rinse red clover flowers under running water, and shake off the excess moisture.
Set a dehydrator's temperature gauge to 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the flowers in the dehydrator with space between the blooms.
Leave the flowers in the dehydrator for one to four hours. The flowers are ready when they are dry enough to crumble.
Storing the Dried Flowers
When the flowers are dry, transfer them to glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, or to plastic bags with zippers to close them. Mark the containers or bags with the year so you'll quickly know their flower herbs' age. Keep the containers or bags in a dark cupboard or brown paper bag to protect the herbs from sunlight.