Survival foods: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Posted: April 9, 2014 by Rex Trulove in Survival, survival food, wild food
Tags: , , , , , ,

alfalfaWhen people think of survival foods, edible wild plants in particular, there is an excellent chance that they won’t often think about alfalfa. After all, alfalfa is widely grown, harvested, baled and fed to livestock. However, this is a very good food for surviving whatever holocaust might come your way.

To say that this plant is widespread would be understating it. It occurs in the wild, but its value as a high protein livestock feed has resulted in it being cultivated and grown almost everywhere except in the polar regions.

The leaves look quite a lot like those of clover, which alfalfa is related to. However, alfalfa can grow much taller than clover. With some support, the plant can easily reach above four feet in height.

The flowers are blue to purple and occur on a flower cluster that grows from one of the main stems. The clusters often have one to two dozen flowers in it. The flowers have a slight but sweet scent that is favored by bees and hummingbirds.

As a food, the young shoots and the leaves can be simply picked and eaten, they can be added to salads, they can be added to soups and stews and they can be steamed or boiled as a potherb. The flavor is sweet and mild. As a potherb, a pat of butter seems to bring out the sweetness. The stems tend to get a little tough, but they can still be cooked and eaten if they are chopped up. Since the flavor is sweet but bland, alfalfa leaves are sometimes added to potherbs that have a bitter or particularly strong taste.

The seeds are also edible when they are sprouted. Alfalfa sprouts are sometimes sold in stores for additions to sandwiches and salads, and they have a slightly nutty flavor.

This plant is quite high in vitamin K and is a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, magnesium, manganese and copper. The plant is also high in protein, which is of course the reason it is grown for livestock, and it also has a good amount of fiber.

Additionally, alfalfa has medicinal properties. Tea made from the fresh or dried leaves can be used to increase appetite, to stop bleeding including in women during menses and to treat digestive ulcers, it can lower cholesterol, it increases the number of white blood cells so it can help when a person is trying to overcome an infection, it is a powerful source of antioxidants and it has even been used to increase milk production for lactating mothers.

Safety note: The seeds shouldn’t be consumed by people who have ever suffered from Lupus.

Alfalfa may not be commonly consumed, but though it does have medicinal value, the nutritive value is great. The flavor is good, too. This is a plant that definitely belongs on the checklist of survival foods.

The picture is by Pollinator, creative commons share alike 3.0 attribute.

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