Wildflower Jam: Red Clover and Pineapple Weed
I declare this the year of the wildflower jam! Truth is, I have been putting flowers in jam for a long time now. Lavender in blueberry, rose in raspberry, elderflower in strawberry – and it has been a good thing. This year, however, was my first foray into the world of jams and jellies based entirely on flowers – and most specifically, wildflowers and so called “weeds”. My first adventure with my Wild Rose Petal Jelly was stupendous, full of rosy goodness. Elegant, really… Intrigued, I turned my sights on weirder and weedier things. Red clover and pineapple weed jam – we have another winner! These two lovelies are some of my favorite sights and smells of summer.
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria matricariodes)
Pineapple weed reminds me vividly of visits to Great Granny and Grandads’ farm where it grew profusely in the tractor tracts in between the gardens and orchards. The sweet pineapple perfume on a warm sunny morning whilst on my way to pick berries or cherries, corn or beans –ahh, childhood memories… On my own farm, pineapple weed springs up in the tractor path and outside the milking stall – this is a weed that loves to be trampled and smashed to bits. Reliably hardy little weed. Pineapple weed is closely related to our favorite medicinal chamomile, identified by its finely dissected, almost lacy foliage and the bold greenish-yellow “button” of a flower. Unlike its sister, pineapple weed flowers have no noticeable rays (petals), and the “button” is somewhat cone shaped. Although I have not found “scientific” literature detailing its medicinal properties, it is thought to possess gentle sedative action similar to chamomile. Pineapple weed smells, well, of pineapple and offers a delightfully green apple flavor to the palate.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover is a much heralded medicinal, rich in minerals and isoflavones that support women’s health, and it is a favorite cover crop for area farmers to reinvigorate a fallow field with nitrogen. Just across from my farm is probably 50 acres of this valuable resource – but it is heavily sprayed and useless to me as an herbalist and forager. There are a patches of red clover in my lawn, but nothing appreciable. Imagine my joy when I fell upon a free seeded swath of red clover adjacent to an organic farm near my favorite foraging spot! Almost waist deep and weedy – THIS was the red clover that I wanted. Red clover flavor is subtle, somewhat grassy and a little bit sweet, not unlike a pea, but more floral.
Preparing & Canning Wildflower Jam
For the purposes of this wildflower jam recipe, I gathered the flowers of these foraged beauties. Gently tug at the conical buttons on pineapple weed to release. Don’t get too worried if a little foliage comes with it too. My recipe calls for about a cup of the flowering pineapple weed tops, rinsed, drained and patted dry. The red clover, while easy to harvest, is a bit more tedious prior to processing. I gathered enough to fill one of those flimsy plastic grocery bags I keep in my rig for impromptu wildcrafting. I rinsed the individual florets under cool water in attempt to flush away the wee beasties hiding in the clover petals. So. Many. Tiny. Flea. Beetles. After rinsing and draining, I pulled the clover petals from the central portion, discarding the green parts for chicken food. My big bag o’ clover yielded about three cups of separated petals. The process is time consuming – but this red clover and pineapple weed jam is worth the effort.
It is important to bring up the point of acidity, in respects to canning, here. Many fruits have ample acid making them safe to water bath can with rather small additions of lemon juice. Since flower bits are more or less pH neutral, a safe recipe will call for a bit more acidity. After declaring this the summer of wildflower jams and jellies, I invested in a small, inexpensive handheld pH meter. Properly calibrated and maintained, this handy little tool should help me to develop new recipes for years to come – more wildflower jam and jelly coming at you. In order to safely preserve foods in a water bath canner, the pH of the concoction must be 4.6 or lower (pH of 4.7 and higher must be preserved using a pressure canner to prevent botulism risk). This recipe was well within the safe zone, measuring in the mid 3’s. Perhaps I was overly generous with the lemon juice, but the bright citrus note only enhanced the flavor of the wildflower jam. Again, here I am using Pomona’s Pectin due to the low relative sugar content and overall lack of present pectin. In this case I used a combination on wildflower honey and a bit of organic sugar to sweeten the jam.
The resulting red clover and pineapple weed jam is nothing short of delicious. Imagine caramel apples and flowers… Perfectly suitable for toast, I love this wildflower jam slathered on biscuits or cornbread. This wildflower jam is kind of rustic and really wonderful. Just another way to eat the weeds and relish doing so!!!
- 3 cups red clover petals
- 1 cup pineapple weed flowers
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup raw, organic sugar
- 4 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin
- 4 teaspoons calcium water
- Prepare clean and patted dry clover by removing the petals; rinse and pat dry the pineapple weed flowers.
- Place 4 teaspoons of pectin and 1/2 cup sugar into a small bowl, mix and set aside.
- Place prepared flowers into a heavy bottomed saucepan and add water, honey, lemon juice and calcium water. Stirring frequently, bring the wildflower mixture to a slight boil.
- Add sugar/pectin mixture slowly, stirring well to combine. Return to a slight boil and cook for approximately 2 minutes stirring constantly.
- Ladle into prepared jars. Wipe the rims, and screw on prepared lids and rings, finger tight. Process in a water bath canner at a full boil for 10 minutes (for half pints) or 15 minutes (for pints).
- After processing, remove jars from canner and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in a cool dark spot for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.