(Medicago sativa— Family Leguminosae)
Alfalfa, Purple medick, Lucerne (Britain)
Alfalfa is a plant native to Media (Iran) as evidenced by its scientific name.
The term medick comes from the Latin Herba Medica, indicating that it had some medicinal use.
Pliny states that it was introduced to Europe during an invasion of Greece by the Persian Emperor Darius in 491 BCE, and into China as early as the 2nd century BCE.
It was a vital fodder crop of ancient civilizations in the Near East and the Mediterranean; and, by 1757, it had found its way to Britain, where alfalfa was only used for human consumption during times of shortage. An example of this was in Spain during the Civil War. In China, the young leaves are eaten as a vegetable, while the seeds are ground into a meal.
Today, alfalfa is grown as an annual or short-lived perennial, mainly as cattle feed, but also for its seed sprouts and young leaf shoots, which are a valuable sources of iron, beta carotene, and protein (higher than most vegetables, including that of its close relative, the pea).
are a popular salad item, especially for vegetarians since sprouting any seed, grain, or pulse, not only increases the nutrient content, but also makes them easier to digest and assimilate.
However, seeds for sprouting should not come from agricultural varieties as they are usually chemically treated.
The seeds and sprouts are not only rich in beta carotene, B vitamins (including B12), vitamins C, D, E, and K, but also in minerals, particularly potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Alfalfa acts as a tonic, stimulant, appetizer, and diuretic. A tea made from young leaves is used to increase vitality, appetite, and weight.
This fast-growing evergreen legume with clover-like leaves can reach almost four feet in height.
It has spikes of violet and blue flowers and produces quality crops even on poor soils.
Like all legumes, alfalfa is especially adept at fixing nitrogen in the root nodules, where they can penetrate twenty feet into the ground drawing up nutrients (phosphorus, potassium, iron, and magnesium), aerating the soil, and keeping the grass greener longer during a drought.
Alfalfa is also valued by gardeners as a green manure as well as a nutritious vegetable. Its wildflower blooms are rich in nectar, while the leaves are a commercial source of chlorophyll.
Honey producers are fond of having alfalfa fields closeby as the honey that is produced is very mild and white. Alberta, Canada, was, at one time, the world’s leader in this type of honey.
We highly recommend alfalfa as a supplement and purchase ours from an organic source, Suede Hills, in southern British Columbia.