White sweet clover: our boreal vanilla

2 minute(s) read Categories Recipes Herbs

Belonging to the same family as clover, white sweet clover (Melilotus albus) grows in dry, gravelly soils, along roadsides or in our fields. You have undoubtedly already seen its flower stems swaying in the wind, sticking up more than a metre from the ground.

The tiny white flowers of sweet clover give off a sweet smell, appreciated by bees. Once dried, they reveal an intoxicating aroma reminiscent of vanilla, with added notes of almond and freshly cut hay.

In a way, sweet clover is our local vanilla. It is also nicknamed boreal vanilla or Nordic vanilla.


Cooking with white sweet clover


Coming from a wild environment, white sweet clover offers complex notes that wonderfully enhance the taste of food and drinks.

Its aromatic profile deliciously flavours milk-based desserts, whipped cream, cheesecake, as well as any recipes featuring chocolate, fruit or maple syrup. It also makes perfect pairings with cinnamon, nuts and honey.

A small amount is enough to flavour cocktails, sparkling water, spirits and coffees, and even milk. Finally, this boreal vanilla enhances sauces intended for fish and seafood.


Preserving sweet clover

Kept away from humidity, in a cool, dark place, dried sweet clover will keep for several months. Additionally, unlike certain spices whose flavour fades over time, that of sweet clover tends to develop with age.


Where to buy sweet clover?

White sweet clover is available in 3 formats: dried herb, powder and liquid essence. These are available at many health food stores across Canada or through online retailers.

Before purchasing, make sure the picking was done in areas not contaminated by cars since this native plant often grows along highways.

WARNING: It is not advisable to harvest and transform white sweet clover yourself. If it’s not properly dried and preserved, there can be harmful consequences on your health.


Recipes with white sweet clover to try


Sweet clover caramel, a Gourmet sauvage recipe

  • 1 cup 35% cream
  • 2 tbsp. sweet clover essence
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup (or glucose)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

Bring the cream and salt to a boil. In another saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the caramel begins to colour, then stir to obtain an even colour. Cook until the caramel turns dark (184 °C). Remove from heat and add a little cream to stop the cooking. Gradually add the rest of the cream and heat again to ensure that all the caramel is melted. Remove from heat and add the butter and white sweet clover essence. Stir well and put in jars.


Lemon sweet clover cake, a Gourmet sauvage recipe




  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar + 3 tbsp. to sprinkle on the baking dish
  • 1 cup white flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • the zest of 2 lemons
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp. icing sugar
  • 2 tsp. sweet clover essence or 3 tsp. dried sweet clover

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Butter inside the pan and sprinkle with sugar. Shake to remove excess sugar. Mix flour, salt and baking powder. Add 1 tbsp. lemon juice to the milk. Beat the sugar and butter with a mixer until smooth (about 2 minutes). Add the egg, lemon zest and sweet clover essence. One after the other, add the milk mixture and the flour mixture. Pour into the pan, then bake for 40 minutes.

Mix the icing sugar with the remaining lemon juice. Pour the icing over the cake when it comes out of the oven. Let cool and serve.

Recipes from Gourmet sauvage (in french only) : 5 recettes pour découvrir le mélilot | gourmetsauvage.ca