Date posted: 13 October 2015
Welcome to another fact-filled instalment of our City Crop – Lucerne blog! This is the place to tune in if you want to find out all about our fancy new plant. We’ve already told you lucerne is grade-A cow food, and we’ve also mentioned that you might know lucerne in another yummy form – as alfalfa sprouts in your sandwiches! But you’re probably now wondering – what’s the difference between these two forms?
Lucerne (which you’ll see growing right now at the City Crop), if left to grow in the ground, can grow up to one metre high. Lots of green stems grow upwards with green leaves on them, and clusters of small purple flowers grow near the top of the plant – yes, it’s quite a pretty specimen!
Because lucerne is high in protein (which the body needs to grow and function properly) and other important nutrients, it’s perfect for farms where dairy cows can graze on (eat) the grown-up plant straight from the ground or eat it in the form of hay (lucerne that has been cut and dried).
For us humans, lucerne is digested much easier in the form of alfalfa, which is the sprouts of the plant (harvested long before they become the grown-up plant). Sprouts start with the seed, and as the lucerne seed is watered it begins to come alive (germinate), becoming filled with nutrients as it bursts out of its hull (the seed’s coat). It also starts to grow the thin long white tail with tiny green leaves on the end you might recognise from the supermarket shelf!
The great thing about alfalfa is all the healthy stuff inside it that’s great for our bodies. As mentioned above, alfalfa is full of protein, which our bodies need to grow and function properly. But this super plant is also a great source of important vitamins and minerals like calcium (good for strong bones), vitamin C (for strong immune systems and healthy skin), vitamin A (important for growth, development, a strong immune system and good eyesight), fibre (for a healthy digestive system) and vitamin K (good for your blood)
Of course the other great thing about alfalfa is the taste! Crunchy and mild with a nutty flavour, alfalfa is a great ingredient to put on things like salads; in your sandwiches, wraps or burgers; in smoothies; on top of soups; or in sushi. Or, of course, you can simply eat it by the handful!
Now that you know the difference between lucerne and alfalfa, stay tuned for the next City Crop blog post about why lucerne’s so important to farming in Australia! The best way to keep up-to-date with all things City Crop is to sign up for the e-newsletter, which means you’ll get all the news, blogs and event announcements delivered straight to your inbox.
And don’t forget to come and check out how our lucerne is growing at Adelaide Botanic Garden’s City Crop!