Black Medick, or known by its Latin name as Medicago lupulina, is a member of the Pea Family. Its lifespan is either an annual or a short lived perennial and the plant sprawls out along the ground from a 1-1 ½’ in length. This native plant of Eurasia can be now be found throughout much of North America in roadsides, waste places, meadows, and cultivated beds.
The flowers can be observed from March to December and are yellow, irregular, and grow in small flower heads that will turn into fruit clusters of small, one-seeded, black, spirally coiled pods. The plant has alternate leaves that are divided into 3 leaflets, which are entire or finely toothed, the leaflets are tipped with a short bristle, and they have long leafstalks. The stem is sprawling and downy, and the root is deeply rooted.
The seeds of Medicago lupulina is said to contain trypsin inhibitors. These can interfere with certain enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, but could possibly be destroyed if the seed is sprouted first. It should also be noted that other Medicagos, such as Alfalfa, contain the amino acid L-Canavanine which can cause abnormal blood cell counts, the enlargement of the spleen, and possibly a recurrence of lupus in those who suffer from the disease. Alfalfa also has some estrogenic components, so it is not recommended for pregnant women or children. The estrogenic components will also increases the clotting ability of your blood, which will decrease the effectiveness of drugs such as Warfarin/Coumadin.
Edible Parts: Seeds & Leaves: Summer to Fall
Nutrition: Three ounces of the leaves contains about 23.3 grams of protein, 3.3 of fiber and 10.3 of ash. In milligrams they have 1330 mg of calcium, 300 mg of Phosphorus, 450 mg of magnesium and 2280 mg of potassium.
The seeds were lightly roasted and eaten out of hand or ground into flour. The Leaves are a bit chewy and were cooked as a potherb.
Medicinal Actions: Antibacterial and a mild laxative
Aqueous extracts of the plant have antibacterial properties against micro-organisms and the plant is mildly laxative.
Other Uses: Fodder plant for grazing animals
Black Medick Sources:
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. 1986
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants. Dover Publications. Albany. J.B. Lyon Company, State Printers. 1919 pg. 357
Newcomb, Lawrence. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977. Print. pg. 58-59
Peterson, Lee Allen. The Peterson Field Guide Series; A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants; Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977. Print. pg. 80-81
Plants For A Future, Medicago Lupulina. Web.
United States Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Services. Web.
Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Dept of Agriculture. pg. 37