|vegetable||kilograms||Market Garden||Human food-grade||Hardy to zone 5. In flower June to July. Seeds ripen July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees, lepidoptera, self. Self-fertile.||Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in situ in autumn. Seed can be obtained that has been inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria, enabling the plant to succeed in soils where the bacteria is not already present.
Alfalfa can adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions from cold temperate to warm sub-tropical, but thrives best on a rich, friable, well-drained loamy soil with loose topsoil supplied with lime. It does not tolerate waterlogging and fails to grow on acid soils. Grows well on light soils. Alfalfa is a very deep rooting plant, bringing up nutrients from deep in the soil and making them available for other plants with shallower root systems. It is a good companion plant for growing near fruit trees and grape vines so long as it is in a reasonably sunny position, but it does not grow well with onions or other members of the Allium genus.||The plant contains saponin-like substances; large quantities of the leaves may cause the breakdown of red blood cells. Sprouts (and especially the seeds) contain canavanine, which can cause the recurrence of systemic lupus erythematosus (an ulcerous disease of the skin). Avoid during pregnancy and lactation. Avoid for people with hormone sensitive cancer. Avoid for people with gout (due to purines). Possible antagonize the anticoagulant effect of warfarin (due to vit K) and interfere with the immunosuppressant effect of corticosteroids.||Leaves and young shoots - raw or cooked. The leaves can also be dried for later use. The seed is commonly sprouted which is added to salads, used in sandwiches etc or cooked in soups. The seed is soaked in warm water for 12 hours, then kept moist in a container in a warm place to sprout. It is ready in about 4 - 6 days. The seeds can also be ground into a powder and used as a mush, or mixed with cereal flours for making a nutritionally improved bread etc. An appetite-stimulating tea is made from the leaves.
Alfalfa leaves, either fresh or dried, have traditionally been used as a nutritive tonic to stimulate the appetite and promote weight gain. The plant has an oestrogenic action and could prove useful in treating problems related to menstruation and the menopause. The plant is grown commercially as a source of chlorophyll and carotene, both of which have proven health benefits. The leaves also contain the anti-oxidant tricin. The root is febrifuge and is also prescribed in cases of highly coloured urine. Extracts of the plant are antibacterial. Used for asthma, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders (anti-ulcer).