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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

My brother Kevin’s favorite childhood show was Magic Garden. I enjoyed it too, but I think I enjoy it more as an adult. It’s got enough humor to appeal to kids, and enough humor to crack you up as an adult in a wholly different way.

If you’ve never seen it (or if you have, you will delightfully remember) they had a bunch of fake flowers growing next to the fake tree, called the Chuckle Patch. Part of the show always involved the two hosts sitting down next to the Chuckle Patch, pulling off a fake leaf, and reading the joke written there.

One of the few we collectively remember (and repeat to each other, laughing wildly) is the title of this post.

What’s green and green and green and green?

Alas, I’ve already written about green.

But today is St. Patrick’s Day, and I can’t help but think in green today. Green eggs and ham. Green beer. Green chartreuse cocktails.

So I decided to pick the greenest icon of all, the clover, and see where the daily rabbit hole took me.

You are not even going to believe it.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. Clovers and shamrocks are not necessarily the same thing. Shamrocks very specifically have three leaves. Clover can have two, three, four, five six… the world record for most leaves on a single clover is… wait for it… 56.


How do you even fit that many leaves on one stem, let alone count them? Apparently the person who currently holds the record also held it for the prior “most leaves on a clover” record, which was 21. This guy is very serious about his clover hunting.

So in the same fashion as bourbon and whiskey, champagne and sparkling wine, all shamrocks are clovers, but not all clovers are shamrocks.

Now are you ready to have all your dreams shattered? That last four leaf clover you found? Probably not a clover.

Clover have egg-shaped leaves, and there are a bunch of kinds – white clover, red clover, strawberry clover. But their leaves are always an oval shape. There are, however, lots of imposter clovers, all of which can have four leaves and do a good job of convincing you that it’s your lucky day.

In fact, the iconic shape of clover that you probably drew all over your notebooks as a kid, with the heart-shaped leaves… not clover!

It is, most likely, Oxalis.

Meet Oxalis. It probably has a bigger following than actual clover.

The flowers are a giveaway, because clover has those white or pinkish tufts, and this has little white petals. Sometimes they’re yellow or pink or purple. But they are still not clover.

Except for green beer, which always was and still is disgusting, St. Patrick’s Day is turning out to be full of surprises.

All through my early school years I would wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day. It was the 70s, so I had a pair of green polyester pants. I had green other things, too, depending on the year.

And every year I would have to answer the same stupid, rhetorical questions.

Are you Irish???

{{{Close your ears, mom. This is the part where I complain about school and it’s NSFM (Not Safe For Mothers). Skip ahead.}}}

It’s astonishing how many times asshole kids can be assholes in the exact same way and think they’re clever every time.

Are you Irish??? Asked with mock interest because they know you’re not but they have to abuse you about it anyway.

I had to answer that question about fifty times every St. Patrick’s Day. You’d think I would’ve gotten the message and just not worn green. Persistent individuality or pure stupidity, you decide.

But every year, same question, same kids, because damn, those kids were clever!

So I’d say no, I’m not Irish and then of course they would very cleverly ask So why are you wearing green???

I wish I was just marginally more of an asshole as a kid. Because instead of telling them to jump off a bridge and die, I just answered every time that I wanted to wear green for the holiday, and anyway, you don’t have to be Irish to wear it.

Or I ignored them, and there is nothing more that clever asshole kids like than to be ignored. It really gives them something to do.

{{{Rant over, mothers reenter here.}}}

I don’t know where that rant came from except that it popped into my head the minute I started thinking about green and St. Patrick’s Day.

Maybe that’s why I don’t own anything green except for the one cheap Amazon Prime shirt I bought two weeks ago. Maybe I suddenly had an urge to reclaim my right to wear whatever I want. I’m old enough now to do things without explaining them. And if someone gets clever about it, I have no problem telling them to go jump off a bridge and die.

Other than that, my relationship with the holiday is rather sparse.

It did, of course, always come with cutout cookies in the shape of shamrocks piled with green sugar crystals. Probably four leaf shamrocks, the impossibility of which I was blissfully ignorant. It’s hard not to feel lucky when you’ve got a plate of cutout cookies in front of you.

Poor clover gets a bad rap as a weed but it’s much more independent than grass. Maybe I was the clover of my fourth grade class.

You can mow, water, fertilize and pick weeds out of your lawn with tweezers, and that grass will turn brown and die the minute you turn your back. Clover, on the other hand, has no trouble sprouting everywhere, even in the spaces between your dead grass blades.

In fact, clover seeds were traditionally mixed with grass seeds because the resulting lawn was prettier, hardier, softer and better for the soil. I don’t know when it became a weed that had to be killed at all costs, but I’m guessing some clever kid came up with the idea.

Clover has deeper roots than grass so it can tolerate drought well, and it is known as a nitrogen fixer, which means it grabs nitrogen from the air and pulls it down to the earth where it will actually help naturally fertilize your capricious grass.

And rabbits love it, which means they may spend less time in your lettuce.

I think more people should be clovers.

I’m almost positive I have a four leaf clover pressed between wax paper somewhere in a box. Or I was sure, until I learned that it might not be a clover after all. Knowing this suddenly makes me want to run outside to the ridiculous amount of lawn in this area and start scouring it for clover.

Do you know where there is a LOT of clover? At the farm where Ralph and I walk. I know this very specifically because we walk barefoot there a lot, and the ground is covered in all the white flowers and all the bees that love all the white flowers. It’s like the world’s most intense obstacle course.

Shockingly, we’ve only ever been stung once.

I’ll tell you what though, clover is soft as heck. If you’ve ever walked barefoot on grass in the middle of a Tennessee summer, it’s like walking across a flaming bed of nails. You will get stabbed and burnt like nobody’s business. But walking on a bed of clover is cool and silky. And actually, it is so soft and plush that you can step on a bee or two and not even disturb them enough to sting you. Clover has helped me get over my panic about bees. You can walk through a lawn of clover with honeybees and bumblebees swarming all around and they will pay you not one iota of notice.

Clover is in the same family as peas, and yes, you can eat it, flowers included. This is something I didn’t know, which naturally means I need to go out and harvest some for my salad.

Of course there is plenty of clover honey to be had, but make sure to buy it locally. Most commercial honeys are not anything resembling honey at all, no matter what the package says. Clover honey is very mild and not my favorite type, but I forgive it, because I also just learned that you can use clover flowers to make syrups for cocktails.

Nasturtiums and hibiscus get attention as edible garnishes, but I have never seen clover flowers on top of a cupcake. I feel that this needs to change. I feel responsible for spearheading the initiative.

They’re quite healthy, too, with lots of isoflavones, calcium, vitamin C and other nutrients. I hear they are mildly sweet. I’ll let you know.

Although both shamrocks and clover are associated with St. Patrick’s Day, they have vastly different mythological histories. Shamrocks are representative of the Christian Trinity, and said to be associated with faith, hope and love. The clover, specifically the four-leaf variety, is said to represent faith, hope, love, and of course, luck.

Seems like clover is an all around win. And I’m going to call this a win of a word, and walk barefoot with far more appreciation now. But not before I make some clover cocktails.

PS: I know you’ve been pondering the great Chuckle Patch’s question since the beginning. The answer?

A pickle rolling down a hill.


Photo: barefoot in the clover last summer at Harlinsdale farm.