Friday, April 8, 2016

Four-Leaf Clovers

I find more four-leaf clovers than the average person. I joke it's because I spend more time actively looking for them than the average person, but I do think I have a knack for it. I would say that maybe it's genetic, because my dad has also found more than his fair share, but my brother says he's never found one at all. If you ever want to give it a whirl, here are my very highly scientific (ha!) tips and tricks of the trade.

1. Look for them.

I'm not joking or being facetious. You'll never find one if you don't look. Go to a local park, find a big patch of clovers, and start looking. Convince your spouse to go on a picnic. Just devote an hour to it and tell your kids it's a treasure hunt. Look along the curb when you're walking to your local coffee or gelato shop or to the mailbox. Even if you don't find one, you'll still have passed a good afternoon outside. Just, you know, be mindful of sunburn and bugs and cow poop. Or sheep poop, if you live near Vicenza...

2. Don't waste time looking through the wrong sort of clovers.

White Clover
If the clovers have triangular or heart-shaped leaves, you probably won't find a four-leaf clover. Most four-leaf clovers come from your every day garden variety White Clover. Also, quadrifolia plants masquerade as clovers, but they're not. Sorry to burst your bubble!

3. Start at the fringe of the patch.

For some reason, most of the four-leaf clovers I find are toward the edges of the patch rather than the center. I think maybe the runners are more exposed to things that could cause damage. Or maybe just the runners are more likely to be genetically corrupt. Who knows. I like to look around the edges of a patch, maybe moving in a circle, and tend to skip looking in the middle.

4. Don't look too hard.

That might sound counter-intuitive, but I find I have better luck when I scan rather than search. It's easier for me to notice a disruption in the pattern when my eyes are less focused and moving quickly. Sometimes I'll stand over a patch and lean over it a bit, and just poke around with my foot if something catches my eye. I don't look at the leaves too much; I tend to look for the white rings at the center of the clover. If I'm sitting down, I might run my fingertips through the patch to sort of separate the clovers from each other, but usually it's not necessary unless something catches my eye.
I count four...
5. If you find one, don't stop looking!

I remember walking through a disc golf park with my brother and mentioning that I find them often. No kidding, within two minutes I glanced down and one just jumped out at me. He said something like, "No way" and then within a few steps I found another one. This is how it goes though: where there's one, there's likely another one nearby. Last weekend I looked at dozens of patches and didn't see a single four-leaf clover. I was about to give up when I saw one more patch at the base of a tree, and stopped for a peek. Within 10 minutes I found 14 clovers! One of them had five leaves and one of them even had six leaves! I don't normally look around trees, but I definitely will in the future.

6. If you find one and choose to pick it, press it right away.

Clovers will shrivel up quickly after being picked. I've tried plopping them in vases of water and I've even tried plucking some with bits of roots to see if I could get them to grow at home, with no luck. (Yet.) I like to put them in the pages of a book (my Italian cookbook, to be exact) but a lot of people swear by wax paper. You know what else is a good option? A good old-fashioned phone book. If you use a book to press your clovers, use a nice heavy book with thin or textured paper, not the glossy kind. Trying to press a clover in glossy paper might result in mold or mildew. Yuck. That's why I personally avoid wax paper. Just beware that the clovers become brittle after time, and a sort of dull gray. Some people recommend pressing twice - once fresh, and once after a quick brush with green food coloring. I've never tried using food coloring on a clover, but since I've got such a collection going now, maybe I'll give it a whirl and see what happens. You can laminate them for bookmarks, use in coasters or paperweights, or even make jewelry out of them. I personally believe your luck is even better if you share your finds with a friend. 

Happy hunting, folks. The sky is the limit!

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