Alfalfa /ælˈfælfə/, Medicago sativa also called Lucerne, is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop. The name alfalfa is used in North America. The name lucerne is the more commonly used name in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The plant superficially resembles clover (a cousin in the same family), especially while young, when trifoliate leaves comprising round leaflets predominate. Later in maturity, leaflets are elongated. It has clusters of small purple flowers followed by fruits spiralled in 2 to 3 turns containing 10–20 seeds. Alfalfa is native to warmer temperate climates. It has been cultivated as livestock fodder since at least the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Alfalfa sprouts are a common ingredient in dishes made in South Indian cuisine.
In the North American colonies of the eastern US in the 18th century, it was called “lucerne”, and many trials at growing it were made, but generally without sufficiently successful results.] Relatively little is grown in the southeastern United States today. Lucerne (or luzerne) is the name for alfalfa in Britain, Australia, France, Germany, and a number of other countries. Alfalfa seeds were imported to California from Chile in the 1850s. That was the beginning of a rapid and extensive introduction of the crop over the western US States and introduced the word “alfalfa” to the English language. Since North and South America now produce a large part of the world’s output, the word “alfalfa” has been slowly entering other languages.
Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll, carotene, protein, calcium and other minerals, vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.