The flowers are rich in pollen making this a good bee plant. If they are cut back before flowering, the plants will grow on for at least another year before dying. The dried plant has a sweet aromatic fragrance like newly mown hay.
The leaves contain coumarin and they release the pleasant smell of newly mown hay when they are drying. The leaves are dried and used as an insect repellent, especially in order to repel moths from clothing. They can be put in pillows, mattresses etc.
The plant can be used as a green manure, enriching the soil with nitrogen as well a providing organic matter.
Prefers a well-drained to dry neutral to alkaline soil in a sunny position. Prefers a clay or a saline soil. Dislikes shade. Established plants are drought tolerant.
Sow spring to mid-summer in situ. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
The dried leaves can be toxic. though the fresh leaves are quite safe to use. This is possibly due to the presence of coumarin, the substance that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay, if taken internally it can prevent the blood clotting.
Leaves and seedpods - cooked as a 'bean soup'.
The pea-like seeds are used as a seasoning for bean and split-pea soups.
Young shoots - raw or cooked. Added to salads or used as a potherb. Only fresh shoots should be used, the dried leaves contain coumarin.
Flowers - raw or cooked. Used as a vanilla-like flavouring.http://practicalplants.org/wiki/Melilotus_officinalis