Alfalfa is native to Iran. Alfalfa was introduced to Europe as part of the Persian invasion of Greece in 491 bce. Alfalfa made its way to China by the 2nd century bce.
Historically, alfalfa was eaten during times of hardship and shortage, such as the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). It has in recent decades become popular salad fare, where it makes a nutritious lettuce substitute. Alfalfa is often mixed with other, spicier sprouts – radish, mustard, garlic, or broccoli – to produce a more pungent mix.
Alfalfa sprouts are highly nutritious: rich in vitamins A and K, and minerals.
Alfalfa has diuretic properties, and so is used to treat urinary tract infections. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines employ alfalfa sprouts for digestive difficulties, ulcers, and arthritis. As all raw legume sprouts contain anti-herbivore toxins, eating them raw in moderation, or cooking them first, is advised.