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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Purple Deadnettle flower

Purple Deadnettle flower

Season: Spring & Summer

Urban, Rural or Both: Both

Deadnettle (Lamium) genus has three edible plants in it that are found in eastern North America. The Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), the Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), and the White Nettle (Lamium album). Each one has a section of its own below.

The "Deadnettle" name comes from how they look like the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), but don't sting. In other words, the stinging aspect of the plant is dead. Odd how names come about.

As a general rule, they are a safe edible, but to be honest, given the choice between any of the (Lamium) genus, and the Stinging Nettle, I'll take the Stinging Nettle - if it is in season. The advantage of the Lamium is the season is longer. The Stinging Nettle loses its great taste very quickly as the season moves on - only the top leaves are good when young in spring. Another advantage of the Lamium is the taste is more consistent, whereas with Stinging Nettle the taste varies greatly from patch to patch. And, of course, there is no chance of getting stung with the Lamium - I don't think I've ever gotten away without getting stung when gathering Stinging Nettles.


Henbit


Season: Spring


Urban, Rural or Both: Both


Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). Known also as Henbit Deadnettle and Greater Henbit.


Very similar looking the Purple Deadnettle listed right below. Not a problem if you confuse one for the other, as they can be used interchangeably. The upper leaves on the Purple Deadnettle have obvious stems and the more triangular leaves are tinted slightly burgundy-purple, whereas with the Henbit, the rounder upper leaves are stemless and are greener.

If you look closely at the flower, on the lower petal, it narrows about a third from the end, then widens again forming what looks like two more petals on the end. Very often, on this part which is light in color there are darker dots of color that look like a face - two eyes close to the trumpet like opening of the flower, with the mouth at the thin part. Also, the upper petal has a fine hairy quality on the top which is of richer color. You will need a magnifying glass or using your binoculars backwards to see this most likely.

The very upper leaves often have a reddish outline at the margins, and sometimes on the back of the leaf veins.

As far as using goes, it is fairly straight forward. Just use like any cooked green. Take the top of a growing shoot, stem and all, rinse, chop up and add to whatever you are cooking that you want greens in. Although the taste is unique, it is fairly mild, so whatever you spice with will be the main taste. You don't have to boil in water and pour off the water first - just use them. They cook fairly fast, ten minutes until soft in steam or water. By the way, even though this is part of the mint family (square stem is the clue), it does not taste of mint at all. I find that the flavor is enhanced by something acidic, like adding a touch of Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice near the end of cooking.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

Find plant in the fall with mature seed, spread over the ground where you want them, tamp and mulch very lightly, and leave. Next spring they should show up, and after that, will come up again year after year if the conditions are right.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Lamium Genus - Henbit, Purple Deadnettle & White Nettle page.


Description:


Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Picture of Henbit Flowers

Picture of Henbit Flowers *


laam_001_lvd

Henbit drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 121)


Picture of the open flower of a Henbit

Picture of Henbit flowers *




Purple Deadnettle


Season: Spring


Urban, Rural or Both: Both


Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). Known also as Red Deadnettle, Purple Archangel and Velikdenche. Although part of the mint family, it doesn't smell minty, but there is a hard to describe scent.

For the most part, just treat the same as the very similar looking Henbit listed above. Best early in the season, although if you like the flavor of it, it does get stronger as the plant goes into flower.

Although you can eat this plant raw, there is a smell to it raw I don't care for, however the taste does not reflect the smell. Best cooked, in stir-fry's or with cooked foods. The upper stems, flowers and leaves are edible, so just cut off the top section and use.

The upper leaves on the Purple Deadnettle have obvious stems and the more triangular leaves are tinted slightly burgundy-purple, whereas with the Henbit, the rounder upper leaves are stemless and are greener. From an eating point of view, it doesn't really matter if you mix them up.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

Find plant in the fall with mature seed, spread over the ground where you want them, tamp and mulch very lightly, and leave. Next spring they should show up, and after that, will come up again year after year if the conditions are right.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Lamium Genus - Henbit, Purple Deadnettle & White Nettle page.


Description:


Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


lapu2_001_lvd

Purple Deadnettle drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 121)


Purple Deadnettle top

Purple Deadnettle looking straight down.


Purple Deadnettle flower

Purple Deadnettle flower



White Nettle


Season: Spring & Early Summer


Urban, Rural or Both: Both


White Nettle (Lamium album) also known as Bee Nettle (Bees like the flowers), Deadnettle and White Dead-nettle in Europe. Not related to the Stinging Nettle despite the name and the fact that the leaves look quite similar.

Young leaves from the plant can be used in salads and cooked, while the leaves of the plant in flower are good only cooked. I will eat these, but if I can get good Stinging Nettles in season, I prefer them. Cook a few of them in with any meal like any other green. Nothing special taste wise, but nothing bitter or unpleasant either.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

Find plant in the fall with mature seed, spread over the ground where you want them, tamp and mulch very lightly, and leave. Next spring they should show up, and after that, will come up again year after year if the conditions are right.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Lamium Genus - Henbit, Purple Deadnettle & White Nettle page.


Description:


White Nettle (Lamium album) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


White Deadnettle

White Nettle


laal_001_lvd

White Nettle drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 122.)





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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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