March 15, 2012 by Kevin
Foraging Wild Edibles: Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
Purple Dead Nettle or Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) is a common plant considered by most people to be only a weed. But recently I’ve been reading up on foraging and wild edibles and discovered that it’s edible, has medicinal properties, and is an important source of food for bees in early spring.
[The purple dead nettles are the taller plants with small pinkish flowers in the picture. Henbit and chickweed can also be found in the picture]
Disclaimer: All of the following information about the identification and use of this plant is accurate to the best of my knowledge. With that being said, only attempt to harvest and eat wild plants that you can identify with 100% accuracy. Buy a field guide or 2 on foraging for wild plants to learn to identify them at all stages. Cross-reference information and photos of plants with different sources. Know if there are any similar looking plants that might be poisonous. Before consuming a wild plant for the first time, eat only a small portion in case you are allergic.
Purple dead nettle is a short lived annual in the mint family (Lamiaceae ). Usually growing no larger than 1ft in height, it has squared stems (characteristic of mint family) and soft fuzzy leaves with a opposite leaf arrangement. Leaves also have a bit of purple in them. Flowers are pink/purple and very small.
The leaves, stem, and flowers are all edible. Purple dead nettle is very nutritious being high in iron, vitamins, and fiber. It can be eaten raw as a salad green or cooked. Try boiling in water for 20-30 minutes, drain, and season to taste. Collect when in flower for fresh eating or for storage by drying.
The entire plant is an astringent, styptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and purgative. A decoction can be made to help with hemorrhaging and the freshly bruised leaves can be applied to external cuts. Make a tea to use as a laxative or tonic by adding 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried herb to 1 cup hot water and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink in 1/2 cup doses.
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