Dead nettle, sometimes referred to as purple dead nettle, (Lamium purpureum) is all over our yard this spring.
We are loving to go foraging for dead nettle!
I once thought of dead nettle only as a horrible weed we needed to pull, but I am now understanding how useful it is. The common name of “dead nettle” refers to the fact that they do not have stingers like the stinging nettle. They have square stems and produce double-lipped flowers in a wide range of colors. The leaves of the plant are oval, jagged, have long stalks, and are arranged in pairs opposite to each other. They have a triangular, smoothed base and grow up to 3 cm to 8 cm in length and are 2 cm to 5 cm in width.
Things to remember when foraging for dead nettle are:
- Besides backyards, dead nettle can be found and foraged for in many areas. You will often find them on the roadside, usually taking over disturbed or previously tilled ground.
- Nettles are naturally full of Vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron.
- They have an earthy flavor to them and can be used in any recipe as a replacement for spinach.
- When you collect them, simply snip the stems about 1/2″ from the ground. Carefully shake off any dirt or bugs, and place in your collection container.
The flowers can also be used fresh, or dried and used in herbal teas later on.
Dead nettle has many medicinal uses, as the whole plant has astringent qualities. Nettles also have diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative, and styptic properties. An infusion of the plant is particularly useful for hemorrhage, while the fresh bruised leaves can be applied to external cuts and wounds.
To make an infusion of fresh dead nettle leaves, simply clip them off the plant, rinse and place in a teapot. Add 1/2 cup of fresh leaves for every 8 ounces of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Sweeten to taste with honey, stevia, or coconut sugar as desired and enjoy!
To dry the nettle leaves for later, snip off the plant, lay flat on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate for 6-8 hours on low. You can also dry them in a low oven, 175 degrees or less, for 8-10 hours. Add 3 Tablespoons dried leaves for every 8 hours of boiling water.
When foraging for dead nettle, you’ll often find them near henbit.
They are similar in size, but henbit has more green leaves, while dead nettle’s leaves are more purple. Both have purple, tubular flowers appearing in clusters at the top of the plant. They can both be used interchangeably in recipes, but they ARE different plants.
There are many delicious ways, besides dead nettle’s medicinal uses to enjoy this plant.
Some purple dead nettle recipes to try the leaves in are: smoothies, soups, stir frys, and even in casseroles. They are great in salads, too! Blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water, cool in an ice bath for 3 minutes, then freeze for later. This can help reduce the oxylates that may be naturally occurring in the plant. Anywhere that you would use spinach, try substituting for dead nettle!