Foraging for Dead Nettle – Read This First

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 now understand how useful it is.

dead nettles
dead nettles

The common name of “purple 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 you’ll find them arranged in pairs opposite to each other.

Deadnettle leaves 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.

Front Yard Foraging for Purple Dead Nettle -

Keep These in Mind

  • Besides backyards, dead nettle can be found and foraged for in many areas.  Look for them on the roadside, usually taking over disturbed or previously tilled ground.
  • Nettles are naturally full of Vitamins A and C and are an excellent source of iron.
  • They are edible and have an earthy flavor to them. Use deadnettle in any recipe as a replacement for spinach.
  • When you collect them, snip the stems about 1/2″ from the ground. Carefully shake off any dirt or bugs, and place in your collection container.

Nettle flowers can also be used fresh, or dried, and used in herbal teas.

Dead nettle has many medicinal uses, as the whole plant has astringent qualities. Nettles also have diaphoretic, diuretic, purgative, and styptic properties.

To make an infusion of fresh dead nettle leaves, clip them off the plant, rinse, and place them in a teapot.

Tips for Foraging Dead Nettle

When foraging for dead nettle, you’ll often find them near henbit.

Henbit and dead nettle are similar in size, but henbit has predominately green leaves, and dead nettle’s leaves have 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.

How To Use It

Dead Nettle Infusion Recipe

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 them flat on a dehydrator sheet, and dehydrate for 6-8 hours on low.

You can also dry them in a low oven, 175 degrees F (80 C) or less, for 8-10 hours. Add 3 tablespoons of dried leaves for every 8 hours of boiling water.

Other Ways To Use It

There are many delicious ways to enjoy this plant…

Try purple dead nettle leaves in smoothies, soups, stir-fries, 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.

Blanching can help reduce the oxalates that may be naturally occurring in the plant. Anywhere that you would use spinach, try substituting it for dead nettle!

Have you ever gone foraging for dead nettle? What are your favorite dead nettle recipes? Have you used it for tea or its medicinal uses? Be sure to pin this for later!

Purple Dead Nettle pin

17 thoughts on “Foraging for Dead Nettle – Read This First”

  1. I sure have. Saw them in town on a walk, actually. Went back to get them later…when it was dark…and a police officer stopped and asked if I was ok. Oh sure! I held it up and said “It’s dead nettle, I’m picking it for a friend” lol. He probably thought I was nuts.

  2. Donna Allgaier-Lamberti

    Just be careful while collecting from roadsides, long railroads and unknown areas. Spraying is often done in these areas. Foraging is great but be safe rather than sorry!

    1. I agree. I was just getting ready to post the same thing. I tell my folks not to pick from the roadside. Not only because of the spraying but also exhaust. There is just to much that can be on those plants on the roadside that you may not be able to wash off

  3. Lisa martinez

    I live in northeastern mass. Haverhill and wonder where i could find some to replant in my garden

  4. I had a sea of these in my yard a few weeks ago and wished I knew what they were. I heard of dead nettle but had no idea it was these! Boy, will I be picking them next year! ?

    1. Carrie Patterson

      I’ve never had this plant in or around my yard. Of course it’s in every patch of woods in my area. But for some reason this year its literally taken the place of my grass in both my front and back yard!!!! So excited to be able to harvest so much of this plant.

  5. I didn’t have either of these plants last year.
    I go in my back yard last week and my flower boxes and around my fences are covered with Henbit and Deadnettle
    I had to look it up. I want to save it thus why I’m doing the research

  6. I’m a big fan of dead nettle and purslane. Yes they are both invasive like oregano or mint, I put mine as potted plants so I can take them with me when I move. With some of my edible weeds I notice it extends the growing season.

  7. Mona McClendon

    Do the leaves need to be as purple as in the picture? Just the top couple of leaves are lightly purple.

    1. It may be Henbit – they look very much alike. Compare photos online. Hen it not as medicinal as Dead Nettle tho it is edible.

  8. Tiara I Mullins

    Can I eat the stems too? I hear conflicting information, can you only eat the flowers and leaves, but not the stems or will it make you sick? Or can I drop the entire plant into a blender smoothie?

  9. I have a lot growing in my yard.I would like to use them before mowing grass how can I preserve it for a yearly supply. And any recipes would be awesome. Thank You

  10. Patricia Habbyshaw

    Hi I just picked a shopping bag full before our SNOW Fall last night !!! I dried them in my dehydrator for 6 hours…Now I have a pint of dried dead nettle !!! I want to make a tea blend with DN, thyme, sage, ginger and blueberries ! Now to figure a recipe using all 5 and how much to use for each cup of hot water… Thank You for the information ! :}

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