Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantine, is a beautiful, soft-textured perennial that’s native to the Middle East and easy to grow in temperate areas all around the globe.
It’s often used as an ornamental or edging plant, and its broad, thick silvery leaves are a lovely addition to any garden of exotic plants.
The plant is said to have several useful medicinal properties, but can you eat it? Is lamb’s ear edible?
Yes, lamb’s ear is edible, and its mild flavor has been described as “earthy” or “nutty.” The plant is best eaten cooked, and is often used as a garnish or decoration on salads and other dishes. Lamb’s ear is also sometimes used in soups and stews.
While the plant is safe to eat, it requires proper preparation to be palatable, much less tasty. Trust me; you don’t want to bite into one its thick, fuzzy leaves when it is raw!
Anyway, there is plenty more to learn about this fascinating, pretty plant, so keep reading if you want to know more.
Lamb’s Ear Characteristics
Lamb’s ear is a member of the mint family, and as such, it has a number of characteristics that are common to plants in that group.
The plant is a perennial, meaning it will come back year after year, and it spreads rapidly through its root system.
Lamb’s ear can reach a height of about two feet, and its leaves are arranged in a rosette pattern. The plant produces small, tubular flowers that are typically pink or lavender in color.
The leaves of lamb’s ear are soft and fuzzy, with a thick, velvety texture. They are typically silver or gray in color, and their shape is somewhat triangular, akin to a spearhead.
It is the leaves of lamb’s ear that are its most distinguishing feature, and what make it such a popular ornamental plant.
Preferred Climate and Soil
Lamb’s ear is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but it prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
The plant is relatively drought-tolerant and does not require a lot of water to thrive. In fact, too much water can actually be harmful to the plant.
Lamb’s ear tends to stay green year-round, but can possibly die back in the winter only to sprout and bloom again in the spring.
Lamb’s ear is also resistant to deer and rabbits, making it a good choice for gardeners who have problems with these pests.
Easy to grow, easy to care for, and resilient makes it a winner for beginning and advanced gardeners alike.
How to Grow Lamb’s Ear
Lamb’s ear is a tough plant that is relatively easy to grow. It can be started from seed, but it is more commonly propagated by division of existing plants. The plant can also be propagated by taking stem cuttings.
When starting lamb’s ear from seed, sow the seeds in a sunny location in well-drained soil.
Keep the soil moist but not wet, and thin the seedlings when they are about four inches tall. When transplanting or dividing lamb’s ear plants, do so in the spring or fall.
To take stem cuttings, snip a six-inch piece of stem from a healthy plant, and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone, and plant it in moist potting mix.
Place the pot in a warm, sunny location, and keep the soil moist but not wet. The cuttings should root within four to six weeks.
Once established, lamb’s ear requires very little care. Water it when the soil is dry, and fertilize it with a balanced fertilizer.
If the plant gets too large or unwieldy, you can trim it back in the spring to keep it under control.
Ecological Importance of Lamb’s Ear
One of the lesser-known facts about lamb’s ear is that it is an important source of nectar for bees, especially bumblebees.
In fact, one kind of bee, the wool carder bee, is known to collect fuzz from lamb’s ear leaves almost exclusively for nest building.
All bees are important pollinators, and their global decline in recent years has been linked to a decrease in the availability of appropriate food sources, including lamb’s ear plants.
So by planting lamb’s ear in your garden, you can do your part to help these important creatures.
Lamb’s ear is also favored by hummingbirds, and is a good choice for gardeners who want to attract these beautiful birds to their yard.
Butterflies use the plant as a host for their larvae, and the plant is also an important food source for many kinds of moths.
So if you’re interested in encouraging wildlife in your garden, lamb’s ear is a good plant to include.
Medicinal Uses for Lamb’s Ear
As we mentioned before, lamb’s ear has a number of medicinal uses. The plant has been used to treat wounds, cuts and burns throughout history.
The leaves can be applied directly to the skin, or they can be made into a poultice.
Lamb’s ear is also said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to treat conditions like arthritis and gout.
Preparation for Consumption
Another thing we mentioned was that lamb’s ear is edible, but it is not particularly tasty when eaten raw.
The leaves are tough and fibrous, and their thick, furry texture is seriously off-putting to every sane person. For this reason, it is best to cook lamb’s ear before eating it.
One way to do this is to blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. This will soften them up and make them more palatable.
They can also be roasted to good effect, before you can then chop them up and add them to soups or stews, or use them as a garnish on salads or other dishes.
One region preparation from Brazil sees it battered and deep-fried, almost like fish, and served with a twist of lemon or lime.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.