Thursday, August 21, 2008

Red Dead Nettle - wild but mild greens

Identifying Red Dead Nettle is relatively easy at the moment, in the lower North Island anyway. Maybe in other places too. It's in full flower round here, and apparently also all round Palmerston North. It's much easier for an amateur like me to identify when it's flowering.

This is a Red Dead Nettle plant in our garden.



Red Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) isn't really a nettle. It's from the mint family. Its leaves have a very mild taste, especially the small, young leaves. You can eat them raw or cooked. I prefer them cooked - they're a bit hairy raw!

We had some in an omelet the other night. That was nice.



Red Dead Nettle is closely related to Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), which also has edible leaves ... However, both plants can be confused with Staggergrass - which I'm pretty sure is NOT edible. (I haven't found any references to people eating it yet, anyway.)

Staggergrass has a hairier stalk than the other two, so that's one way to tell the difference and avoid it.

There are a couple of websites that I've found helpful in telling these three plants apart (and reassuring me that what I have in my garden IS Red Dead Nettle). Firstly there's the Massey Weed Database. And then there's the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide.

I wouldn't eat the flowers of either Red Dead Nettle or Henbit. I haven't read anywhere that they're edible - but I'm always more than happy to be corrected!

8 comments:

Nikki said...

Oh, thanks for this post! I have heaps of this (providing it's not the hairy one which I will check on tomorrow) and was wondering if it was an edible - it just looks like it should be!

Nikki said...

Oh yay, mine has a smooth stem, so must be the red dead nettle.

Johanna Knox said...

Cool! Love to know what you decide to do with it ...

Lynda Eichler said...

Nikki - Are your stems 'completely' naked? I've found something in my garden that has very light hairs - not what I'd call hairy, but nevertheless hairs - Johanna looking at the Massey weedbase site - it seems the stems should be totally bare??? .............

Lynda

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Lynda - yeah, the stems on the one I just felt feel slightly rough (specially when you rub them upwards) but no *visible* hairs anyway.

Does your one stand straight up or creep? Does it have a squarish stem?

Shell (in NZ) said...

I think I have this in my garden! Or at least I *did* have until I cleared it the other day...but it grew from nothing ,so probably will again ;0)

dyfed13 said...

The flowers are edible, and this recipe for Fried Herbed Deadnettle uses them. You can also eat the related white deadnettle and henbit deadnettles. Hope this helps

chloe said...

i had no idea this was edible! it's all over around michigan right now. thank you!