It’s amazing the bounty that nature has to offer. And sometimes that comes in the form of what is commonly considered a weed. But I’m here to tell you that purple dead nettle is actually a healthy & delicious addition to your spring dishes. Plus it has medicinal benefits too!
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I feel like sometimes foraging gets a bad wrap. The first thing that comes to mind is getting all geared up and venturing deep into the woods, searching for hours, trying to find a needle in a haystack. And yes, that can be what foraging looks like for you…
But there’s also the other side of the coin. Even in suburbia, it’s amazing the things growing right there in your yard that can be a free and tasty treat.
What is Purple Dead Nettle?
I’ve seen purple dead nettle – also known as purple archangel – growing around me my entire life. That’s probably because it’s a member of the mint family, which means it’s terribly invasive. But once you realize the benefits of this little wonder plant, you might not mind it so much!
It’s called dead nettle because – unlike its stinging cousin – the nettles in this plant are dead, rendering it completely safe to eat freshly plucked from the ground.
This little “weed” is high in Vitamin C, iron, and fiber – plus the seeds are packed full of antioxidants.
How to Identify Purple Dead Nettle
Purple dead nettle is easily identified by its square stem, spade-shaped leaves, and purple tops.
Depending upon the quality of the soil, the lower leaves may be green, or all of the leaves may be purple. More purple leaves just means a phosphorus deficiency in the soil, but they’re all completely safe to eat.
It also has no toxic lookalikes, so there’s zero risk involved. The only thing it resembles is henbit – another tasty edible plant.
How to Enjoy Purple Dead Nettle
The entire plant is edible, though I usually just pinch off the tops and leave the rest of the stem sticking out of the ground. It will keep coming back as if pinching off a regular mint plant, and you can continue to harvest until mid-summer.
Purple dead nettle can be used anywhere you would use spinach or leafy green herbs. Toss them in a smoothie, put them in your salads, bake them into a quiche, or add them to a soup. The possibilities are endless, so get creative!
You can also quickly blanch and then freeze them for future use.
However, we prefer a tasty purple dead nettle pesto, that we freeze in portions, and enjoy all spring long.
Check out this recipe for our incredible purple dead nettle pesto.
As a medicinal herb, purple dead nettle has astringent, purgative, diuretic, and diaphoretic properties. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial.
Fresh leaves can be applied to wounds as a poultice.
You can also enjoy fresh or dry leaves as a tea. I’ve heard of someone curing a UTI with purple dead nettle tea, though I’ve not tried it myself. Beware though, the one and only potential side effect is that large quantities of this tea can have a laxative effect.
Purple dead nettle is also a favorite of chickens. We’ve chopped it up and fed it to our baby chicks. They absolutely nuts for it!
Also, keep pollinators in mind as you harvest. This is one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring and the bees just love it. In mild climates, it even blooms all winter long, making it that much more important.
Learn more about planning a pollinator-friendly garden here.
What do you think? Are you ready to give purple dead nettle a try? I promise, I’ve eaten it and not died. You will be safe. Plus its free food, just staring back you. It’s time to make this “weed” work for you and enjoy mother nature’s bounty.
Be sure to check out these helpful articles for more foraging ideas…
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Do you have purple dead nettle growing in your area? Did you know that it was edible and medicinal? Have you cooked with it? Send us an email or leave a comment below! You can also let us know on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest pages.
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