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Purple dead nettle is easily foraged, when springtime rolls around, you are sure to find dead nettle all over. Not only is it easy to find, but it’s great addition to your natural medicine cabinet as well as culinary, making it a top pick on the homesteading bucket list. Because let’s be honest, a plant you can go pick that works for both food and your natural medicine cabinet you don’t have to plant, hello!
Most people don’t even realize this plant is edible and medicinal. It was commonly thought of as a terrible weed that needed to be eradicated at all costs. When you learn how to recognize it, you’ll discover an entire pantry waiting for you in your backyard, or along roadsides, and in parks. Plus, look at this gorgeous dish you can make (recipe at the end of the guide!)
Purple Dead Nettle – Foraging, Medicinal, and Cooking Guide
Where to find purple dead nettle
Look along previously tilled ground, with well drained soil. It can often appear as a ground cover, too. It loves moist soils, and sunny spots.
Purple dead nettle, Lamium purpureum, is a small plant with reddish purple leaves. The leaves appear in an oval, jagged shape and grow off of long, squarish stems. They can grow to be 3-8 cm in length and 2-5 cm in width.
Their square stems make them part of the mint family. Like mint, they can spread like wildfire, even in your garden. Of course, that makes collecting it much easier.
How to harvest purple dead nettle
Collecting dead nettle is fairly simple. Simply snip the stems about ½” from the ground, and gently shake to remove any dirt or bugs. You can use any collection container you wish, as there is no need to worry about spreading spores as you would foraging mushrooms. Like all mint, they reproduce from their roots.
They can be rinsed with cool water just before using or drying. You don’t want to soak them too long in the water, as they will turn to mush and not have a good flavor when you use the later.
Purple deadnettle vs henbit- the only lookalike that this plant has is henbit. The difference is henbit has mostly green leaves, with purple flowers. Nettle leaves are almost all purple, with a slightly green edge. Both are completely edible plants, so you don’t have to worry if you mix the two up.
Not to be confused with stinging nettle, purple nettle doesn’t not have any parts of the plant that will sting. Purple nettle is counted among the true nettles, even without the stinging properties.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this is for informational purposes only, this is not diagnosis or treatment and always check with your medical professional of choice before using anything medicinally.
Purple Dead Nettle Uses Medicinally
As a medicinal, they are can be used both dried and fresh in herbal teas. They are a natural diuretic and have astringent, and styptic properties. The herbal infusion can be used for helping to stop minor cuts as well as assisting the body in healing bruises.
To dry the nettle leaves for later:
snip off the plant ½” from the ground.
Remove the leaves by either hand plucking them, or running a sharp knife down the stem.
Lay the leaves as flat as possible on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate for 6-8 hours on low.
You can also dry them on an ungreased baking sheet in a low oven, 175 degrees or less, for 8-10 hours.
To use dried purple nettle in a tea:
Add 3 Tablespoons dried leaves for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of boiling water.
Allow to steep for 5-8 minutes, then strain and sweeten to taste.
Blend with other herbs such as burdock, dandelion root, and milk thistle to make a tea that will naturally support your liver and kidney functions.
To use dried nettle in a purple dead nettle salve:
In an oven safe bowl, add ½ cup dried leaves to 1 cup of coconut (measured in liquid state) or olive oil
Place in 200 degree F oven for 2 hours to infuse. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Strain the plant matter, and save the oil. Add 3 Tablespoons beeswax and return to oven to allow oil and wax to melt together.
Pour infused oil into a pint jar and cover tightly. You may add up to 30 drops total essential oils of choice. Try helichrysum, lavender or tea tree oil or a blend of all 3.
Rub a quarter sized amount all over bruises and minor cuts and scrapes to aid in healing.
Purple Dead Nettle Recipes
As a wild edible, they are naturally full of Vitamins A and C, as well as being a good source of iron. The flavor is rich and earthy and they are easily used in any recipe like you would spinach.
Try them in:
Salads, (and they go great with dandelion greens too)
This dead nettle rice bake is a great way to get to know the flavor of this wild food! You can also use fresh stinging nettles in this dish too.
Creamy Nettle Rice Bake Recipe
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup washed and dried nettle leaves
1 cup cooked rice (measured after cooked and cooled)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium.
Add onions, garlic, and nettle leaves, and sauté together for 2 minutes.
With over 20 years experience in the kitchen, Heather loves to create delicious, nutritious foods that her family will enjoy! Follow her adventures on recipesfromthehomestead.com and see what's cooking!