Urban Scout and The Dead Nettles
When I first discovered red deadnettle, I assumed it belonged to the mint family because it has a square stem. Upon smelling it I found it had a rather green, bitter smell to it, rather than the classic heavy scent of the mints. Low and behold not all plants with square stems belong to the mint family. Without knowing its name I just started calling it “stink weed” as a joke since it looked like a mint to my plant-ignorant eyes, but smelled like freshly mowed grass.
Other than making an awesome punk/bluegrass/black metal band name (alas, the french have already laid claim to the name. Listen to the black metal “Dead Nettle” on Myspace), deadnettle has many uses. I hadn’t felt that inspired to actually look up the plant to find its edible and medicine properties until recently. A few days back Penny Scout suggested I do a blog on the deadnettle. I jokingly called it useless to which Penny Scout angrily replied, “Every plant has an edible or medicinal property! You just don’t know it. You sound like an idiot when you say things like that… Asshole.” (Okay, so maybe I dramatized what she said quite a bit, the more she works and less she blogs… I can project any kind of image of her that I want, but I learned you shouldn’t mess with trackers of plants or they will break your heart if you know what I mean!)
I also continually confused deadnettle with “heal-all” or “self-heal.” A different plant that really looks nothing like deadnettle, but if you don’t have pattern recognition with plant i.d. than you may confuse them like I do. Just don’t confuse them in front of Penny Scout or she will make an example of you in public and embarrass and scar you for months. Just kidding sweetie! It also looks like henbit deadnettle (though some call regular deadnettle, “red henbit”).
Of course they all have medicines. Especially the weedy ones that everyone hates (like dandelion). My mom has complained enough times about the weeds in her yard that I have actually gone out and seen which ones she meant. Of course, she means chickweed, dandelion, wintercress, curly dock and deadnettleâ€“all of which make great potherbs and medicines, none of which I would consider a weed. I have had her eat chickweed and soon I will have her eat wintercress and deadnettle. What she considers “weeding the garden,” I consider “harvesting from the garden.”
But I digress. Back to deadnettle, the plant, not the black metal band. I found that it does belong to the mint family after all. One of the first flowers in the spring, bees love this little plant. It has a few other names including Lamium purpureum, red henbit, and red archangel. Despite its poisonous sounding name, according to the sites that I visited deadnettle works great as a potherb, meaning you can cook it up and eat it. Supposedly it has high levels of iron minerals and fiber. Boiling for a few minutes makes it a little more palatable.
Mm. Bland green potherb. Don’t go easy on the spices. As a medicine, you can use it for astringent (dries you out), diaphoretic (makes you sweat), diuretic (makes you piss), purgative (makes you puke), styptic (stops wound from bleeding) and tonic (gives you some pep). Now stop reading this blog and go rock out with deadnettle, bro!
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