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 deadnettle–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!

For more info, peep these pages.

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10 Comments on “Urban Scout and The Dead Nettles

  1. You rock! I’ve been wondering about this plant for a year or more. I see a green binge in my near future. The yard already has chickweed, deadnettle, and dandelion growing. With the leftover corn salad (another potherb) from last year’s garden. Thanks.

    p.s. Nice photoshop skillz.

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  3. Nice post, Scout!

    I love these little guys. They have turned whole fields pink here in NW Arkansas.

    I mentioned them in my last full moon post and kept meaning to get a picture to go along with the post. Now I can just link back here. 🙂

    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’m glad someone is using it. When I first learned the name, I thought it would make an awesome band name, too. In fact, I hoped we could open for Penny’s theoretical band Phragmites Go! Maybe if I called my group The Red Deadnettles, I still could. I think we would play hardcore bluegrass.

    I have eaten these raw, both alone and mixed with other greens. I recommend the latter over the former. I haven’t tried them cooked yet. Maybe I’ll give it a shot tonight.

    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 deadnettle–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.”

    By the way, I think we should take back the W word.

  4. Thank you so much for enlightening me on this topic. I have been observing this plant for a couple of years (and confusing it with self-heal) without getting up the motivation to research it. This will give me the motivation to get to know this plant better.

  5. Hey Matt,
    Isn’t it weird that it’s just one of those plants no one feels that inspired about? I wonder why that is. Very interesting. Glad you enjoyed this one!

  6. Hey Rix,
    Thanks for the props. I’ll have to try them raw, but I’m a little scared of the texture.

  7. hey scout,

    thanks for the inspiration on this one. i made a salad of it the other day… taste reminds me of blue cheese, strangely.

    anyway, i love thinking of dozens of people out harvesting dead nettles, rewiring brains about what is food and what is scenery. when i got down on my knees to harvest this lovely gem, i also found chickweed and miners lettuce in its midst… the learning and nutritional benefits multiply exponentially.

    cheers,

    D

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  9. yea!! im soooo happy! i knew this herb was good for something!! i love the smell and the way it looks also, it just calmes me down to take a big wiff after a long day at work the fresh plant,i mean, now i will try to eat it!! looking to make a big weed salad before its said and done!! thanks again!