Survival foods: Dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Posted: April 21, 2014 by Rex Trulove in Survival, survival food, wild food
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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Dead nettles are a European plant that has become naturalized in America and often now grows as a wildflower. Despite the name, this plant isn’t related to stinging nettles. Dead nettle is actually part of the mint family. The plant does have value for survivalists, however.

Dead nettle is an annual plant, normally blooming in the summer. The stems show the connection to the mint family, because they are noticeably and distinctly square in shape. This is very unlike the stems of stinging nettles. Also unlike Urtica dioica, dead nettles don’t ‘sting’. You can gather them with your bare hands without worry.

The stems can grow up to about two and a half feet tall and the lower part of the stem doesn’t have leaves growing from it. The rest of the stem has a multitude of leaves, usually a couple inches in length. The leaves grow in opposite pairs on the stem, and the pair of leaves above or below each pair grow a quarter turn around the stem. The leaves bear a striking resemblance to the deep veined appearance of peppermint leaves or to those of stinging nettles, which is how the plant gets its common name, in the latter case. When the leaves are young, they have a purplish tint that is quite attractive.

The flowers are tube shaped and are white to light purple, including the various shades between the two.

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These plants prefer moist soils and are found growing along canal banks, in gardens, near forests and near streams. This trait is shared with stinging nettles and most kinds of mint.

For food, the plant can be steamed or put in soups and stews. The flavor is very mild, so it is good when served with stronger tasting foods. Steaming it with diced wild chive leaves is a good combination and it goes will with cooked dandelion greens. It can be cooked as a potherb and is edible raw as well. The flowers are also edible and sweet, making them good and colorful additions to green salads. The plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and it is very high in antioxidants.

This wild herb has some great medicinal properties, like so many wild foods. Tea made from dead nettles is good for treating inflammations and the tea has pain relieving properties. It is used to treat allergies, too. Additionally, the plant juices are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and mildly purgative, in addition to the properties already stated.

There is some disagreement among botanists as to whether dead nettles and henbit is the same plant, but is is a rather moot point as both are edible and can be used in the same ways.

This is a good plant for people to become acquainted with. In the event of disaster, dead nettle can be a great food source for people who are trying to survive. It is also a great wild food addition for hikers and campers.

The opening picture is of common dead nettle and it is public domain, taken by Jana, http://pixabay.com/en/dead-nettle-violet-spring-6248/
The second picture shows dead nettle with white blossoms. It was taken by ariesa66, is public domain as well, http://pixabay.com/en/dead-nettle-white-deadnettle-hummel-320306/

The last survival food in the series: Stinging nettles

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