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Is it Creeping Charlie or Henbit? Or Purple Dead Nettle?

Such confusion abounds in early spring when these three spring edibles grow at the same time. And Henbit and Creeping Charlie look alike so even I sometimes have to refresh my memory. And I did just that by taking photos, and gleaning information about each.

 

Henbit


Henbit

Look closely and the leaves look very lacy. It can be consumed fresh or cooked as an edible herb, and it can be used in teas. The stem, flowers, and leaves are edible, and although this is in the mint family, many people say it tastes slightly like raw kale, not like mint. Henbit is very nutritious, high in iron, vitamins and fiber. Don’t eat too much though, as henbit can have a laxative effect.

Purple Dead Nettle

Purple Dead Nettle

Purple dead nettle is a short lived annual in the mint family . Usually growing no larger than 1ft in height, it has squared stems (characteristic of mint family) and soft fuzzy leaves with a opposite leaf arrangement. Leaves also have a bit of purple in them. Flowers are pink/purple and very small.

The leaves, stem, and flowers are all edible. Purple dead nettle is very nutritious being high in iron, vitamins, and fiber. It can be eaten raw as a salad green or cooked. Try boiling in water for 20-30 minutes, drain, and season to taste. Collect when in flower for fresh eating or for storage by drying.

Creeping Charlie

Creeping Charlie

Prostrate perennial herb with square stems to 21/2 feet long and round, scalloped leaves on long stalks with small violet flowers in spring

Long ago, brewers and herbalists appreciated this indestructible plant with glossy green leaves and pretty violet flowers.

 

English countrywomen commonly added creeping Charlie (which they called alehoof, “hoof” meaning “herb”) to their ale or beer to clarify it and add a bitter flavor. This custom seems to have died out following the introduction of hops to England in the seventeenth century.

Creeping Charlie’s tender young growth, rich in vitamin C, may be eaten like spinach or added to vegetable soup. The herbalist Maud Grieve calls a sweetened tea of the tops “an excellent cooling beverage.”

Thanks to Green Dean for some of the above information.

 

 

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