Also Known as ‘Self-Heal’, Red Dead-Nettle, Purple Archangel
Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) is a very common plant, often referred to as a weed found mostly in Europe and Asia.
It is quite likely you have seen this pretty plant growing in the wild but unlikely to be able to identify it.
Purple Dead-Nettle is not only a wild edible green, but also a highly nutritious superfood. The leaves and stems are edible, with the purple tops having a slightly sweet taste. It has a mild, slightly grassy, pleasant floral flavour.
Purple Dead-Nettle you may be surprised to know is part of the mint family although it doesn’t have a minty taste. You can forage for it in the wild, in meadows, roadsides and edges of forests, or you may find it growing in a neglected part of your garden. It gets its name because the leaves look like the common stinging nettle but thankfully does not have the painful sting.
It’s delicate purple flowers will attract the bees to your garden and is one of the first flowers along with dandelions to pop up in the springtime. The pollen is red and is sometimes seen on the heads of bees.
Purple Dead-Nettle is very easy to grow from seed and thrives in full sun or partial shade. Collect the seeds to spread around your garden for next year. They prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil, so if you live in an area with limestone these are the perfect conditions. We live in Hungary and the soil around us is heavy with lime, so ideal. As it grows it forms colourful clusters of purple blooms that cover the ground.
Harvest when the plants are still young by just taking the top leaves and the stalks because as the season progresses the stems become somewhat tougher. The plant is highly nutritious, having an abundance of vitamins particularly vitamin C, along with iron and fiber, while the oil in its seeds are packed with powerful antioxidants.
It has many culinary uses and can be added to stir-frys, salads, soups, or made into a nutritious tea or healthy smoothie.
This plant is also renowned for its medicinal benefits, said to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. It is also a diuretic, and an astringent. Drinking in a tea or added to a smoothie may be the simplest way to enjoy it’s benefits, although it may also have a laxative effect if used in large amounts. It’s also good for the kidneys and may help with seasonal allergies.
The leaves of the purple Dead-Nettle plant can be placed on wounds or cuts to stop bleeding, and its vitamin C content works to help boost the immune system and fight infection.
Such a wonderful wild little plant, who would have known it has so many beneficial uses.