This week's wild edible is Henbit!
This plant can be found in alot of the same places as dead-nettle, in fact, they often grow side-by-side one another. It is a cold hardy, shade tolerant annual plant that can be found in the winter in warmer climates. It thrives is fertile cultivated soils such as lawns and gardens (lucky us!). If you have chickens, this is a great plant to add into their diet to help save some money with feed and give you nice healthy eggs.
What it looks like.
Like dead-nettles, henbit is a member of the mint family. So naturally they have the distinct square, hollow stem that is typical among mint. The entire plant is covered in super tiny, very fine little hairs. But not to worry, they don't sting. They can reach anywhere from 4 to 12 inches in height.
The leaves of this plant have recessed veins that make the leaves appear wrinkly. They are arranged in opposite pairs and tend to look oval or heart shaped with lobes around the outer edges. Right below the flowered portion of the plant the leaves grow to create a sort of bloom that circles the stem of the plant and makes it appear that the stem is shooting up through the ring of leaves. Everywhere else the leaves branch out and grow in pairs.
The flowers of henbit are a deep dark pink and appear at the end of each of the main branching stems. The flowers grow in whorls right around above the leaf grouping at the ends of the stems. The flowers resemble very tiny pitcher flowers.
There are no poisonous look-a-likes for this mature plant. Henbit can often be confused for dead-nettle and vice-versa, but luckily both are completely safe and edible. Just make sure you look for the tiny pink flowers, square stem, and tiny hairs all over.
When and where to find it.
This is among some of the first flowering plants of spring and can even show up in winter in warmer climates. It loves shaded, damp, fertile soils. Look for this colorful wild edible along buildings, under porches, in ditches, along tree lines, in lawns and gardens, and other structures that provide partial shade that keeps the soil moist and cool. It is often found growing along side of dead-nettles.
Even though it is a member of the mint family, this plant does not taste like mint. Some people say it taste more like kale or other green veggies than mint.
The edible parts of this plant are everything above ground, the leaves, stems, and flowers. You can eat this plant fresh as a spring green, or cooked. You can also make a healthful tea out of this plant or blend it into "green" smoothies.
Historically this plant is said to have a couple medicinal properties. Some of those properties include: being an anti-rheumatic, a fever reducer, a laxative, an excitant, and a diaphoretic. It is also said to aid in digestive upsets and treat bug bites and stings.
**Warnings, Disclaimers, and Precautions**
Please be sure to read ALL of this section!!
**Women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant should avoid ingesting this plant.
**When identifying plants you are unfamiliar with, please use multiple references, as well as help from experts when available. Unless you are 110% sure what a plant is, it is best to avoid it completely.
**If you plan on using any plants for medicinal uses, consult a healthcare professional, as well as botanist familiar in the field of wild plants. And as always, use as many references and expert opinions as possible when identifying a plant.
**Be sure to avoid any plants growing near roads, around chemicals, other poisonous plants, or polluted/contaminated water.
**As always, be sure to use the Universal Edibility Test to ensure the plant is the correct plant and to help identify any unknown allergies you may have.