Spring is edging nearer, and I am itching to get into the full swing of foraging. The biting cold, though, keeps me close to home. Thankfully, our landlords are homesteaders themselves, so I have only to step out into my yard for the first foraging opportunities of the season.
The urban yard is particularly great for finding early pot herbs. These plants have been storing nutrition throughout the winter, and they take the first chance they find to pop through their protective blanket of fall leaves or thatched grass. Their leaves may be tiny, but these warriors of the late winter offer those willing to take the time a number of healthy vitamins. In less modern times, people relied on these plants as a health tonic after surviving the winter on stored starchy roots.
Lamium purpureum is closed related to lamium amplexicaule, a wild edible that we know as Henbit. Both plants have a square, reddish stem. Their leaves are opposite, with a downy fuzz. They grow sprawling on the open ground of fields, lawns and garden beds. Their delicate reddish-purple to purple flowers are an early source of nectar for pollinators.
Their flavor is mild but pleasant, ranging from slightly nutty to slightly sour, with no bitterness. To harvest, simply snip off the top 3 to 5 inches of each stalk of new growth with scissors. Wash the greens well, as they grow very near the soil, and enjoy fresh as a salad green or garnish, or cooked as a pot herb.
I’ll be using my harvest in a recipe by chef Eddy Leroux from Foraged Flavor. I hope to have a show-and-tell next week.