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'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

Posted by violet_z6 6a (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 12, 09 at 19:24

Take a Bite of Henbit!
by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser

MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO "I often think of henbit as the harbinger of spring and summer weeding chores. Its pretty pinkish purple blossoms dress up our lawns and gardens at this time whether we like it or not. But let’s look on the bright side and take a bite of henbit.Henbit, as it grows in the spring alongside rocks, heaved up as a result of temperature extremes.

Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule, is a winter annual. The seeds of winter annuals germinate in fall, the plants grow through winter, and then blossom and go to seed in late winter and spring. Henbit’s square stem lets you know that it is a member of the mint family. The roots are fibrous and the stems have many branches that are somewhat prostrate with ascending tips. The leaves are oppositely arranged on the stem and have rounded teeth. The lower leaves have petioles (leaf stems connecting the leaf to the main stem) but the upper leaves do not have petioles and clasp around the stem. The flowers occur in whorls or circles in the axils of the upper leaves and are two-lipped, pink to purple and tubular.

To harvest henbit for food, pick and wash the ascending tips. Jan Phillips, author of “Wild Edibles of Missouri,” recommends cooking the henbit tips “slowly in no more water than is necessary, then add a dab of butter and season. Spring onions will give a neat touch.” Henbit harvested in early spring will also add a nice mint flavor and pretty color to jazz up your salads. Make sure that the henbit eat has not been treated with any lawn herbicides or other pesticides or contaminants.

Although the book is currently out of print, it is available online in its entirety through the Missouri Department of Conservation library.
If you are interested in learning more about wild edible plants, consider attending the Spring Horticulture Seminar on Wild Edibles, presented at the State Fruit Experiment Station in Mountain Grove and sponsored by the Tri-County Master Gardeners and the station.

Pat French, retired from the Missouri Department of Conservation, is an expert on native edibles who will talk them and how they are best stalked, harvested and prepared. The workshop is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. April 16 in Faurot Hall. The registration fee is $5, but early registration is encouraged since space is limited. A wild snack might even be served!

Make checks payable to the Tri-County Master Gardeners and drop payment off at the office in Shepard Hall to the attention of Pam Mayer or send payment to Pam Mayer at the address below.

And remember for any wild edible plant - proper plant identification is the key - if you don’t know it, don’t eat it.

Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

So this is what all those pretty "weeds" are sprouting in my lawn. I didn't know they were edible. Neat.

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

Henbit, a member of the mint family, is a common lawn “weed” at this time of year that you can enjoy either sautéed with onions or mixed into salads.

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

Gee, I was kidding when I wondered about a cookbook, "100 Ways To Cook Henbit." It might be Survival Food, if it comes to that and the potatoes fail. ! Sure hope not.
Thanks, Violet.

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

On this old computer, pictures arent clear. I'm definetly wondering about this weed. I have a weed thats everywhere, has purple flowers, and smells like mint. I wish I werent afraid to eat it--then it would be scarce every year.
I'm sure my extension bureau couldnt help, they dont seem to be able to on anything else. Any ideas?

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

Henbit and Purple or Red Deadnettle are both edible (raw or cooked) and are both are types of lamium. I have lots of both in my yard but have never eaten any. I thought deadnettle might be poison because of the name but read today that "dead" refers to the fact that it doesn't sting like stinging nettles.

Violet already posted a picture of henbit. Here's Purple Deadnettle. I wonder which one tastes better.

Here is a link that might be useful: Purple Deadnettle

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'


What state and county are you in? Each county extension has full time employees as sell as volunteers thru outreach programs. Some are a little more organized than others and sometimes it depends on who you talk to. Have you actually talked to anyone at your extension service?

What year, brand, and model of computer do you have and what operating system are you running?

>I have a weed that's everywhere, has purple flowers, and smells like mint. I wish I weren't afraid to eat it--then it would be scarce every year.

Yes, what you're referring to is henbit. And I can confidently say that if you try some to eat - you will NOT run out.

Henbit photo

Here's another picture of henbit. Sorry if it takes a long time for these to load on your computer. Or is it just your monitor that's giving you trouble?
You need to treat yourself to a new computer girl. : )
I know you would get a lot of use out of it.


Ok - HERE'S the picture of henbit. Sorry.

Here is a link that might be useful: Henbit

Who's been eating weeds?

Ok Violet I ate some henbit. lol Not very much though. I couldn't tell much difference in taste between purple deadnettle and henbit. Neither one was bitter or minty to me. Weird texture for greens and sort of bland. I didn't try cooking it.

I couldn't find much info on whether the flowers are edible too. Unless a person picked it before it was in flower, it would be a lot of trouble to remove the leaves and just eat those.

Did anyone else try it?

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

lol... cool. Even I haven't tried it. Third paragraph above recommends cooking it - so that might enhance the volatile oils. They seem like they're almost always in flower, I'm sure the flowers are edible, just as mint flowers are edible. But as you said, they may lack in strength of flavor, which might not be a bad thing.

I just tried yellow rocket, a wild native weed that is edible. It's quite bitter. Apparently the younger leaves in early spring are less bitter. Caught me by surprise because it started out sweet until you get a few chews in.

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

I realize I'm a little late for this discussion, but I had a tidbit I wanted to add anyway. As kids we used to pull a flower out of the top of the henbit and put it near our lips and inhale. It has a tiny bit of sweet sap (or so I guess) that is very pleasant. I recently showed this to my five year old daughter, then got worried it may not be good for her. After a frantic search online, I discovered the name of the plant and that it was indeed edible. So I ate a flower to see if it was sweet too. No such luck. I guess the sap is so minute it doesn't flavor the whole flower. Too bad. But it still makes a nice addition to a salad, though it's a little time consuming to collect!

RE: 'Take a Bite of Henbit!'

Very interesting tidbit gardengrubber, thanks for the insight!

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