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Henbit is a low growing herbaceous annual that is commonly found growing in clumps among lawns and along sidewalks. Like many in the Mint family it has a distinctly square stem that is tinted purple with opposite growing pairs of leaves. The round leaves are deeply scalloped and covered in a layer of fine hairs. Small tulip-shaped flowers blossom where the leaves hug the stem. They are also edible and first appear pink and later turn purple. Henbit, unlike some early spring greens which can be bitter or tough, is actually on the sweet side. It lacks any substantial aroma, but is earthy and mildly minty with notes of sweet grass on the palate.
Henbit is available late winter through spring.
Henbit is botanically classified as Lamium amplexicaule and a member of the Mint family. Often regarded as a common weed, it is a springtime foraging treat. The spindly stems are often one of the first hints of green to sprout through the dead winter vegetation as the temperatures begin to warm. The flowers are a favorite for hummingbirds and an important early source of nectar for honey bees. Henbit is occasionally confused with two other members of the Mint family, Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). While all three are completely edible and commonly foraged, Henbit is considered to have a superior flavor, lacking the sometimes bitter flavor of wild greens.
Henbit supplies iron, minerals and antioxidants. It is also valued for its natural medicinal qualities including, antirheumatic, diaphoretic, excitant, febrifuge, laxative and stimulant effects.
Use Henbit similarly to other wild spring time greens, such as nettle, lambs quarter, chickweed and ground ivy. The new young leaves that sprout at the top of the plant have the best flavor and texture. They should be removed from the somewhat fibrous stem and may be eaten raw or cooked. Add Henbit to egg dishes or fritter batter for an herbal flavor and a bright green color. Use the leaves in handmade pasta and pair with a creamy mushroom sauce. Complimentary flavors include, ramps, mushrooms (especially morels), cream, soft cheeses, parsley, chervil, dill, mint, chives, spinach, asparagus, nuts, pork, poultry and wild game.
The name Henbit is a favorite fodder for chicken. In fact, its common name is derived from the two words ‘hen bit’, referring to very way they graze upon the wild green.
Henbit originated in Eurasia and Northern Africa. It is a prolific and hardy plant that has since spread world-wide and currently grows in temperate climates throughout Australia, South America, western Asia, Greenland, Canada and the United States. It thrives in light dry soils, often in disturbed areas along roadsides, agricultural fields, sunny yards and urban areas. It freely self-seeds and may be considered an invasive species in some areas.
Recipes that include Henbit. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Leda Meredith The Foragers Feast||Henbit Noodles with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce|
|Southern Forager||Cannelloni Bean and Henbit Soup|
|Southern Forager||Henbit Flapjacks|