White Dead-nettle, Lamium album has toothed, heart-shaped leaves that look very similar to the leaves of Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, a plant which is familiar to many. White Dead-nettles and Stinging Nettles also share other charcteristics such as having leaves arranged in alternate, opposite pairs on a stem with a square-shaped cross-section. Both plants are also hairy but, as suggested by its name, White Dead-nettle does not sting.
Despite the similarities maybe leading you to think otherwise, Dead-nettles and Stinging Nettles are not in the same family of plants. Dead-Nettles are in the family Lamiaceae, which also contains familiar herbs such as Mint, Basil, Thyme and Marjoram. White Dead-nettles grow to a height of 20-60cm and have distinctinve white flowers that cluster around the plant’s stem. They are generally found growing on waysides and on hedgebanks.
Even though White Dead-nettle is not an aromatic herb like some of its other family members, it is edible. Before the plant flowers, the young leaves and shoots are tender enough to eat raw. Later, when the leaves become tougher and possibly bitter, you can steam or lightly cook the leaves and eat as a green. Or you can add the leaves to soups as you would the leaves of Stinging Nettle.
Best Practice while Foraging
Please read the BSBI’s Code of Conduct for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Wild Plants for guidance on the best practice (and UK laws) relating to foraging for wild plant foods.
This article is meant only as a guide and is largely a record of my recent forages. It is not a complete treatment of all edible plants that might be available. Nor does it provide a complete treatment of all poisonous plants that may also be present in the habitat where you find the above-mentioned plants. If you want to learn more about plant identification you should invest in some good field guides. The safest way to learn about edible wild plants is for someone who already has the knowledge to show you in person. Any foraging you do on your own is at your own risk.
The most important thing to remember when identifying wild foods is:
IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT!
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