No, no, no! Not Dead METAL! Dead NETTLE!! Sorry Lexi, if I got your hopes up.
Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum, is a very,VERY common spring plant. This plant, along with Henbit, is responsible for that ankle high purple haze that forms on fields and lawns. It is also a great wild edible.
In the mint family, Dead Nettle got its name not because it will kill you, but because it, unlike its more commonly known cousin, doesn’t sting. This is one of those edible plants you can learn and eat worldwide. It has some astringent properties when fresh, and can be applied to a wound to clean it, however, it is perhaps best eaten.
It is only an annual plant, however, it grows and germinates so quickly it is available as long as there isn’t snow. Much like the Eurasian starling, this is a plant that has spread hand in… er… leaf.. with humans. This moved from the Eurasian continent into Europe and then across the ocean to North America. It has been used as food and medicine until the last century or so.
Dead Nettle can be eaten raw (but wash it, I mean do you know what kind of things animals do in nature?) or cooked. You often find it growing with Chickweed and Henbit (see that posting) which can all be pulled, washed and sautéed together. That particular combination loves feta and garlic. If you are super lucky, you can find some wild onions, leeks or garlic and toss it in.
Dead Nettle is VERY high in iron, vitamins and, of course, fiber. Iron is an important one, especially if you are a vegetarian.
To identify Dead Nettle, it has upright, squarish stems (it often has dark lines running up the corners of the square stems) with the distinctive triangular, fuzzy leaves with raged, wavy edges. The leaves form in pairs opposite one another and are at 90 degrees to the pair of leaves above and below them. They get to be about 10-24 CM (2-10 inches) tall and get small, purple blossoms that look like tiny orchids. The top leaves often turn a deep purple when it is in bloom.
It is commonly mistaken for Henbit, which looks very similar except the leaves are round and downright tattered on the edges.
Both are edible, grow together and are good for you. Give them a try, or at least learn them for future use. If you are in to ultralighcamping, learning to forage wild edibles can greatly enhance your food options while on the trail.
It is also good for other things like the zombie apocalypse, the inevitable insect overthrow of humanity or being the sole survivor of a plane crash in the middle of nowhere. Or, if you are cheap. I know a lot of cheap people who scoff at buying food when you can pick it.