Chances are, if you live in North America, parts of Europe, and (maybe) even bits of Australia and New Zealand, that (at least some of) these “weeds” can be found in your yard, a neighbor’s yard, or a field in a park or school yard.
(scientific name: Lamium amplexicaule)
- sprawling, annual herb
- square stems (a sign that its in the mint family)
- fuchsia tube-like flowers with a slightly fuzzy top (though flower color is variable from pale lavender to a dark magenta)
- naturalized in Eastern North America (and in other areas globally)
- popular with pollinators (including honeybees and hummingbirds)
- similar looking plants are also edible (no poisonous look-alikes)
So, this guy is one of my favorite early spring forage foods. Henbit is easy to find and super tasty….sort of like kale or spinach, great sauteed with a wee bit of butter and some garlic, or in salad, or in a smoothie. Plus, you can take the flowers (fresh or dried) and make tea from them (and we all know how I like tea). Or you can take the flowers and munch on them and they taste sort of like honeysuckle (and we all know how much I like to rid the world of honeysuckle flowers). I will make one very practical suggestion, from personal experience…limit yourself to no more than one cup of henbit (before cooking), else you may end up very, very gassy.
If harvesting for the greens, be sure to just snip the crowns. Also, get the juicy ones, not the sort of crunchy and dry ones for best flavor (you’ll know when you feel them up a bit, lol). Historically, henbit has been used to help heal wounds (as a wash or in tea), to induce sweating or help digestive ailments, and to bring on menstruation (if you are pregnant, you might want to avoid this herb as a precaution). Magically, henbit is well suited to spells or rituals for clarity, energy, cleansing, and creativity.
Common chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of several species of chickweed, all of which are edible. It is characterized by tiny, white 5 cleft-petaled flowers (which basically make it look like it has 10 petals) and paired, smooth petals. It produces saponins (which can be toxix) and should not be consumed in large amounts, but is a nutritious and delicious addition to salads and smoothies, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Chickweed is best when young and tender. When looking for chickweed (as opposed to similar but poisonous species), be sure your plant has:
- NO milky sap
- A row of tiny hairs growing in a row on one side of the stem that switches to the other side at each pair of leaves
- Opposite ovate or lanceolate (meaning they are ovular with a pointy tip) leaves
- If you gently bend and twist the stem, you can break the outer stem while the inner stem remains intact
- Small white deeply notched five petaled flowers (looks like 10 petals)
I usually harvest the ends–the flower and first couple pairs of leaves. This can then be frozen, dried, or prepared fresh (freezing chickweed lets you add it to smoothies all year long!). Star chickweed can also be eaten in the same manner, but mouse-eared chickweed needs to be cook to moderate its hairiness. Magically, these flowers can be used for magic and rituals associated with love, relationships, and fidelity. Historically, it has been used medicinally to reduce inflammation (internally and externally), as a mild laxative, and in salves and poultices for mild burns and injuries.
White clover (Trifolium repens) is a low growing pasture plant readily found in yards and fields. It is characterized by its three leaves with the pale triangular markings and tiny spiky white flowers clustered together (what we think of as the flower of a clover is really dozens of densely packed flowers). While the leaves are technically edible, they need to be boiled for at least 5 minutes before they are easily digestible. The flowers however, make a lovely tea, whether fresh or dried.
Other clover varieties can also be used as tea (red clover is especially nutritious and widely used medicinally), but care should be taken when foraging because there are some similar looking species that are poisonous (most clovers are edible, but some have mixed reviews, and others are not).
Magically, clover can be used for magics dealing with protection, money and success, love, fidelity, and exorcism. It is a masculine herb that corresponds with Mercury and Air. Medicinally, clover has historically been used in teas for colds, coughs, and fevers, and in washes for wounds (also as a rinse for the eyes). Additionally, the dried flowers and seed pods can be ground up as “flour” and used as a seasoning. the dried flowers also make a good addition to incense and potpourri.