Henbit is a Hit!

by Sue Ann Kendall

It pays to pay attention to your Facebook groups, because you never know what treasures you will find hiding in there. Yesterday, I saw a post In Milam County Veggie and Plant Exchange by one of our group, Larry Kocian, that talked about one of the predominant blooming plants around my ranch this time of year, henbit deadnettle Lamium amplexicaule. I have to admit I knew little about this little purple bloomer, other than the fact that I can ID it on iNaturalist. Now, thanks to the fascinating article Larry linked to, I know a lot more, and think you should, too!

What a beauty!

This plant can be so abundant in fields that it turns them purple with its tiny orchid-like blooms. I was surprised to learn that it’s not a native plant but was brought over by European settlers as food for, you guessed it, hens (and roosters). Now you’ll never forget the name of this plant! I have taken lots of pictures of it, as you can see here, because there’s little to take pictures of this time of year.

Henbit festival

That’s right, it’s edible. The article told me it was quite good in salads and with eggs, so after feeding my hens some henbit, I picked some for myself and ate it with a fresh scrambled egg. It was quite good, as you’d expect from most members of the mint family (Lamiaceae). How did I know it was a mint? I felt its stem, which is quite square, like a member of its family.

Square stem

Although henbit is originally a plant from the Mediterranean and North Africa, it’s useful here, since it provides nectar to the honeybees and early butterflies at a time when little else is flowering (here at my house, its fellow bloomers are mostly dandelions and crow poison). My horses like it, too, judging from the lack of it in the pastures, and sure enough, the hens gobble it down.

Early spring field near my henhouse.

From what I read, it’s not dangerously invasive. Mowing can keep it under control, though I find it too pretty to mow and have noticed that when it’s done, the other plants have no trouble taking it over (sadly, that includes bur clover).

Here’s a pretty pale one.

As for me, I thought it tasted pretty good, for a green. It’s sort of like a peppery celery. It perked up my scrambled eggs quite well.

MMM, lunch.

So, go out and harvest yourself some free greens. You can cook them, too! Just be sure to harvest them in a place where it hasn’t had chemicals on it. I avoided my septic field, though I’m not sure that would have been a problem.

A Spring Day in Texas

by Catherine Johnson

This past spring on a cool, clear day, my daughter Rosie and I picked up Master Naturalist Donna Lewis and Danielle Ramos in Milano at dawn.  We traveled to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site for an enjoyable edible plant walk.  Master Naturalist Patrick Still and his wife also attended. 

The group of travelers (this was before social distancing).

Along the way we saw chickens, longhorns, and wildflowers.  We then toured the “Birthplace of Texas” where in 1836 Texas declared independence from Mexico to become the Republic of Texas.

A new friend!

After lunch and Jet Fuel coffee to keep us going, we headed to the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence.  Donna kept us laughing with her tales.  Once she was visiting a nearby farm and a “nice” miniature horse bit her.  The children on the tour got scared and ran away! 

Beautiful gardens.

The Emporium was stunning, and we found our favorite blooming sweet peas.  We also found artisan beer, wine and snacks at the new bistro there.  While relaxing on a porch surrounded by flowers and wind chimes, we noticed a long black crack on a building which turned out to be a snake! We said nothing so as not to “scare the children”. 

Yeah, kids, that’s just a crack in the wood.

As we left, we saw a bride having her picture taken among the roses. We were too tired to stop for dinner, so Donna got home by dark—–a perfect spring day in Texas.