Henbit makes us happy. We like it so much that we included it in the name of one of our honey varietals, Strawberry-Henbit. So what exactly is it?
Allow us to geek out briefly
Henbit deadnettle (lamium amplexicaule for the botanists among us, or simply just "henbit") is a plant that is part of the mint family and produces a flower which is dark pink-to-light purple. It's relatively small in stature, reaching heights of between 4 and 10 inches. The tops of the plant are hoisted up by long, square, maroon-colored stems and therefore is sometimes referred to as Giraffe Head.
Henbit pops out of the ground and blooms in late winter and early spring in southern climates, or a tad later in cooler climates. The plant then dies off in the summer months as soon as the temperatures start to climb, but not after producing around 2,000 seeds per plant.
Pesky weed or beautiful flowering plant?
Not thought to be native to North America, henbit is often considered a nuisance plant in many regions of the U.S. (a lowly weed, even!). This is largely because it can sometimes be found growing in your garden, front yard or the otherwise pristine pastureland of a neighboring farm. Henbit grows well just about everywhere.
Admittedly, it's not the best looking stuff to play bocce ball on, especially when not in bloom. Short, patchy and sticking out of the ground during times of year when grass is often dormant, it has the potential to impact one's good standing in the yard of the month club.
But despite its small size and somewhat tarnished image, we love it for several reasons:
- It looks awesome in bloom. When it blooms in an entire field or pastureland, the resulting pink-to-purple hue looks incredible. Celebrate the small things!
- It is edible. Part of the mint family, henbit can be eaten in its entirety (stems, leafs and flowers) either cooked or raw. It has a taste that is a little bit spicy and sweet, and is fantastic when mixed into a field greens salad, tea or a smoothie. In fact, it's considered top of the pecking order by some.
- It is nutritious. Henbit contains lots of iron, fiber and vitamins.
- It makes a really good honey. In our region of the U.S (go NC!), henbit is often blooming at the same time as the strawberry plant. We have both wild and cultivated strawberries on or adjacent to (respectively) our bee yards, and over time we discovered that these two primary floral sources yield a magnificent varietal.
Henbit at Crafted Honey Farms
On both of our primary bee yard locations in Statesville and Cherryville North Carolina, herbicides are not used at all so henbit is allowed to grow freely. This is good news for the bees and better news for honey lovers:
Bees dig it because: It provides an early source of nectar and honeybees are able to begin "working" sooner in the season than they may otherwise have been able to. On warm winter days, stepping lightly through our bee yards will reveal thousands of honeybees gathering nectar from henbit plants.
Honey lovers should also dig it because: Henbit in-and-of itself produces a very light honey, as our earliest honey in any given year reveals. As the strawberry plants begin to bloom just a bit later, these two nectar sources combine to make a lightly colored, berry flavored honey that's to die for. Ok maybe not to die for - we enjoy serving our repeat customers.