On Monday, on my way to Starkville to attend the Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi board of directors meeting, I saw a giant field of henbit. I immediately pulled over and took a photo, because this often overlooked and unassuming plant is quite important to bees, hummingbirds, and — should be! — humans.
What a wonderful sight!!! For hungry bees, butterflies and hummingbirds this late winter, early spring “weed” is a godsend for its pollen and nectar.
At this time of year, when bees are foraging for pollen and nectar to stay alive, with their stores of honey from last year often depleted or dangerously low, henbit supplies needed sustenance.
Regular readers of this blog, perhaps, recognize that I’m something of a fanatic on this subject, as every year I urge farmers to please refrain from plowing under their henbit as long as possible, or spraying pre- or post-emerge herbicides. The bees will thank you!
In a few weeks, or now in some parts of the South, hummingbirds are making their way back north from the winter, and henbit provides an abundant supply of nectar for them, too!
It might not be a part of official farm policy to provide food for pollinators, but this humble little purple plant (a member of the mint family that tastes like kale) can be a tremendous food source.
Humans can eat henbit, too. The stem, flowers, and leaves are edible. It’s high in vitamins and you can cook it or eat it raw in salads, or make a tea from it.
According to naturalmedicinalherbs.net it has medicinal uses, including antirheumatic, diaphoretic, excitant, febrifuge, laxative and stimulant.
For more, see: http://www.ediblewildfood.com
So, if you see it growing in your garden and think, ack, what a noxious weed! Think again! This is a beneficial plant for pollinators that can spell the difference between life and death for some.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.