Weed of the Week: Fat Hen
Please note that the title Weed of the Week should not lead any dear reader to expect an actual weed of the week - a glance at my posting history should scotch that expectation right at the outset. Really, I am just a fan of alliteration.
This is my favourite weed of the season. Summer means fat hen, means delicious munching in the garden, a yummy addition to salads and a delicious spinach substitute. Fat hen, or chenopodium album is also known as pigweed, lambs quarters and goose foot. It is part of the spinach family and tastes very much like.. spinach! It is mild, a bit nutty, very spinach-ey. When you allow it to grow in the vegie garden alongside the tomatoes so it gets a bit of extra water it grows huge and lush and gives you lots of spinach greens throughout hot weather when English spinach just bolts to seed. You can eat the flowers and seeds of fat hen as well, but the leaves are the best. It is probably best cooked as the leaves have a lot of oxalic acid in them, as spinach does, but it is so yum that I cannot resist scoffing it in the garden.
It contains a lot of vitamin C, calcium and protein. Lots of protein, up to 43%! The Weed Forager's Handbook also tells me that this plant is the origin of the name Melbourne - its Anglo-Saxon name was melde - Melde-bourne... melde growing by a stream.
So use it to make your hens fat, feed it to the pigs, admire its leaves shaped like goose feet, and throw it in the salad and the curry. Or eat it meditatively in the garden while watching the tomatoes redden at midsummer and indulge in a bit of weed love. Happy days.