This week, Saskia – volunteer at our Weald Community Allotment – shares with us why sometimes it is worth making space for unexpected incomers to your garden.
One day a few years ago a strange visitor showed up at the plot – a very bright pink leafy weed that grew quickly and seemed to pop up in various places. Pull it out, I was told, it’ll go everywhere. But touching the top, a fine pink dust came off it and I simply wanted to know more.
Here is what I discovered: Chenopodium giganteum (Magenta Spreen, Purple Goosefoot, Giant Lambsquarters) is a very large annual leafy vegetable that grows over 8 feet tall (not in Sussex though). It is also known as Tree Spinach (not to be confused with Chaya), though native to mountainous regions of India, it is easily cultivated in the UK and other areas, and may be sold under the name Tree Spinach. But the best part: turns out you can eat it raw or cooked!
It is a leafy green which tastes like very much like chard or spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked. The best-tasting parts of the plant are the tender growing tips, which can be harvested continuously, the plant becoming bushy. Since the plant contains oxalic acid, it shouldn’t be cooked in uncoated copper or aluminium pans (it reacts with the metal and can affect the colour of the food). This plant, a relative of quinoa, has edible seeds which can be cooked or ground into flour. The plant contains good amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, and calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as saponins, which may have health benefits.
The plant grows particularly well in full sun or partial shade. If a sufficient number of seeds are sown, it makes high quality green manure. It is resistant to many pests and is easy to grow. The leaves are triangular and green, apart from the leaves at the growing tips of the plant which are magenta-tipped and covered in a fine iridescent magenta dust.
And yes, it does spread its seeds everywhere but you can always pull it up easily at it is just so incredibly PINK!