Galinsoga – Galinsoga parviflora
This leafy, upright, summer annual has the common name used by my Dad ‘gallant soldier’ and is cursed as an invasive weed, yet it is valued as a pot herb in other parts of the world. I find it a pretty plant with its pointed, oval yellowish-green leaves in opposite pairs that are toothed and pointed with hairs on the leaf margins and stems. It has small flowers in clusters that have five white petals – three lobed at the tips with yellow centres called disc florets (right).
Flowering from October-April it likes to grow amongst your vegetables and flowers in cultivated land, pasture and waste places in sun and partial shade. It is named after a man called M.M. Galinsoga an 18th Century Spanish physician; parviflora is Latin for small flowers.
It is not that common all over NZ yet but once you have it in the garden it is usually there to stay. It is native to South America and known as Guascas in Colombia, being an essential ingredient in Bogota chicken and potato stew/soup called ajiaco.
You can use the leaves especially of young plants seen above, stems and even the flowers in smoothies, salads, stews, steamed or juiced and mixed with other juices. It is mild in flavour and can be dried for winter use. Galinsoga is another remedy (along with plantain and dock) for neutralizing the sting of nettles. It is astringent in its action and can be used to help clot the blood of cuts and wounds.
In 100gm of this plant there are 3.2g protein and 1.1g of fiber (compared to spinach which has 2.9g protein and 2.6g of fiber). It is high in calcium: 284mg per 100gm (parsley 140mg), Vitamin A or beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and Vitamin C as ascorbic acid.
In a 2007 study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, 16 herbs were studied for possible ACE inhibitors. ACE inhibitors, which are also made synthetically by drug companies to treat high blood pressure, help prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. One of the herbs found to exhibit ACE inhibitors and so help improve blood flow was Galinsoga parviflora or guascas. (Chenopodium album or Fat Hen was another) Recent studies have also demonstrated the antioxidants and phenolic compounds present in guascas can inhibit high blood sugar levels or hyperglysemia and also hypertension associated with type 2 diabetes. Source:
The photo right shows a thick patch of galinsoga with Circulation smoothie in the middle