Magenta Spreen – Chenopodium giganteum
This is a beautiful plant to grow with it’s soft green goosefoot shaped leaves that have a splash of magenta-pink on the newest leaves of each stem. It is an annual, meaning it grows for one season, and then dies down. Looking at the photo on the left one would never suspect this plant can reach over two metres, appearing like a small tree, and as such is also known as Tree spinach. It is much easier to grow than regular spinach though and more productive. Magenta spreen is also called lamb’s quarters. It is sown in the spring and quickly grows during summer producing side shoots that can be picked for your smoothies, for steaming like spinach or silver beet or turning into patties (recipe below). Just one plant can produce a huge amount of food. I heard a story of a farmer in America telling his son that if it wasn’t for magenta spreen they would have starved during the depression. So take advantage of the many tender young pink leaves which look very decorative in a salad. Once you have a plant of Magenta spreen and you let it go to seed, it will pop up in your garden in unexpected places.
Magenta spreen is a highly nutritious plant, rich in Vitamins C and E, essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, minerals and antioxidants which are good for dealing with free radicals. The underside of the leaves and top of the new leaves are covered in a fine pink dust. Resist the temptation to wash it off as it is full of calcium and protein. It contains even more protein than kale, which contains more than the recommended daily intake of protein. Just put the tender shoots and leaves (removed from the tough stems) in your blender and you’ll get all the benefits the plant has to offer. Magenta spreen does contain some oxalic acid like spinach and swiss chard or silver beet. These plants are so loaded with calcium however, that the amount of calcium not absorbed due to oxalic acid is minimized. Oxalic acid could build up if you had the same greens for weeks, so rotate your greens. If you would like to know about oxalic acid you can read more on the following page http://oxalicacidinfo.com/ Cooking the plants is said to reduce the content of oxalic acid.
Magenta Spreen Smoothie
3 stems of Magenta spreen (middle of the photo)
2 carrot stems & leaves (bottom left)
5 cavelo nero leaves (left in photo)
2 beetroot leaves (right in photo)
1 cup blueberries
1 kiwifruit (scrub off hairs if organic or peel if not)
1 tangelo peeled
2 slices water melon
1 T chia & 1 T pumpkin seeds (grind in coffee grinder or leave whole and soak overnight)
3 cups water
- Place greens in your blender with the water and blend on low until well broken down.
- Turn on to high speed until smooth.
- Add the fruit, ground or soaked chia and pumpkin seeds and blend again until smooth.
- Place 6-10 whole blueberries (depending on your glass size) in a glass and pour over the smoothie. When you drink the smoothie you’ll meet a blueberry and have something nice to chew.This mixture yields 1.5 Litres enough for a family or keep some aside for the next day in the fridge.Enjoy!!
Magenta spreen Patties
1 cup chickpea or yellow pea flour
1½ tsp curry powder or cumin
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped magenta spreen, loosely packed down
2 tablespoons grated onion
water, if needed
Oil (coconut or olive) for frying
- Whisk dry ingredients together. Add greens and grated onion.
- Mix to a very thick, dry batter. If necessary, add just enough water, a few drops, to moistenthe mixture and get it to hold together.
- Heat 1 cm of oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Mould the patties into small cakes and drop them into the hot oil.
- When golden brown on the underside, turn each patty and fry on the other side.
- Serve with relish or yoghurt.
Knox, J., A Forager’s Treasury: A New Zealand guide to finding and using wild plants, 2013, Allan and Unwin, Auckland.
Boutenko, V., Green Smoothie Revolution: The Radical Leap Towards Natural Health, 2009, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.