Magenta Spreen may sound like a great steampunk name, but this edible annual weed is probably already in your garden!
Also known as purple goosefoot, tree spinach, and giant lambsquarters, this local weed can reach 8 feet in height and takes practically no care. The fresh growing tips provide the best flavor (and they look amazing in a salad) but even the larger leaves can be steamed, the same way as spinach, and the seeds are edible, as well. Like rhubarb, spinach, parsley, and chives, magenta spreen contains relatively high levels of oxalic acid, but not enough to worry about.
The magenta spreen plant
Believed to have originated in India, magenta spreen made its way to China and then to other parts of the world, where it has long been a food plant. [In the 1500’s, magenta spreen lost out to spinach in the popularity race.] Cousin to chard, beets, and quinoa, magenta spreen (Chenopodium giganteum) is a chenopod that tastes like what you’d expect from a cross between spinach and asparagus. Like other chenopods, magenta spreen has triangular leaves, somewhat akin to a goose’s foot. Overall, the plants are green, but they feature iridescent, hot pink growing tips and new leaf edges. Magenta spreen can grow equally well in full sun or partial shade. If allowed to go to seed and flourish, it can be used as both an edible crop or as a green manure. It has no major pest or disease problems.
How to grow magenta spreen
If you live in the Bay Area, you have probably been pulling this plant out as a weed for years. Rather than ridding yourself of this visual and edible treat, simply let it grow! You don’t have to buy seeds, unless you’ve never seen it in your garden. In that case, plant seeds 1/2-inch deep in succession, starting in early spring or late summer. If plants bolt, let them. The seeds will provide you and your family with even more plants. They transplant easily, in case you don’t like where they start growing, or if you’d like to share with friends.
Have you seen magenta spreen in your garden?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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