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Fat-hen: pernitious weed yet valuable food crop

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Fat-hen: pernitious weed yet valuable food crop

Anyone who has been for a walk in the countryside and crossed farm land will have seen fat-hen (Chenopodium album) but many will not have given it a second glance, if they noticed it in the first place. Fat-hen is one of the most common weeds of cultivation and yet one of the most nondescript. It has little to attract attention or single it out from other plants.

It is quite variable in appearance and can grow anything up to five feet tall although often it is much, much smaller. The flowers hardly look like flowers at all being crusty in appearance and dull white in colour; they look as though they are yet to fully open. The leaves are pale green with the ones at the bottom looking a bit mealy! Overall, it is wishy-washy, untidy and unremarkable.

Once upon a time fat-hen was an important food crop in its own right in Europe and there is evidence that it was eaten as early as the neolithic period and probably before. Now our farmers try to eradicate it from their fields which is not easy, it is a pretty rampant plant that is hard to remove. In some parts of the world it is considered to a major pest, in others, notably India, it is still used as a food crop. It has also been extensively used to feed farm animals and in addition to chickens it is fed to pigs and is sometimes known as pigweed.


 

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This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 4 weeks ago

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