Organic agriculture and biodiversity have in recent years brought about a rediscovery of many “forgotten” vegetables that people especially in Europe and France conscientiously tried to forget as they reminded them of the privations suffered during WWII. The same people had then to make do with untraditional vegetables because potatoes, carrots and so on were confiscated by occupying forces or their own armies.
With sustainibility and bioagriculture made more important by the deficiencies of modern mass agriculture, those “forgotten” vegetables have suddenly come to the fore for the pleasure of all, and that of course of vegetarians and vegans!
This particular series of postings will introduce these vegetables one by one. I hope they will become useful for a long time to come to all my vegan and vegetarian friends!
1) Scorsonere/Oyster Plant
10) Cerfeuil Tubereux
15) Capucine tubereuse-Maschua
16) Chataigne de Terre-Great Pignut
19) Sikkim Cucumber
Chenopodium, or more precisely Chenopodium Giganteum , also called Tree Spinach or Magenta Spree, is a plant originally found in Northern and Eastren India, but has been naturalized in France and some other countries.
The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans.
The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plants will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.
It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.
Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.
Leaves can be cooked. Of excellent quality, they are a spinach substitute. The raw leaves should only be eaten in small.
Seed can also be cooked. Ground into a powder and used with wheat or other cereals in making bread etc. The seed is small and fiddly, about 1.5mm in diameter. It should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins.
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils but disliking shade. It prefers a moderately fertile soil.
The tree spinach is sometimes cultivated for its edible leaves. There are some named varieties like ‘Magentaspreen’, which is a vigorous plant growing 1.5 metres tall. It has large leaves, the new growth is a brilliant magenta colour. Tastiest when young, the leaves are eaten raw or cooked like spinach. A warm climate is required in order to ripen the seed.
Try them in salads for a taste of “wilderness”!