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Fat Hen

Fat hen gets its name because it was used to fatten poultry; it goes by many other names too, notably lambas quarters in the us and pigweed in canada, as it was used for pig and sheepas food. In britain it was known as midden myles and dirty dick (no, just the name!) because it likes to grow on manure heaps in farmyards. (middens were the old name for toilets or the dung heaps where excrement was thrown.) itas a native european plant and also grew in the america, but it is not yet conclusive whether or not it is a native of the usa or was introduced via mexico. It does seem to have been domesticated first in mexico and then in the us by the native americans. It has certainly been used as food in europe since neolithic (new stone age times) according to archaeological evidence.
The fat hen family includes quinoa, spinach, red beets, sugar beets, and swiss chard. While fat hen has become more and more popular over the last 300 years, it has been around for thousands of years beforehand. The seeds of the plant have been found in many european ruins and scientists found fat hen to be a major part of the ritual meal of the tollund man in denmark around 300 bc. in north america, the blackfoot tribe used the seeds as early as 1500 ad. Fat hen is firmly embedded in the cultures and meals of the navajo, the pueblo, the tribes of arizona, and the iroquois.
The plant has no odour, and the new leaves are recognizable as being toothed while older leaves which grow as the plant mature are toothless. It can grow to heights of 3 feet with a diameter of 8 inches, and can grow anywhere. If it is growing in soils that have been treated with pesticides, donat use it, as they will have been absorbed into the plant. As it is, the plant contains oxalates, so the leaves should be cooked rather than eaten raw, for safetyas sake. You can cook it like spinach and it makes a good substitute. However plants which grow in nitrogen rich soil will contain nitrates, which are ok in small quantities, but donat eat too many leaves, as although a small amount of nitrates can help the respiratory system, too many can be lethal. As the leaves are bland, it is best to mix them with stronger tasting ones such as fenugreek leaves (methi). The seeds may also be eaten although they are best soaked first as they contain saponins and can be used as a mild soap substitute. They can be dried and eaten or ground into flour or rather meal, and used to make bread.
Anita pal et al published a research paper in february 2011 in the international journal of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences which shows that extracts of the plant are liver protective, vindicating its use for liver complaints in traditional medicine: ahepaprotective activity of chenopodium album linn plant against paracetamol-induced hepato injury in rats.a another scientific study also published in 2011 by teams from the university of southern texas (usa) and university of fort hare south africa, which showed that this plant has antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties. This study concludes that fat hen ashould be used as a source of nutrients to support major sources [of food]a it goes on to say it amay be of great medicinal value.a.


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