Facts about Tree Spinach

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Tree Spinach Quick Facts
Name: Tree Spinach
Scientific Name: Chenopodium giganteum
Origin Mountainous regions of India
Shapes Fruits that have seeds of about 1.5 mm in diameter
Taste Tastes very much like chard or spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked
Chenopodium giganteum scientifically known as Tree Spinach is a very large annual leafy vegetable belonging to Amaranthaceae family. The plant is native to mountainous regions of India; it is easily cultivated in the UK and other areas. It is also found in the Himalayas, from Nepal to NE India, altitudes of 1800-2200 m. Chenopodium giganteum belongs to the same genus as quinoa or Chenopodium album. Many species of this genus have a long history of domestications as grain, vegetable or forage crops. Thus, genetic relationships and place of origin are hard to determine. Chenopodium giganteum has two main subspecies one origin form India the other from America. Magenta Spreen, Purple Goosefoot, Giant Lambsquarters, Spinach tree, Tree Spinach, Tree Spinnach, Bengal cane and large lambsquarters are some of the popular common names of the plant.

It is a leafy green which tastes like very much like chard or spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked. The best-tasting parts of the plant are the tender growing tips, which can be harvested continuously. Since the plant contains oxalic acid, it should be cooked in a steel pan, not in aluminum. This plant has edible seeds which can be cooked or ground into flour. The plant contains vitamins A, C, and K, and calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium. The plant grows well in full sun or partial shade. It is resistant to many pests and is easy to grow.

Tree Spinach Facts

Name Tree Spinach
Scientific Name Chenopodium giganteum
Native Mountainous regions of India, it is easily cultivated in the UK and other areas
Common Names Magenta Spreen, Purple Goosefoot, Giant Lambsquarters, Spinach tree, Tree Spinach, Tree Spinnach, Bengal cane, large lambsquarters
Name in Other Languages Bengali : Bathua, Lal bathua
Chinese:  Zhang li (杖藜)
Danish: Kæmpe-gåsefod
Dutch: Boomspinazie
English:  Spinach tree, Tree Spinach, Magentaspreen, Tree Spinnach, Bengal cane, giant lambsquarters, large lambsquarters, purple goosefoot
Finnish: Jättisavikka
French:  Ansérine amarante, chénopode couleur amarante, chénopode géant
German:  Spinatbaum, Großer Gänsefuß, Baumspinat
Hindi : Boro bothua, Chilli
Hungarian: Oriás libatop
Italian: farinello color amaranto
Japanese: Supenacchi turii (スピナッチ・トゥ リー), akaza (アカザ)
Korean: Myeong a ju (명아주)               
Norwegian: Kjempemelde         
Polish: Komosa olbrzymia
Russian: Mar’ gigantskaya  (Марь гигантская)
Sanskrit : Vastukah, Chillikah, Palash lohita
Spanish: Cenizo gigante
Swedish: Praktmålla, Jättemålla
Welsh: Troed-yr-Ŵydd Mawr
Plant Growth Habit Annual, upright many-branched shrub
Growing Climates Weed infested places
Plant Size Up to 3 m. tall and  stem diameter of up to 5 cm at the base
Stem Erect, much branched above, stout, reddish green or reddish purple striped, ribbed, base up to 5 cm in diam
Leaf Leaf blade is light green below and dark green above, rhombic to ovate, up to 20 cm long and 16 cm wide, one-half or twice as long as leaf-stalk, below powdery or becoming hairless
Flowering season July to September
Flower The inflorescence consists of terminal panicles with hermaphrodite (both male and female) flowers, which are pollinated by the wind
Fruit Shape & Size Fruits have seeds of about 1.5 mm in diameter
Taste Tastes very much like chard or spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked
Season August to October

Plant Description

Tree Spinach is a large, annual, upright many-branched, leafy shrub that grows to a height of up to 3 m with a stem diameter of up to 5 cm at the base. Stem is erect, much branched above, stout, reddish green or reddish purple striped, ribbed, base up to 5 cm in diam. The plant is found growing in weed infested places. It grows well in Mediterranean environment but needs full or partial shade. Chenopodium giganteum does not have high requirements on soil quality. Furthermore, it shows weedy characteristics such as fast growth and rapid spreading.

Leaves

The younger leaves of Chenopodium giganteum are hairy with a magenta color and the older become green. Leaf blade is light green below and dark green above, rhombic to ovate, up to 20 cm long and 16 cm wide, one-half or twice as long as leaf-stalk, below powdery or becoming hairless, above not powdery, base broadly wedge-shaped, margin is irregularly wavy saw toothed. Tip is usually blunt; upper leaf blades gradually becoming smaller, ovate to ovate-lance shaped, reddish or golden yellow vesicular hairy when young, margin saw toothed or entire.

Flower

The inflorescence consists of terminal panicles with hermaphrodite (both male and female) flowers, which are pollinated by the wind. The flowers contain 5 perianth leaves and 5 stamens. Tepals are 5, green or dark purple, ovate, margin membranous. Stamens are 5. Utricle is lenticular and pericarp membranous. The flowering period starts in mid-summer; from July to September.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by the fruits that have seeds of about 1.5 mm in diameter.

Culinary uses of Tree Spinach

  • Leaves can be consumed after being cooked.
  • Leaves are a spinach substitute.
  • The raw leaves should only be eaten in small quantities.
  • The seeds can be cooked or ground into a powder and mixed with wheat and other cereals to make bread.
  • The seed is small and fiddly; it should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins.
  • The young shoots and tender leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach.

Other Facts

  • Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant.
  • Due to the partially pink colored leaves, Chenopodium giganteum also has an ornamental value.
  • The stems were used traditionally to make walking sticks.

Precautions

  • 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.

References:

https://pfaf.org/User/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Chenopodium+giganteum

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenopodium_giganteum

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=20608#null

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=311134

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-2717345

http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Purple%20Goosefoot.html

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/CHEGI

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/12649

https://inaturalist.nz/taxa/208769-Chenopodium-giganteum

https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/51557/#b

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