Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FORKLORE

Our Pal, Pigweed

August 15, 1996|CHARLES PERRY

One of humanity's little buddies in the plant kingdom is the family Chenopodiaceae, though it's mostly known to us from weeds with the unpromising names goosefoot and pigweed. "Goosefoot" (which is what the botanical name Chenopodium literally means) refers to the web-footed shape of the leaves and "pigweed" to the plump look of the plants when they're laden with seeds. All the Chenopodiaceae are known for prolific seed production.

Despite the disrespectful names, plants of this family have given us a respectable amount of food over the centuries. Chenopodium album, or pigweed proper (also known as lamb's-quarters), is an edible green that is still often gathered in this country. In time of famine, the Teda people of the eastern Sahara collect the seeds of a variety of goosefoot and steam them to make a couscous that comes out black.

Good-king-henry (Ch. bonus-henricus) was a common green in medieval Europe. You can get an idea of its onetime importance from the number of names that were given to it in England alone: wild spinach, good-king-henry, fat-hen, mercury and allgood.

The Western Hemisphere has a number of goosefoots of its own, one being the famous Andean grain Ch. quinoa, which has two less famous but equally edible cousins. The goosefoot of Mexican cuisine is Ch. ambrosoides, otherwise known as the herb epazote.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|