Chenopodium

Botanical Name ; Chenopodium
Family:Rosaceae
Genus: Chenopodium
Species: C. album
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms:  Goosefoots. Wormseeds. Spinach. Glassworts. Sea Beets.

Common Names :  Lamb’s quarters, Melde, Goosefoot and fat-hen, Pigweed. It is often distinguished as white goosefoot

Habitat  :Native range of  chenopodium album  is obscure due to extensive cultivation, but includes most of Europe, from where Linnaeus described the species in 1753. Plants native in eastern Asia are included under C. album, but often differ from European specimens. It is widely introduced elsewhere, e.g. Africa, Australasia, North America, and Oceania, and now occurs almost everywhere in soils rich in nitrogen, especially on wasteland.

It is extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India as a food crop, and in English texts it may be called by its Hindi name bathua or bathuwa, (Marathi:chakboth). It is called Pappukura in Telugu, Paruppukkirai in Tamil, Kaduoma in Kannada, Vastuccira in Malayalam, and Chakvit in Konkani.Bathu sag in hindi,Chandan betu in Bengali,Katu ayamoddakam in Malyalam.

Description:
Chenopodium album is an annual/perennial herb. It tends to grow upright at first, reaching heights of 10–150 cm (rarely to 3 m), but typically becomes recumbent after flowering (due to the weight of the foliage and seeds) unless supported by other plants. The leaves are alternate and can be varied in appearance. The first leaves, near the base of the plant, are toothed and roughly diamond-shaped, 3–7 cm long and 3–6 cm broad. The leaves on the upper part of the flowering stems are entire and lanceolate-rhomboid, 1–5 cm long and 0.4–2 cm broad; they are waxy-coated, unwettable and mealy in appearance, with a whitish coat on the underside. The small flowers are radially symmetrical and grow in small cymes on a dense branched inflorescence 10–40 cm long. CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Cultivation:    
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils but disliking shade. It prefers a moderately fertile soil. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 8.3. Plants are annuals or short-lived perennials. They are not very hardy when grown outdoors in Britain and so are best grown as an annual. Plants have often self-sown freely in our Cornish trial grounds, but the seed often germinates in the autumn and then does not manage to survive the winter. This species is sometimes grown as a medicinal and culinary plant, especially in its native Mexico. The sub-species C. ambrosioides anthelminticum is more active medicinally and is the form most often cultivated for its vermicidal activity. The bruised leaves emit an unpleasant foetid odour.

Propagation:  
Seed – whilst it can be sown in situ in mid to late spring, we have had better results by sowing the seed in a cold frame in early spring. Put a few seeds in each pot and thin to the best plant if necessary. Germination rates are usually very good and the seedlings should appear within a few days of sowing the seed. Plant out in late spring, after the last expected frosts.

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Edible Uses:
The leaves and young shoots may be eaten as a leaf vegetable, either steamed in its entirety, or cooked like spinach, but should be eaten in moderation due to high levels of oxalic acid. Each plant produces tens of thousands of black seeds. These are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Quinoa, a closely related species, is grown specifically for its seeds. The Zuni people cook the young plants’ greens.

Archaeologists analysing carbonized plant remains found in storage pits and ovens at Iron Age, Viking Age, and Roman sites in Europe have found its seeds mixed with conventional grains and even inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies.

In India, the plant is popularly called bathua and found abundantly in the winter season. The leaves and young shoots of this plant are used in dishes such as soups, curries, and paratha-stuffed breads, especially popular in Punjab. The seeds or grains are used in phambra or laafi, gruel-type dishes in Himachal Pradesh, and in mildly alcoholic fermented beverages such as soora and ghanti.

Medicinal Uses:
improves the appetite,acts as anthelmintic,laxitive,duretic  and tonic. It is used in bilousness, vata and kapha,abdominal pain and eye diseases.In piles it is used in form of pot herb.Finely powdered leaves are used as dusting powder on children external genitals. It is very effective against most parasites, including the amoeba that causes dysentery, but is less effective against tapeworm. Fasting should not precede its use and there have occasionally been cases of poisoning caused by this treatment. The oil is used externally to treat athlete’s foot and insect bites. One report says that it is an essential oil that is utilised. This is obtained from the seed or the flowering stems, it is at its highest concentration in the flowering stems before seed is set, these contain around 0.7% essential oil of which almost 50% is the active vermifuge ascaridol. The essential oil is of similar quality from plants cultivated in warm climates and those in cool climates. The leaves are added in small quantities as a flavouring for various cooked bean dishes because their carminative activity can reduce

Other Uses:
The plant is used as animal feed ,both the leaves and the seeds are used  for chickens and other poultry stuff feeds.

Chenopodium album is vulnerable to leaf miners, making it a useful trap crop as a companion plant. Growing near other plants, it attracts leaf miners which might otherwise have attacked the crop to be protected. It is a host plant for the beet leafhopper, an insect which transmits curly top virus to beet crops.

Known Hazards:  The essential oil in the seed and flowering plant is highly toxic. In excess it can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions and even death. The plant can also cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions. 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. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. 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 plant will reduce its 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 conditio.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/chenop53.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenopodium_album
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Chenopodium+ambrosioides

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