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Herbs & Plants

Spinach

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Botanical Name : Spinacia oleracea
Family:
Amaranthaceae,(formerly Chenopodiaceae)
Genus: Spinacia
Species:
S. oleracea
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order:
Caryophyllales

Common Name :Spinach

Habitat: The Spinach is native to central and southwestern Asia, probably of Persian origin, being introduced into Europe about the fifteenth century.

Description:
Spinach is an edible flowering plant in the family of Amaranthaceae. It is native to central and southwestern Asia. It is an annual plant (rarely biennial), which grows to a height of up to 30 cm. Spinach may survive over winter in temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, simple, ovate to triangular-based, very variable in size from about 2–30 cm long and 1–15 cm broad, with larger leaves at the base of the plant and small leaves higher on the flowering stem. The flowers are inconspicuous, yellow-green, 3–4 mm diameter, maturing into a small, hard, dry, lumpy fruit cluster 5–10 mm across containing several seeds.

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Common spinach, Spinacia oleracea, was long considered to be in the Chenopodiaceae family, but in 2003, the Chenopodiaceae family was combined with the Amaranthaceae family under the family name ‘Amaranthaceae’ in the order Caryophyllales. Within the Amaranthaceae family, Amaranthoideae and Chenopodioideae are now subfamilies, for the amaranths and the chenopods, respectively.

Types of spinach;
A distinction can be made between older varieties of spinach and more modern ones. Older varieties tend to bolt too early in warm conditions. Newer varieties tend to grow more rapidly, but have less of an inclination to run up to seed. The older varieties have narrower leaves and tend to have a stronger and more bitter taste. Most newer varieties have broader leaves and round seeds.

There are  three basic types of spinach and they  are:

1.Savoy has dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. It is the type sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets in the United States. One heirloom variety of savoy is Bloomsdale, which is somewhat resistant to bolting. Other common heirloom varieties are Merlo Nero (a mild variety from Italy) and Viroflay (a very large spinach with great yields).

2.Flat- or smooth-leaf spinach has broad, smooth leaves that are easier to clean than Savoy. This type is often grown for canned and frozen spinach, as well as soups, baby foods, and processed foods. Giant Noble is an example variety.

3.Semi-savoy is a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as Savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean. It is grown for both fresh market and processing. Tyee Hybrid is a common semi-savoy.

Cultivation:
Plants grow best and produce their heaviest crop of leaves on a nitrogen-rich soil. They dislike very heavy or very light soils. They also dislike acid soils, preferring a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Plants require plenty of moisture in the growing season, dry summers causing the plants to quickly run to seed. Summer crops do best in light shade to encourage more leaf production before the plant goes to seed, winter crops require a warm dry sunny position. Young plants are hardy to about -9°c. Spinach is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties. These varieties can be grouped into two main types as detailed below:- Forms with prickly seeds. These are the more primitive forms. Their leaves are more lobed and they are in general more cold tolerant and also more resistant of summer heat. They were more often used to produce a crop in the winter. Forms with round seeds have been developed in cultivation, These have broader leaves, tend to be less cold hardy and were also more prone to bolt in hot weather. They were used mainly for the summer crop. Most new cultivars are of the round seeded variety and these have been developed to be more resistant to bolting in hot weather, more cold tolerant, to produce more leaves and also to be lower in calcium oxalate which causes bitterness and also has negative nutritional effects upon the body. Some modern varieties have been developed that are low in oxalic acid. Edible leaves can be obtained all year round from successional sowings. The summer varieties tend to run to seed fairly quickly, especially in hot dry summers and so you need to make successional sowings every few weeks if a constant supply is required. Winter varieties provide leaves for a longer period, though they soon run to seed when the weather warms up. Spinach grows well with strawberries. It also grows well with cabbages, onions, peas and celery. A fast-growing plant, the summer crop can be interplanted between rows of slower growing plants such as Brussels sprouts. The spinach would have been harvested before the other crop needs the extra space. Spinach is a bad companion for grapes and hyssop.

Propagation :
Seed to be sown from March to June for a summer crop. Make successional sowings, perhaps once a month, to ensure a continuity of supply. The seed germinates within about 2 weeks and the first leaves can be harvested about 6 weeks later. Seed is sown during August and September for a winter crop

Edible Uses:
It is eaten as very delicius green leafy vegetables.Spinach has a high nutritional value and is extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A (and especially high in lutein), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, opioid peptides called rubiscolins have also been found in spinach.

Polyglutamyl folate (vitamin B9 or folic acid) is a vital constituent of cells, and spinach is a good source of folic acid. Boiling spinach can more than halve the level of folate left in the spinach, but microwaving does not affect folate content. Vitamin B9 was first isolated from spinach in 1941.

Spinach, along with other green leafy vegetables, is considered to be rich in iron. It also has a high calcium content. However, the oxalate content in spinach also binds with calcium, decreasing its absorption. Calcium and zinc also limit iron absorption. The calcium in spinach is the least bioavailable of calcium sources. By way of comparison, the human body can absorb about half of the calcium present in broccoli, yet only around 5% of the calcium in spinach

Medicinal Uses:
Appetizer;  Carminative;  Febrifuge;  Hypoglycaemic;  Laxative.

The plant is carminative and laxative. In experiments it has been shown to have hypoglycaemic properties. It has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi. The leaves have been used in the treatment of febrile conditions, inflammation of the lungs and the bowels. The seeds are laxative and cooling. They have been used in the treatment of difficult breathing, inflammation of the liver and jaundice.

Known Hazards:  The leaves of most varieties of spinach are high in oxalic acid. Although not toxic, this substance does lock up certain minerals in a meal, especially calcium, making them unavailable to the body. Therefore mineral deficiencies can result from eating too much of any leaf that contains oxalic acid. However, the mineral content of spinach leaves is quite high so the disbenifits are to a large extent outweighed by the benefits. There are also special low-oxalic varieties of spinach that have been developed. Cooking the leaves will also reduce the 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. Possible methaemoglobinaemia from nitrates in children under 4 months. Anticoagulant patients should avoid excessive intake due to vitamin K content.

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

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/spinac80.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinacia_oleracea
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Spinacia+oleracea

 

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Herbs & Plants

Amaranthus hypochondriacus

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Botanical Name : Amaranthus hypochondriacus
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Amaranthus
Species: A. hypochondriacus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: Love-Lies-Bleeding. Red Cockscomb. Velvet Flower.

Common Names :   Amaranths,Prince-of-Wales feather or prince’s feather (it is called quelite, blero and quintonil in Spanish.)

Habitat: The Amaranths are met with most abundantly in the tropics, especially in tropical America, but are not plentiful in cold countries.It grows as weed of wasteland and agricultural land.

Many species are widely distributed as pernicious weeds. Their economic importance is slight, their properties chiefly proteid nutrient. Many abound in mucilage and sugar and many species are used as pot-herbs, resembling those of Chenopodiaceae. Many, also, are excellent fodder-plants, though not cultivated.

Description;
Amaranthus hypochondriacus is a annual herb, growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is frost tender. It is in leaf 10-Apr It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind, self.The plant is self-fertile.  CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Cultivation:                                            
Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 7.5. Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity. Often cultivated, especially in tropical areas, for its edible leaves and seeds, there are many named varieties. This is the most robust and highest yielding of the grain amaranths, though it is late maturing and therefore less suitable for northern areas. Most if not all members of this genus photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the ‘C4 carbon-fixation pathway’, this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions.

Propagation: 
Seed – sow late spring in situ. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination. Cuttings of growing plants root easily

Edible Uses:    
Young leaves are eaten cooked as a spinach. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they have a mild flavour.

Seed are eaten raw or cooked. They can be used as a cereal substitute. They can also be popped in much the same way as popcorn. The seed can be soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then allowed to sprout for about 11 days. They can then be added to salads. Very small but the seed is easy to harvest and very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated. A red pigment obtained from the plant is used as a food colouring.

 

Medicinal Uses:
The whole plant contains tannin and is astringent. It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea and excessive menstruation. It can be used as a gargle to soothe inflammation of the pharynx and to hasten the healing of ulcerated mouths, whilst it can also be applied externally to treat vaginal discharges, nosebleeds and wounds. The plant can be used fresh or it can also be harvested when coming into flower and dried for later use.

Other Uses
Dye…..Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant. A red dye obtained from the plant (the report does not specify which part of the plant) is used as a colouring in foods and medicines.

Known Hazards:  No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.

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/a/amara030.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranthus_hypochondriacus
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Amaranthus+hypochondriacus

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Herbs & Plants

Good King Henry

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Botanical Name: Chenopodium Bonus Henricus
Family: Amaranthaceae
Subfamily: Chenopodioideae
Tribe: Anserineae
Genus: Blitum
Species: B. bonus-henricus
Order: Caryophyllales

Synonyms: English Mercury. Mercury Goosefoot.Poor-man’s asparagus,Lincolnshire Spinach, Allgood. Tola Bona. Smearwort. Fat Hen.
(German) Fette Henne.

Common Names:  Good-King-Henry, Poor-man’s Asparagus, Perennial Goosefoot, Lincolnshire Spinach, Markery, English mercury, or mercury goosefoot
Part Used: Herb.

Part of plant consumed: Leaves and young stems.
Habitat: Good King Henry grows abundantly in waste places near villages, having formerly been cultivated as a garden pot-herb.Lincolnshire Spinach is a species of goosefoot which is native to much of central and southern Europe.

Description:Good King Henry is an annual or perennial plant growing up to 400–800 mm tall. The leaves are 50–100 mm long and broad, triangular to diamond-shaped, with a pair of broad pointed lobes near the base, with a slightly waxy, succulent texture. The flowers are produced in a tall, nearly leafless spike 100–300 mm long; each flower is very small (3–5 mm diameter), green, with five sepals. The seeds are reddish-green, 2–3 mm diameter.

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It is a dark-green, succulent plant, about 2 feet, high, rising from a stout, fleshy, branching root-stock, with large, thickish, arrow-shaped leaves and tiny yellowish-green flowers in numerous close spikes, 1 to 2 inches long, both terminal and arising from the axils of the leaves. The fruit is bladder-like, containing a single seed.

The leaves used to be boiled in broth, but were principally gathered, when young and tender, and cooked as a pot-herb. In Lincolnshire, they are still eaten in place of spinach. Thirty years ago, this Goosefoot was regularly grown as a vegetable in Suffolk, Lincolnshire, and other eastern counties and was preferred to the Garden Spinach, its flavour being somewhat similar, but less pronounced. In common with several other closely allied plants, it was sometimes called ‘Blite’ (from the Greek, bliton, insipid), Evelyn says in his Acetaria, ‘it is well-named being insipid enough.’ Nevertheless, it is a very wholesome vegetable. If grown on rich soil, the young shoots, when as thick as a lead pencil, may be cut when 5 inches in height, peeled and boiled and eaten as Asparagus. They are gently laxative.

Cultivation: Good King Henry is well worth cultivating. Being a perennial, it will continue to produce for a number of years, being best grown on a deep loamy soil. The ground should be rich, well drained, and deeply dug. Plants should be put in about April, 1 foot apart each way, or seeds may be sown in drills at the same distance. During the first year, the plants should be allowed to establish themselves, but after that, both shoots and leaves may be cut or picked, always leaving enough to maintain the plant in health. Manure water is of great assistance in dry weather, or a dressing of 1 OZ. of nitrate of soda, or sulphate of ammonia may be given.

Good King Henry has been grown as a vegetable in cottage gardens for hundreds of years, although this dual-purpose vegetable is now rarely grown and the species is more often considered a weed.

It should be planted in a fertile, sunny spot which is free from perennial weeds. Seeds should be sown in April in drills 1 cm deep and 50 cm apart. The seedlings should then be thinned to 10–20 cm. Good King Henry does not respond well to transplantation.

Typically, very little is produced in the first season. The plants should be regularly weeded and well watered. Harvesting should be moderate, with just a few leaves at a time collected from each plant.

The foliage can be cut in autumn, and a mulch, such as leaf mould or well-rotted compost applied to the plot. Cropping can begin in spring. Some of the new shoots can be cut as they appear (usually from mid spring to early summer) and cooked like asparagus. All cutting should then cease so that shoots are allowed to develop. The succulent triangular leaves are picked a few at a time until the end of August and cooked like spinach.

As with many of the wild plants, it does not always adapt itself to a change of soil when transplanted from its usual habitat and success is more often ensured when grown from seed.

Medicinal Uses:
Detersive and diuretic, the herb ought to have a place in vulnerary decoctions and fomentations. The young shoots, the succeeding leaves and the flowery tops are fit for kitchen purposes. It is good for scurvy and provokes urine. Outwardly it is much used in clysters, and a cataplasm of the leaves helps the pain of the gout.

The plant is also known as Mercury Goosefoot, English Mercury and Marquery (to distinguish it from the French Mercury), because of its excellent remedial qualities in indigestion, hence the proverb: ‘Be thou sick or whole, put Mercury in thy Koole.’

The name ‘Smear-wort’ refers to its use in ointment. Poultices made of the leaves were used to cleanse and heal chronic sores, which, Gerard states, ‘they do scour and mundify.’

The leaf is a source of iron, vitamins and minerals.  A poultice and ointment cleanses and heals skin sores.  Also in the preparation of an ointment for painful joints.  The plant was recommended for indigestion and as a laxative and a diuretic.  Used in a veterinary cough remedy for sheep. Rich in iron as well as vitamin C.

Modern uses: The leaves can be used externally in compresses to soothe aching and painful joints, but it is not considered to be of much value internally. Its main use has always been as a vegetable to be used as an alternative to Spinach.

The roots were given to sheep as a remedy for cough and the seeds have found employment in the manufacture of shagreen.

The plant is said to have been used in Germany for fattening poultry and was called there Fette Henne, of which one of its popular names, Fat Hen, is the translation.

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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Henry
http://www.bean-sprouts.blogspot.com/2007/06/good-king-henry.html
http://www.health-topic.com/Dictionary-Good_King_Henry.aspx

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_FGH.htm

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