Chenopodium album   Fat-hen CCC D N

Chenopodium album side Chenopodium album side

Until spinach was introduced this unspectacular and ubiquitous weed was a common vegetable to be served with bacon or other meat. The leaves were boiled, ground and served with butter. Like many useful and common plants it has many different common names: Bacon Weed, Dirty Dick, Goose Foot, Lamb's Quarters (USA) and Pig Weed. A few, like Muck Hill, Dung Weed, Muckweed, Muckhill weed, Midden Mylies for instance, give a clue that it quite likes growing on heaps of manure or compost.

C. album is quite variable in appearance but often there will be a white bloom on the leaves near the stem (see large photo) and also there can be a purplish colour near the leaf axils. The leaves are usually roughly triangular but not always and they also are usually toothed as in these specimens but again, not always.

These days you will often see it growing at the side of the road where road works have left a pile of soil untouched for a few months. The seed appears to enjoy sunlight as an aid to germination so disturbing any ground, particularly cultivated soil, leads to C. album shooting up within weeks in summer. The seeds have some fat in them and can be made into a kind of flour or used in gruel. They were identified as the last meal of Tollund man who was found in a peat bog having died in 400BC.

Apart from some areas in the far north of Scotland this plant is found everywhere in the British Isles and Ireland. In some parts of the world such as the United States where it was introduced as a vegetable, it is now a pest and there is advice on how to get rid of it. Judging by its successful adaptation to waste places and excellent germination though, I'll back C. album to win this war even against the mighty United States of America.

Chenopodium album

Chenopodium album Fat-hen

Back of Parc-y-Scarlets Stadium, Llanelli, Wales 9th July 2009

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Chenopodium album

Back of Parc-y-Scarlets Stadium, Llanelli, Wales 9th July 2009

Added on November 24th 2004, updated 30th November 2008, updated 16th December 2009, updated 14th March 2010

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