Chenopodium (Sturtevant, 1919)

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Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919
Chenopodium (Sturtevant, 1919)

Chenopodium album Linn.


Temperate and tropical regions. Remnants of this plant have been found in the early lake villages of Switzerland. In the Hebrides, it was observed by Lightfoot to be boiled and eaten as greens. In the United States, it is used as a spinach. The young, tender plants are collected by the Navajoes, the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, all the tribes of Arizona, the Diggers of California and the Utahs, and boiled as a spinach or are eaten raw. The seeds are gathered by many tribes, ground into a flour and made into a bread or mush.

Chenopodium ambrosioides Linn.


Temperate and tropical regions. This herb is called in Mexican epazolt. The plant is cooked and eaten by the natives. It was called at Verona, in 1745, the allemand because drunk in infusion by the Germans. It seems to be indigenous to tropical America.

Chenopodium auricomum Lindl.


Australia. This plant is a native of the interior of Australia and has lately come into use in England as a substitute for spinach, according to J. Smith. Mueller calls this spinach palatable and nutritious.

Chenopodium bonus-henricus Linn.


Europe, now sparingly naturalized around dwellings in the United States. Under the curious names of fat-hen and good-king-Henry, this plant was formerly largely cultivated in the gardens in England as a potherb, and even in the beginning of the present century was still esteemed in Lincolnshire and some of the Midland counties but is now little used. Lightfoot says, in Scotland, the young leaves in the spring are often eaten as greens and are very good. Glasspoole says, in Lincolnshire, it was preferred to garden spinach, and the young shoots used to be peeled and eaten as asparagus. The plant is now but rarely cultivated. Gerarde speaks of it in 1597 as a wild plant only, while Ray, 1686, refers to it as frequently among vegetables. Bryant, 1783, says: "formerly cultivated in English gardens but of late neglected, although certainly of sufficient merit." In 1807, Miller's Gardener's Dictionary says it is generally in gardens about Boston in Lincolnshire and is there preferred to spinach. It cannot ever have received very general culture as it is only indicated as a wayside plant by Tragus, 1552; Lobel, 1570 and 1576; Camerarius, 1586; Dalechamp, 1587; Matthiolus, 1598; and Chabraeus, 1677. Its value as an antiscorbutic finds recognition in its names, bonus Henricus and tota bona.

Chenopodium capitatum Aschers.


Northern and southern regions. Gerarde says: "it is one of the potherbes that be unsavory or without taste, whose substance is waterish." The fruit, though insipid, is said formerly to have been employed in cookery. The leaves have a spinach-like flavor and may be used as a substitute for it. Unger says even the blite or strawberry spinach finds consumers for its insipid, strawberry-like fruit. The plant is found indigenous and common from Western New York to Lake Superior and northward. Blitum capitatum, if Linnaeus's synonymy can be trusted, was known to Bauhin, 1623, and by Ray, 1686. Miller's Gardener's Dictionary refers it to J. Bauhin who received the plant in 1651. The species was, during this time, little known outside of botanical gardens.

Chenopodium quinoa Willd.


South America. This plant, indigenous to the Pacific slopes of the Andes, constituted the most important article of food of the inhabitants of New Granada, Peru and Chile at the time of the discovery of America, and at the present day is still extensively cultivated on account of its seeds, which are used extensively by the poorer inhabitants. There are several varieties, of which the white is cultivated in Europe as a spinach plant, rather than for its seeds. However prepared, the seed, says Thompson, is unpalatable to strangers. Gibbon, who saw the plant in Bolivia, says that when boiled like rice and eaten with milk, the seeds are very savory. Seeds from France but originally from Peru, were distributed from the United States Patent Office in 1854. Garcilasso de la Vegal says it was called quinua by the natives of Peru and mujo by the Spaniards. He says: "Both the Indians and the Spanish eat the tender leaf in their dishes, because they are savory and very wholesome. They also eat the grain in the soups, prepared in various ways." A black-seeded variety, cultivated in gardens, is mentioned by Feuille, in Peru, preceding 1725. It was introduced into France in 1785 but has not had very extended use. Molina says in Chile there is a variety called dahue by the Indians which has greyish leaves and produces a white grain. The grain of the quinua serves for making a very pleasant stomachic beverage; that of the dahue, on being boiled, lengthens out in the form of worms and is excellent in soup. The leaves are also eaten and are tender and of an agreeable taste.