Fat Hen – Chenopodium album

The following description and recipe is taken from Antonio Carluccio Goes Wild, published in 2001 by Headline Book Publishing, all of the Copyright crap is just that to me,crap. In this time and age of wikipedia, opensource programs, file sharing and so forth the idea of strangle-holding information is just irrelevant, so there you have it: Antonio Carluccio on Fat Hen.

fat hen
Photo by Tico

[…] It was only late in life that i started to appreciate the potential culinary uses of this plant, known as Cenopodio or Buon Enrico in Italy, and often as the equivalent of the latter, Good King Henry, in the UK.
Its grey-green leaves which are always juicy and cool to the touch, are shaped like arrowhead, or the webbed foot of a goose- the generic name of Chenopodium actually coming from the Greek for “goose foot”. In fact fat hen is an important member of the goosefoot family, which includes the oraches (cultivated relatives are spinach and sugar beet). They are possibly the best wild leaves for eating, with a flavour reminiscent to Kale and young broccoli. Use the leaves and tender tops, discarding the tougher stalks.

Fat hen likes to grow on waste ground and around farmyards, thus its local English names of dungweed, muckweed, even dirty dick!
It grows abundantly between between the rows of plants in my country vegetable garden.
The plant which grows up to 1m (3ft) in height, are commonly cultivated in Greece and elsewhere as a vegetable.
The greenish flowers which appear from spring to summer, can be eaten as well when still in small, tight bunches. The seeds are used by American Indians to make flour, and Napoleon is said to have existed for a while on a dark bread made from Fat Hen seeds.

Fat Hen has been eaten, leaves and seeds, as food since Neolithic times: the content of the stomach of ” Tollund Man” , a stone age man perfectly preserved by the tannic acid of a pit bog in Denmark, included barley, linseed, fat hen seeds and sorrel. It’s not surprising he ate fat hen, for the leaves are said to contain more iron and protein then spinach, and more vitamin B and calcium then raw cabbage. Cook as spinach.

Fat Hen with Parmesan

600g fat hen leaves, washed
55g unsalted butter
55g parmesan cheese
juice of 1/4 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Plunge the leaves into boiling, salted water and cook for exactly 1 minute. Drain, and then return to the pan immediately. Add the butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well.
Transfer to warm plates, and then grate Parmesan directly on top.

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