Fat Hen is a common and nutritious plant, also known as wild spinach.
Fat hen is a common garden “weed”, which often colonises newly weeded patches of bare soil. It prefers rich soils, a good reason why it is so often found in well managed, fertile gardens. But, as if often the case, there is more to a weed than meets the eye. It was a staple food of our ancestors and seeds have even been found inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies!
Fat Hen has diamond-shaped leaves, covered with a coating of faint white hairs.
Its leaves taste similar to spinach, and are just as rich in iron, and can be cooked in the same way. It can also be blitzed into a pesto or salad dressing, with parsley, capers and olive oil. Fat Hen makes a great soup, can be used in a quiche or flan or simply served as part of a side-salad. Be sure to choose tender leaves and flower heads from the top of the plant as the lower, older leaves can be tougher and more hairy.
If you are able to leave some plants in the garden, the seeds are extremely good for you and are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. The seeds are also popular food source for birds such as Yellowhammer, Greenfinch and Linnet.
If you are going to forage for Fat Hen, please follow the simple guidelines:
- Always be sure you are sure of the plant before you pick it and never eat any plant you are unsure of.
- Leave plenty behind for wildlife.
- Make sure you have permission to pick
- Only pick where plants are plentiful