Monday, 19 April 2010

Discover: Strawberry Spinach

Strawberry Spinach (Chenopodium capitatum, Blitum capitatum) is an edible annual plant, also known as Strawberry Blite, Blite Goosefoot, Strawberry Goosefoot, Strawbini, Indian Paint, and Indian Ink. 
It is a very rare and ancient vegetable dating back over 400 years, having been rediscovered at old monasteries in Germany, where it is a commonly grown plant.  

This is a salad and a dessert in one plant, and you can enjoy two harvests a year from this super-easy plant, ready to harvest leaves after just 45 days! Both the leaves and the berries are delicious, and it seems that Strawberry Spinach is one of the best-kept secrets of the vegetable world. 

It's always so nice when you can use almost the entire plant instead of just one part, and Strawberry Spinach draws out this pleasure by setting new leaves all season long. Snip off just what you need at the moment, and harvest more later! The foliage is slender, deeply lobed, and appears in rosettes along long, slender stems. 

Strawberry Spinach grows 60cm (2 ft) high, 30 cm (1 ft) wide, with triangular, toothed leaves which are thinner than spinach leaves, very nutritious and high in vitamins. The tiny, deliciously tender leaves can be cooked like spinach or used fresh in salads. When grown as a perennial, the tender shoots are used in salads or cooked like spinach. 

However, the real surprise is that at each leaf axle there is an abundance of sweet, strawberry-like fruits which some say resemble mulberries. If the fruit is left, then the plant will reseed vigorously. Whilst usually grown as an annual it can overwinter if weather is not too severe and is perennial in habit.

Language Note: "Blite" is one of its synonyms and comes from the Greek word "bliton", meaning a plant with edible leaves. So rest assured, it's nothing to do with blight, we get enough of that with potatoes and tomatoes!

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