Fat-hen is a fast-growing weedy annual plant of the genus Chenopodium and scientifically called Chenopodium album. It belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. It is also called lamb’s quarters, melded, goosefoot and manure weed. It goes up straight but becomes recumbent after flowering, unless supported by another plant. The leaves are waxy-coated with a whitish coat on the underside. The flowers are small and symmetrical and grow in small cymes. These weeds are often subject to infestation and the farmers must spray herbicides.
The plant has no odour. The new leaves are toothed while the older leaves are toothless. The plant contains oxalates and hence cannot be eaten raw. The fat-hen seeds are edible too. The seeds contain saponins and must be thoroughly washed and cooked before consumption. The seeds can be dried and eaten or powdered and used as flour.
Fat-hen is packed with minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. It also contains copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, nitrogen and sodium. It has thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin A. It also has flavonoids and phenolic compounds that are responsible for antioxidant properties. Rich in ascaridole oil, these plants are used in treating infestations of round and hookworms.
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