Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oh rainy days and fat hen, we love you...

Fat hen, our new best friend

A little while before Christmas I was talking with one of our new friends and local bookshop owner (how lucky we are to have a local independent bookshop in this town) about The Weed Forager's Handbook.  She had it there in her hand and we had a quick flick through it and boy was I excited. We'd started our weed eating with nettles, not so long ago and of course, blackberries a year ago.  Yet we knew there was so much more to learn and explore, so this beautiful little pocket-sized book was just what we craved. 

recognise it? You've probably got some too...
Straight away we learned some useful stuff such as, the weedy plant we'd been admiring and picking many many bunches of white Spring flowers is actually the highly poisonous hemlock, killer of Socrates. Holy moley. And the tall not unattractive green bushy plant that had popped up around the place is actually the very edible and very nutritious Fat Hen. Oh yeah! The kids and I had a nibble on some young leaves and we all declared it delicious or in Oscar's case "Ah-licious!". It's nutty and creamy, a little silky in texture and without any hint of bitterness. It's a native of Europe and relative of quinoa and the Mexican vegetable, huazontle. 

Yeah so it's a totally ah-licious spinach substitute and it's also highly nutritious, containing up to 43% protein and is especially rich in calcium and phosphorous and also containing potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, nitrogen and sodium. It has the three main B complex vitamins - thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well as vitamin A. It has anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial qualities. It is high in oxalic acid so it's best to blanch first and to refrain from going too crazy in quantity consumed in one sitting. 

Like everywhere in this land of ours, it's been hot here. Hot and dry and literally, firey. We've watched our garden dry out and leaves start to burn in the crazy hot temperatures. We've been nervous about how much water to use in trying to save the garden lest, as has been suggested, we're on the brink of another ten year drought. We were watering but trying to use as little water as we could. It wasn't enough, things were starting to look a terrible shade of brown. I think we've now been convinced to save the garden and buy water in if/when we need to. We also know we need to develop better water managing systems on our little farm. But these take time and sometimes money. Despite the big hot dry, our garden has been delivering us some wonderful Summer abundance. We can go days and days without having to buy a vegetable. This is a new and exciting thing for us. In time, we hope it will be a matter of weeks then months...


This morning we awoke to a cool, misty, rainy day. Utter delight. I could feel the garden heaving a sigh of relief as it sucked in the cool moisture. We huddled inside playing Lego, reading stories, watching Singing In The Rain, listening to the rain running into our tank, eating newly laid ginormous hen eggs and conjuring a dinner that could utilise our garden abundance and our newfound friend, fat hen. 

Special little chunky sauce highly embedded with tasty fat hen
I made a tasty, fast cooked sauce of mixed heirloom tomatoes, garlic, chickpeas, basil and fat hen to go with zucchini fritters. Frankly, it was a bloody triumph of profoundly fresh flavoursome flavours. Total joy in the mouth. Next up, we're going to try a creamy, garlicky fat hen pasta sauce. We'll let you know how it goes. 

Dinner success!


  1. oh wow. i had no idea you could eat that! glad you got some rain. big love to youse all. xxx Craig

  2. Yeah well some edible weeds are more in the category of 'survival food' but this, this is delicious! Nicer than spinach, nicer than any leafy green I can think of xx