Cineraria: A Special Flower
Plum Problem--Scars on Fruit

Magentaspreen: A Little-Known Crop

2008 Late June 040 copy Here's a leafy green crop that not everyone grows. It's a domestic relative of the weed lambsquarters that is usually classified as Chenopodium giganteum. It makes lots of nice tender leaves in the summer that are very good in Mexican vegetable dishes (with onion, jalepeno, a little tomato sauce) or steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice, Greek style. The tender, pink tips are also pretty and taste good in salads.

Kids call this plant "lipstick plant" because the magenta coloring on the top leaves is a mealy stuff that rubs off, to be applied to lips and eyelids. The plant entered the American gardener's seed sources after being introduced by Alan Kapular, a freelance plant breeder, who found it growing in a public demonstration garden in France. He called it magentaspreen, after thinking of magenta shoots, but "shoot" sounded kind of militaristic, he thought. So magentapreen it is. An original and stylish name.

If you grow it, keep pinching and using tender tips and keep an eye on the plants. If you turn your back on them for a couple of weeks they will grow 6 or 7 feet tall and drop tiny seeds in your garden. Nice to have the seedlings to transplant the following year, but you don't want too many of them. On the other hand, you will probably always have weeds, and you may as well have ones you can eat. Just pull out the plants at 4 or 5 inches tall and eat 'em up. Yum.

You can find seed at www.bountifulgardens.orgwww.jlhudsonseeds.net,  www.Johnnyseeds.com, www.nicholsgardennursery.com, or www.seedsofchange.com.

Years ago, people were growing a variety with a much larger splash of magenta at the top, several inches of bright magenta leaves instead of only a few of the young leaves. I haven't seen that one in a while, so if anyone has it, I would love to grow it and get it back into the trade.

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