Plants

Wild Spinach (Chenopodium album)

The most well-known wild edible plant in South Africa has many names. Umfino, Marogo, Fat Hen, Lamb’s Quarters and Wild Spinach are all common names applied to the naturalised Chenopodium album, a traditional South African food.

Partial to areas where there is poor or disturbed soil, this excellent leafy-green spinach substitute is spread globally and, like quinoa, is an Amaranth. In parts of India, the plant is an important crop and is extensively cultivated, held in high regard due to its nourishment. The leaves and stems of Wild Spinach contain impressive protein content, as well as vitamins A and C.

Growing from a stout, central stem with ascending lateral branches, the leaves can be variable in appearance but are generally grey-green in colour, diamond-shaped and toothed. Stems are often tinged red or pink, hairy especially on younger parts. The easiest and best way to use this wild edible is exactly like spinach. The fresh leaves are harvested and rinsed before use.

This website takes a sustainable approach to foraging and doesn’t focus on protected or indigenous plants or fungi. Like the other invasive plants on this website, this is a species that should not be cultivated or propagated in South Africa. It’s often illegal to buy, sell or trade in exotic plants.

Learn how to forage with this South African foraging guide, or find out which South African books cover foraging

Other wild edible plants to forage in South Africa