Galinsoga’s Gallant Soldiers

by Green Deane

in Edible Raw, Greens/Pot Herb, Miscellaneous, Plants, Salad, Toxic to Pets/livestock

Galinsoga, "Gallent Soldiers" Quickweed

 

Galinsoga ciliata: Quickweed is fast food

Quickweed does not look edible or gallant. In fact, it looks like a daisy that lost a fight. But it, and a close cousin, G. parvifolia, are good pot herbs. There is a potentially toxic look alike, Tridax procumbens, which is more viney, low growing  –except for flower stalk —  usually is three-lobed, coarse teeth, and can have dark spots in its rays. Unfortunately their blossoms are nearly identical so you have to look at the rest of the plant to make sure you have the Galinsoga.

Galinsog blossom

Beside roundish older leaves, Galinsogas have (usually but not always) five widely spaced petals with indented tips. A native of Central and South American, Galinsoga ciliata (gal-in-SOH-guh sil-ee-ATE-uh) is a little plant that has gone a long ways. It was introduced to Kew Gardens in England in 1796 and not only has naturalized there but escaped to the continent as well. That makes some sense in that one plant in a season can produce 7500 seeds. As a new comer to not only the northern United States and Europe it does not have an extensive foraging history outside of its native region. However, as soon as it got to China it became a prime pot herb. The entire plant is eaten except the root. However the leaves are the best part. For an ugly little plant it has great taste. Pick a lot because it loses some size in the cooking.

Tridax procumbers: NOT EDIBLE

Nutritionally the leaves of the Galinsoga per 100g edible portions are:  88.4g water, 156 calories, protein 3.2g, fat 0.4g, carbs 5.2g, fiber 1.1.g, calcium 284 mg, magnesium 60 mg, potassium 58 mg, iron 5.3 mg, zinc 1.3. mg, carotene 4 mg, vitamin C 6.7 mg, thiamin 0.08 mg, riboflavin 0.21 mg, and niacin 1.21 mg.

Galinsoga was named after Mariano Martinez Galinsoga,  a Spanish physician and botanist in the 18th century. Ciliata means fringed with hair.  Parvifolia means small flowers. The plant’s nick name in England is “gallant soldiers.” In Brazil it is known as botão-de-ouro.  G. parvifolia is toxic to goats, apparently among the few plants that are.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Quickweed is identified by its opposite, oval, coarsely toothed leaves on opposite-branched stems. Its small flower heads have a yellow disk and five (or four) three-toothed white tiny petals (occasionally pink.) To two feet tall. Tridax, not edible, is ground hugging except for the flower stalks, see photo upper right. Remember, Galinsogas grow up, the entire plant. The Tridax grows low except for the flower stalk which grows up. Do not eat the Tridax. The blossoms resemble each other closesly so don’t use justs the blossoms for identification.

TIME OF YEAR: May through fall in northern areas, nearly year round in Florida

ENVIRONMENT: Waste ground, cultivated areas, roadsides, gardens, dooryards lowland fields. However, it prefers damp rich soil with plenty of sunshine.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Cooked green. Put in boiling water for 10/15 minutes. Excellent with butter, salt and pepper.  Dried leaves can be used for flavoring. G. parvifolia being less hairy is used as a salad green as well.  The juice and leaf paste of the Tridax procumbens can be used to stop bleeding wounds.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Toph July 15, 2016 at 02:01

On T. Procumbens… I’m only curious- what’s potentially toxic about it, as its used as a pot/medicinal herb in india and tropical environments?

Reply

john viarengo February 14, 2015 at 08:30

Thank you for the info, I do what I call a blogomercial on Craigslist Delaware to advertise my gardening services.
I would like to feature Galinsoga in an upcoming blogomercial may I have permission to use your photos?

In the book Weeds in Defense of Natures Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey I learned “In the 1860´s it escaped from the Gardens and became locally established in the gutters and pavement cracks. For a while it was known as Kew Weed.But once it´s airborne seeds had blown farther afield and into less salubrious neighborhoods it needed a more general and down to earth tag, Galinsoga was too much of a mouthful for south Londoners so they vulgarized it to gallant – soldier – a name that has stuck, partly because it is so ironically inappropriate. (In Malawi, where this weed of very unmilitary bearing is also naturalized, it is known as Mwamuna aligone – my husband is sleeping.”

Thanks again, John

Reply

Casey Strange July 15, 2014 at 14:48

This is the same a guascas in Colombia, right? I’ve been trying to get seeds to grow this, as it is the key herb in a Colombian stew my husband loves. Do you know where to buy the seeds?

Reply

Ann Lamb July 26, 2015 at 22:08

Please try for buying dried Guascas rather than propagating such an aggressive weed! I did.

Reply

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