What you see: A random plant in your spinach clamshell.
What it is: It could be lots of things, but the image above is something called cheeseweed.
Eat or toss: If you can identify the plant as edible, go ahead and eat! Otherwise, just pull it out and compost it.
Sometimes unintended plants can land in salad mixes
Recently we wrote about cotyledons, the long slender leaves that often wind up in clamshells of baby spinach. They resemble grass, but are in fact just the “seed leaves” of spinach.
But sometimes you might find a true interloper among your greens. Enter the culprit above, a hearty plant that’s actually, hilariously, called cheeseweed. Cheeseweed!
When I reached out to the spinach grower, they told me that they pull weeds from their organic spinach fields by hand. So, sometimes they miss a weed and it ends up getting harvested with the spinach.
No biggie, I was fine just picking it out and tossing it aside.
That’s generally the right approach for any unidentifiable greens in your salad mixes, Megan Crivelli of The Produce Nerd told me (and check out her videos and images of mixed greens being harvested and packaged).
Back to the cheeseweed spinach surprise
But let’s talk more about cheeseweed. This plant, which aggravates growers because its long, woody taproot can be tough to pull out of soil, actually IS edible. (If you find yourself with a lot of them, sauté with onions to make a Middle Eastern dish called Khobeizeh.)
The Wild Willow Farm and Education Center in South San Diego reports that young cheeseweed leaves have an exceptionally high amount of Vitamin A.
Even more fun — cheeseweed is so named because its fruit resembles little wheels of cheese. Cute! It’s also part of the mallow family. A cheeseweed cousin was key to the invention of marshmallows, according to North Carolina State University’s Plant Toolbox.
But cheeseweed, while adorably named and edible for humans, has a dark side. It can be toxic to cattle and can reduce egg quality in hens. So, it’s OK if it lands in your salad, but don’t feed it to your livestock.
- Megan Crivelli. The Produce Nerd.
- Malva Neglecta. North Carolina Plant Toolbox. Extension Gardener. North Carolina State University. Cooperative Extension.
- Little mallow (cheeseweed) (Malva parviflora). University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Integrated Pest Management.
- Sauteed Mallows with Onions (Khobeizeh). Wild Willow Farm & Education Center.
- A Northern Nevada Homeowner’s Guide to Identifying and Managing Common Mallow. University of Nevada, Reno. Extension. College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.
How much cheese would a cheeseweed weed if a cheeseweed could weed cheese?