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Common Name: Corn Spurrey
Spergula arvensis is an annual plant that can grow up to 0.50 metres tall.
It is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
The seed, and probably also the leaves, contain saponins[
Although poisonous, saponins also have a range of medicinal applications and many saponin-rich plants are used in herbalism (particularly as emetics, expectorants and febrifuges) or as sources of raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Saponins are also found in a number of common foods, such as many beans.
Saponins have a quite bitter flavour and are in general poorly absorbed by the human body, so most pass through without harm. They can be removed by carefully leaching in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of raw foods that contain saponins.
Saponins are much more toxic to many cold-blooded creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish and make them easy to catch[
An almost cosmopolitan plant, found in most regions of the world, including Britain.
Arable land, often as a troublesome weed[
Prefers a sandy lime-free soil[
] and a sunny position. A calcifuge plant, requiring a neutral to acid soil[
The flowers are only open in the morning.
Leaves and young plants[
]. No more details are given.
Seed - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a meal then used with flour for making bread etc[
]. The seed is rich in oil[
]. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails[
]. The seed contains saponins so some caution is advised. See the notes above on toxicity.
The plant has been used as a diuretic[
Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ. Some seed germinates in the autumn in the wild while some germinates in the spring.