This is a seedling of Magenta Spreen Lamb's Quarters that popped up in the vegetable bed. Sharon Owen at Moonshadow Herb Farm gave me her mother last year when it was about this same size. By the end of the summer the plant was 8-feet tall. No joke. No exaggeration.
Sharon told me it would make a million babies if I didn't take the seed heads off. Well, if you weren't here last summer we had 30-days over 100-degrees and watering to save trees was the primary "gardening" going on. (The water bill was $300 a month, for 3 months. We love our plants.)
No seed heads were removed and thus the pink centered beauties are coming up. Funny how you can plant some things with tremendous care and have a big failure and other plants are so agreeable as to show up without any work at all on the gardener's part.
Owen said in a email today, "They're a type of giant Lamb's Quarters. A customer gave one to me years ago. Since then, Seeds of Change catalog has begun carrying this plant. In their 2005 & 2006 catalogs it was under "Rare Plants" (seed pkt). You use it the very same as you would ordinary Lamb's Quarters - it's a good spring pot herb - fresh, too, in salads (small leaves). I was told the by woman who gave it to me that in the 'old days' Native American and/or pioneer women would use it for rouge or to color lips - which it does & doesn't stain the skin. The powder lays on the skin for quite a while."
On a website about wild edibles they describe - Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodim album) as a European native with leaves that taste like spinach. Leaves are very nutritious and have often been used as a famine food. .... I like to add them to salad greens or stir fries where the quantity doesn't matter. ... There are a few cultivated varieties - look for 'Magenta Spreen', with pink-tinged foliage "
Another site called it tree spinach.
Seeds of Change still carries it in their catalog if you are interested. They call it Lambsquarters, Magenta Spreen Chenopodium giganteum and describe it as rare. They also say to eat the leaves of this spinach relative when they are young.
The last line in the description is, "Harvest before it goes to seed as it will invade the garden if allowed to go to seed." That probably helps explain the price - 25o seeds for $1.90.
If you decide to grow a patch of Magenta Spreen to enjoy their beauty or to eat them, Owen said they can be topped or pinched back to make them more branching and less spindly - you know, a single 8-foot tall stalk of spinach blowing in the wind.