spinach wild garlic

Proportion of foreign employees (dark green) in geriatric care and nursing in Germany.

Spinacia oleracea (spinach) introduced from Iran; Allium ursinum (wild garlic) indigenous plant from Germany

Source: Bundesagentur für Arbeit (ed.): Arbeitsmarktsituation im Pflegebereich, 2018, p. 7

Spinacia oleracea (spinach)
Chenopodiaceae (amaranth family)

Annual to biennial herbaceous plant, 30–50 cm high, with petiolate oblong to triangular leaves and inconspicuous, clustered flowers. Cultivated plant, usually grown as a winter vegetable, as a frost-hardy species cultivation possible even at higher altitudes. Dispersal by humans.

Nutrient and vitamin-rich vegetable plant with a favorable effect on digestion, the plant however does not possess the much-mentioned high iron content.

No longer known as a wild plant. Originally from the Indian-Persian region, known in the Mediterranean only since the end of antiquity. Arabs brought it to Europe, and possibly also brought back by crusaders. First mentioned in German literature by Albertus Magnus (1193–1280).


Allium ursinum (wild garlic)
Alliaceae (garlic family)

Perennial herbaceous plant, 15–30 cm high, with lanceolate leaves and numerous small star-shaped, umbellulate white flowers. Bulb geophyte with pronounced garlic odor; spring green, turning yellow already in early summer. Dispersal by water, ants and humans.

Grows wild in deciduous forests on nutrient-rich, moist soils. Medicinal and crop plant, popular as an addition to salads, soups and pesto.

Indigenous in southern Germany, the original area covers large parts of Europe and extends as far as Asia Minor and Central Asia.

Percentage of foreign employees in geriatric care and nursing in Germany

In view of the migration of knowledge from the cultures of the Orient, Europe should not – in the opinion of social scientist Rainer Tetzlaff – see itself as the »Christian Occident«. (1) It was only those Christian orders who went to the Orient as crusaders (and brought back spinach) became acquainted with the already centuries-old Jewish and Islamic culture of nursing and care for the elderly (2), which in turn had adopted Greek medicine.

Heiner Barz (3) reports from the Ahmed-Ibn-Tulun Hospital in Cairo in 872, which – with carers, education and free medical care for all – later became »the godfather of hospitals around the world«. Meanwhile, European xenodochia were, until the late Middle Ages, places of extreme distress and indifference by the respective authorities. Today, foreign health and nursing staff are proven to spend a lot of time with patients, to be extremely conscientious, while respecting the personal rights of patients in particular – and rather not inclined to appreciate the German penchant for »uncertainty avoidance«. (4)


1) Rainer Tetzlaff, Europas islamisches Erbe; in: Hamburger Beiträge zur Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik No. 138, 9, 2005.
(2) Dieter Jetter, Grundzüge der Hospitalgeschichte, Darmstadt 1973, pp. 21–24.
(3) Heiner Barz, Islam und Bildung; in: ibid., Klaus Spenlen (ed .), Islam und Bildung, Wiesbaden 2018, p. 256.
(4) Meiko Merda, Grit Braeseke, Bjørn Kähler, Arbeitsschutzbezogene Herausforderungen der Beschäftigung ausländischer Pflegekräfte in Deutschland. Schlussbericht, ed. by Berufsgenossenschaft für Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtspflege (BGH), Hamburg 2014, p. 32f.