Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Lamb's Quarters as a Vegetable

Lamb's Quarters - Chenopodium Album
This should be a familiar scene to anyone with a garden. Chenopodium album, also known as lamb's quarters, fat hen, or goosefoot, an introduced weed which grows in disturbed areas. Give it a big, fat smile when you see it because it's about the best weed you could possibly have. Firstly, it's an annual, so it doesn't produce humongous roots that you will be wrestling out of your beds for years. Secondly, it's an easy weed to pull out - one quick yank, and there it is. If you've got too much, it's very amenable, or should I say susceptible, to being hoed. Thirdly, it's a relative of spinach, rhubarb, beets, chard and buckwheat. As you may deduce, it is not only edible but delicious and nutritious. (Like some others of the family it's high in oxalic acid, so don't eat it by the bushelful. Also, as with other foraged foods, be sure to collect it from an unsprayed and otherwise unpolluted area; I would not pick this in a downtown vacant lot for example, for fear of ground contamination.) And finally, it's prolific - it produces a ton of seeds, and they all come up. What a wonderful weed! Seriously. Some people even plant it as a cover crop. If I can bring myself to leave enough to go to seed, I may try that myself.

Cooked Lamb's Quarters - Chenopodium Album
I'm not going to give any recipe for it - just use it wherever you would otherwise use spinach or chard. Here it is very quickly steamed and drained.

To prepare it, rinse it very well in cold water - like spinach, it tends to hold a certain amount of grit. The stems are fine if they are small and tender, otherwise strip the leaves from them and discard the stems. They are best when the leaves are full and green, but the flowers (insignificant) and seeds have not yet been produced. In other words, for the next month or so.

It's a wind pollinated plant, so if you have problems with allergies you may not wish to encourage this plant. Or at least be sure to eat them before they flower!

Last year at this time I made Spinach Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese & Egg.


mamaloo said...

Within an hour of reading this post, my 6yo and I went foraging in our neighbourhood (full of absentee landlords who don't maintain the landscaping well) and didn't have to walk more than 20 feet from our front door before we found a plant. Around the back of our house were more, and younger, plants. We brought in three tender plants, roots and all, and added it into our pasta sauce just liked fresh chopped spinach.

Thanks for the inspiration! I feel like such an Urban Forager!

Ferdzy said...

Yay! My gramma would be proud. (It was she who introduced me to it.)Sounds like a great little adventure.

Ozlemaki said...

As a CretanTurk I am so proud to see one of our wild greens being consumed in Ontario! :)

Ferdzy said...

Happy to oblige, Ozlemaki! Do you have any particular way of preparing them? My father always looks at them and says "SOUP!"

Ozlemaki said...

Hello from the other side of the world :)
well, you can boil the wild greens with 3-4 baby potatoes & 4-5 baby -dark green- zucchinies. Adding extra virgin olive oil is more than enough but optionally you can add 2 smashed garlic to approx. 1 kg of lamb's quarters and naturally some lemon juice would go well. Ok this is considered a salad.
Or again with olive oil, onion springs and eggs you can prepare awesome plates.
Or you can cook it with onions and octopus OR with baby goat.

Come and see my blog anytime you are available and please do not hesitate to ask questions because it is in Turkish only.
Greetings from Aegean!

Ferdzy said...

Thanks Ozlemaki - not much in the way of octopus around here but all the rest sounds quite do-able. Thank you for commenting, and I'll definitely have a look at your blog.

Ozlemaki said...

Great to meet you!

Bella said...

This is wonderful, my backyard is full of weeds and I'm going to look for this. Right now I love to enjoy purslane growing in my front yard and I've transported some to pots.

Ivriniel said...

This is one of the plants my Mom talks about eating when she was a kid, though oddly, she never fed it to us. She'd point it out when it was growing in her flowerbeds, and pull it, so it's not like she never had the opportunity.

She claims not to know much about edible wilds, but get her talking and quite a bit comes out. I don't know maybe she she attaches some stigma to it? She grew up poor on a farm in Central Ontario and might view it as poverty food.

In any case, I just found a small collection of the plants in my front flower bed, and I'm giving them a go.

Ă–zlemaki said...

As a Cretan-Turk, we consider all wild greens as a gift bestowed us from nature.I can recognize approx. 110 types. We either boil them or cook as a main dish with meat or with various seafood. Probably that's why my family members generally reach the age of 100, without seeing a doctor as often as the others. I personally do not aim to get to 100 yrs old but I am happy to stay away of "genetically engineered food" through our Cretan way of life. I highly recommend all edible wilds.

TripleCreekFarm said...

Has anyone every canned Lamb's Quarters?
After weeding them from my garden I washed/rinsed and placed them in pint jars. Added water and pressure canned for 20 minutes, they came out looking wonderful!
If anyone has experimented with this green, please post your results as this plant is actually a vegetable in my books.

barb phinney said...

We enjoy it every year. I used to own a series of books on weeds put out by a museum, but have lost them and the recipes, so we steam them and serve them with butter.

Ferdzy said...

Yes, they are very good that way, Barb. Also, whenever my father sees them, he greets them with cries of "Soup! Soup!"

Angelia Odiame said...

Omg I've started my all season Greenhouse and here I am plucking these weeds off the ground and discarding them. When I see it next season - I'm gonna start growing them. Thank you ever so for the inspiration. I've just started wild edible weeds my first was Purslane now this is 2nd. Thank you.