May 6, 2015

Eat Your Weeds: Lambsquarter

Several years ago I discovered a patch of lambsquarter on the hillside; it was a weed I was familiar with but I hadn't known what it was or that it was edible. Our steer Chuck discovered it shortly after I did and wiped out the patch.



It took a few years, but eventually I found another patch right next to the chicken coop. This time I knew what it was and what to do with it. I ate a leaf right then and there, and it wasn't bad.



It "wasn't bad" sounds kind of funny, but my childhood family didn't eat greens. Aside from an occasional salad (but not me, lettuce always upset my stomach), greens just weren't on our table. No spinach, no collards, nothing. But I've spent several years retraining my tastebuds; I eat a cup of spinach or beet greens in my daily green smoothie, and am learning to like other greens as well. I'll probably never like kale though.


 


Lambsquarter is also known as wild spinach, and is interchangeable with spinach in your usual recipes. I use it in my vegetable lasagna and I've used it to replace some of the spinach in my smoothies. I've dehydrated many, many leaves and powdered them so I can add a bit to soups and spaghetti sauce for extra nutrition. I have friends who blanch and freeze lambsquarter leaves so they can eat them all winter long just like spinach. Supposedly the powder made from the dried leaves can be used like flour; it's supposed to make delicious green noodles. You can also replace some of the basil or spinach in pesto with lambsquarter.



Fresh raw lambsquarter leaves can effectively treat anemia. As well as being rich in iron, the leaves help increase blood cell count and support the circulatory system.



You can collect leaves from lambsquarter plants from early spring to late fall, although the smaller, younger leaves are the most tender. This plant is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium and iron in the world. It contains more vitamin A than spinach does, and has three times as much calcium. It's also a great source of trace minerals, vitamin C, fiber, and B-complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.



I made the lambsquarter powder by gathering a bucket-full of leaves and washing the dust off in the kitchen sink. I set it all on towels to dry for several hours, then spread them on cookie sheets. In order to dry them at a low heat and preserve the nutrients in the leaves, when I removed dinner from the oven and turned it off, I put the cookie sheets in the oven overnight. In the morning I removed them and let the leaves air dry during the day. It took a couple of days of this for the leaves to be crispy-dry, then I simply rubbed them between my palms to break them down. For a fine powder, I use an inexpensive electric spice and coffee grinder. (I don't drink coffee, I just use it for herbs and spices.)



There is a look-alike plant that can make you sick, but it's easy to tell the difference. The look-alike smells like resin, while lambsquarter smells "green". Just pinch a leaf and smell it. The flavor of lambsquarter can also vary due to the stage of growth and the soil content, so it's a good idea to taste a leaf before you harvest a great deal of it or ingest a full serving. The smaller, tender leaves are great in salads and other dishes. Later in the season, you can harvest the small leaves at the top of the plant.

Free food and super nutrition. Will you eat your weeds?


Disclaimer: Remember, before using this or any herb or plant, please research it fully.
You are responsible for your own health.




This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


~~~~~

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26 comments:

  1. I just pulled a whole bunch of these out of the turnip patch yesterday. While I did so I kept thinking, "Didn't Kathi write something about these being edible last year....?" And this morning, I found this article. Timely, wouldn't you say? Thank you very much for plenty of pictures to insure proper identification, and for the nutrient information. This is great!

    Fern

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  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead8:38 AM

    And while I was writing this I remembered that you said you had a bumper crop of these last year, Fern.

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  3. We have a gazillion of them in the garden every year! Think they're trying to tell me something??? (-:

    Thanks again, Kathi.

    Fern

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  4. I am so glad to see this.... we have the plants and I knew they were edible, but didn't know for sure how to use them or to be sure they weren't something not so friendly. I love all of the pictures you post which are a great aid in identifying "weeds" w/ a use. :) Thank you. I will be pinning this.

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  5. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:34 AM

    You're welcome, Joy. I'm glad the photos are helpful too. Thank you for pinning the post.

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  6. Oh my goodness! I love this :D I will have to look up what weeds would be edible in my area (South Florida) since I am unfamiliar with the greens and weeds here. Such a wonderful idea to dehydrate and use for boosting iron (an issue for me!) great post!

    ~Andrea || MitchaelJourney.com

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  7. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead11:41 AM

    Iron is an issue for me as well, Andrea, and I was thrilled to find that lambsquarter has so much of it. I hope you're able to find something that will fit your needs.

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  8. I am sure we must have some of this. Thanks for the info.

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  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:58 AM

    You might - it seems to grow *everywhere*, Julie!

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  10. I had never thought to use these in lasagna. Yours looks really good, thank you for the idea.
    Blessings,

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    1. It was good! Yes, use it wherever you'd use spinach. Thank you for visiting, Deborah.

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  11. Interesting! I have a ton of this growing all over the place. I just might have to try it.

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  12. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead3:14 PM

    It's a little stronger than spinach, but tastes good. Thank you for commenting, Shelly.

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  13. I didn't think I liked kale either, until I tasted the dinosaur variety. Now I add it to my daily salad. So good.

    Thanks for stopping by The Maple Hill Hop this week. You always teach me something new. ;0D

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  14. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:04 AM

    That's intriguing, Daisy. I'll have to see if I can find the seeds. Thank you.

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  15. My grandmother taught me about lambs quarter when I was 5 years old. I can recall gathering it on our semi rural lot to cook. I have made it off and on through the years when I find a good patch.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

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  16. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead1:21 PM

    It's good knowledge to have, Yael. Maybe you can "plant" some in your yard?

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  17. Great information! I think I have seen these. What is the texture of the plant? Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays :)

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    Replies
    1. I wouldn't call them fuzzy but they're not perfectly smooth either. Soft, not stiff or thick. Does that make sense?

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  18. This plant looks familiar and I am wondering if we have it growing here. I am going to take the time and have a look and I appreciate you sharing this with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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  19. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead2:40 PM

    Do let me know if you find it, Terri. It's a very prolific weed and seems to grow everywhere, so why not in Australia too?

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  20. Ohhh, we have lots of Lambs Quarters growing here. I ate them for the first time last year....this year I added plantain and chickweed to that list! Who knew weeds were so good?

    Thanks for joining The Great Blog train in May. I'd love to see you back this month too!
    Lisa

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  21. Yes, they're tasty! Thank you for stopping by, Lisa.

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  22. I don't see that weed much around here, but we used to see it all the time in St. Louis!

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  23. Hi Pam, I didn't see it here either for a long time, then one year, there it was. I suppose a bird planted the seed that started my currently very-large patch. Perhaps a kind bird will sow some for you too!

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