Lamb’s Quarters / Lambsquarters

I’m not sure if it’s one word or two words, but either way here’s a photograph from my garden of a fairly young plant:

 

Lamb's Quarters

Lamb’s quarter is typically considered a weed, but it’s an edible one that often gets overlooked, which is a shame because it is very nutritious, prolific and really doesn’t taste too bad.  I’d compare the taste to chard or spinach.   The plant produces a ton of seeds which have been used throughout history as something of a grain – it’s related to quinoa.   I’ve never eaten the seeds so I can’t say for sure how that works out.   I believe that most people just use the greens.

I didn’t learn about lambsquarter until a couple years ago when a CSA gave us a large bag of lambsquarter for our weekly delivery.  Although that CSA was a little underwhelming, I will say that I did at least learn a few things from it and broadened my horizons a bit.   After that, I started seeing it all over.   It grows like crazy in my yard.   In fact, I’d be willing to bet that I could sit a bottle cap of soil anywhere on my yard and within a few days there would be a lamb’s quarter plant sprouting in it.   It seems to grow just fine in shady areas as well as sunny.   There’s a plant that shows up every year in the far shady corner of my yard underneath my neighbor’s pine tree, so it seems to tolerate acidic soils.  It seems to grow quickly and it’s available throughout the entire growing season here.

I’ve never eaten any significant amount of it raw, but I wouldn’t imagine that a lamb’s quarter salad would be very good.   It does have a white dusty coating on it which gives it kind of a funny texture.  When cooked the coating seems to go away or at least not be noticeable.   Sometimes the coating can resemble bird shit, but it’s best to err on the side of caution for that one.  Before I knew about the coating I thought the birds were ruining my plants.

Nutritionally it’s a powerhouse.   According to the Self Nutrition Data page it’s full of vitamins A, C and K, a good source of calcium (attn: vegans) and other minerals.   It has a respectable amount of fiber and a decent amount of protein for a leafy green as well.   On the downside it does have a lot of oxalic acids, so it’s not that great for people with kidney issues.

Lambsquarter grows all over North America, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find once you start looking for it.  Just like dandelions, it’s probably right underneath your nose.  It’s probably the cheapest (free) and easiest (it’s a weed!) way I know to get some good nutrition.

 

 

Dandelions: Friend or Foe?

 

Dandelions seem to be the bane of virtually everyone with a yard’s existence.   Although I support and practice the idea of turning unused lawn space into productive areas, I have no shame in admitting that like most Americans, the idea of a neat, clean, weed-free yard appeals to me.   Naturally, the bright yellow and prolific dandelion stands out in the spring (and parts of the fall) and often times takes over yards, sending many people out with herbicides to attempt to solve the problem, often with only limited success.

I decided that this year I was going to make the best out of my annual influx of dandelions by eating them.  So far I’ve been plucking their leaves out of the garden just about every day and throwing them into salads.   They’re very bitter, but mixed in with other lettuces everything is just fine.   I’ve been throwing some of the flower heads into stir fries as well.   I haven’t gotten to the roots yet, but I hear they can be thrown into stir fries as well.   I’m thinking about dehydrating some roots and keeping them around for future use.

Dandelions have some great health benefits, notably in the way of detoxification.   In fact, many people purchase dandelion extract (sometimes mixed with things like milk thistle) for this purpose.   Dandelions are a great diuretic, meaning that they help the body remove waste products from the liver and kidneys.   Dandelions are also said to help with acne and help prevent gallstones.   They contain vitamins A, B, C and D as well as potassium and some calcium.

It won’t hurt you to try to work a few dandelions this spring.   You probably won’t have to go much farther than a step or two outside your door to gather them.

Oh, if you really want to get rid of them, spray them with vinegar.   It’s safer and cheaper than conventional herbicides.   Just be careful that you don’t over-spray them and I wouldn’t do it when the temperature is above 85F or so.