Thursday, June 23, 2011
Lambsquarters - Goosefoot family , Chenopodium album. Also known as wild spinach, pig weed or goosefoot.
Description: An attractive summer annual, that is upright and branched. It grows up to 6 feet tall. The stems are grooved and it sometimes has purplish vertical stripes on the main stalk. The Leaves are arranged alternately along the branches, and are covered with tiny and grainy, white pollen like substance. The lower leaves are on stalks, are triangular, and irregularly toothed making them look like a goose’s foot. The leaves toward the top of the plant do not have stalks, are narrow, and are oblong in shape. Leaves are up to 3 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.
According to my book “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea”, Lambsquarters nutritional profile, for ½ cup cooked greens, includes a whopping 3.5 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of carbohydrates, 2.0 grams fiber, 324 mg calcium, 1.5 mg iron, 684 mg potassium, 40 mg ascorbic acid, and 3800 micrograms of beta-carotene, 100 micrograms of thiamine, 200 micrograms of riboflavin and 1000 micrograms of niacin.
These greens actually have more nutrition than spinach! And, since it is a close relative to spinach, it contains oxalic acid which means that it binds with some of the calcium that is in the plant, but thankfully, not the calcium in the other foods in your meal.
This is another garden "weed" I’ve discovered that is not only great tasting but also extremely nutritious. I have been watching this grow in my yard for a couple of years but I wasn’t real sure that it was actually lambsquarters since it, like many tasty weeds has a poisonous looka-like. So, I consulted my field guides, however, they didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. Then, I went to my trusted book titled “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea” as I remembered that it has a section that gives the poisonous look- a- likes for several edible weeds. I discovered that there is one in the same Goosefoot family but that this look- a-like has a rank odor when picked.
What I have growing here has a wonderful spinach odor when the leaves or stem is torn. To test further I took a tiny bite of a leaf and discovered that it tastes remarkably like spinach, only sweeter. That is how they taste when cooked as well. I knew then that my research paid off so I harvested a batch for our dinner. And I wasn’t surprised to find that my husband loved them too.
Steaming seemed like a good way to preserve the nutrients since boiling just pulls the nutrients out and into the water. Which is not a bad way to prepare them if you don’t mind drinking the pot liquor, LOL. To prepare them I rinsed them well under cold water, steamed a big batch for 10 minutes and served them with a little butter, salt and pepper. We later shared this discovery with our Greek friend named John and he referred to them as Horta – boiled garden greens. He used fresh lemon squeezed onto the greens, and thus we tried it as well. Absolutely awesome!!! I suppose you could dress these versatile greens with anything that you like to put on any other greens.
I now have a good-sized batch growing with my Thyme and Rosemary in my herb garden. And I've have been cutting the top few inches every week and these plants are bushing out and giving me more greens every week. I have a couple of plants that I am letting go to seed so I can insure that I have more growing next year, and perhaps in a different location so they aren’t competing for space with my culinary herbs. I think that next year I will have a vegetable garden with several wild foods as well as the domesticated selections. Bon Apatite!