I’ve been noticing a little plant called Lamb’s Quarters popping up all over my yard this spring, and I’m super excited about it! One reason I’m excited is because Lamb’s Quarters love fertile soil, so the increase of its appearance must mean that my soil is becoming more fertile. I should hope so, with the ducks spreading their “fertility” everywhere over the last year! The other reason is because Lamb’s Quarter is an excellent, healthy, tasty, and FREE green to eat. I know, you’ve probably always thought that it was a weed, and needed to be pulled out by the roots, just like I did until I learned the truth. The truth is, if you’ve ever had trouble growing spinach, Lamb’s Quarter is your best friend! They aren’t amazing raw- the leaves have a powdery coating that feels a little weird on the tongue- but if you toss them into a salad with a dressing, they would fit right in. They are delicious sautéed in bacon grease or oil with a little salt, or chili powder, or herbs. You can also add them to soups or even chop them small and add them to spaghetti sauce, chili, or even smoothies! They grow all summer long, right into fall, producing lovely leaves that don’t generally get tough or bolt like spinach, and at the end of the season they produce lots of nutritious seeds that are high in protein and can be added to breads and other foods or toasted for a crunchy snack or salad topper.
If you still don’t think Lamb’s Quarter is worthy of your kitchen, check out the nutrition in this powerhouse plant! One ounce of raw Lamb’s Quarters provides 65% of your daily vitamin A, and 37% vitamin C, as well as being a good source of Calcium, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Copper, B6, Potassium, and Manganese! When cooked, it looses some of it’s nutrient density, but since it is easy to eat much more of it when cooked, you will still gain lots of great nutritional value and micronutrients if you choose to cook it.
Here is a good comparison of Lamb’s Quarters and Spinach nutrition.
In one year, a Lamb’s Quarter’s plant can grow from a tiny seed to the size of a small tree, so if you plan to collect seed from some plants, allow some space for it to grow. You could grow some next to your chicken run- the chickens will love the extra nutrients they can get from the leaves and seeds. If you don’t want a big plant like that in your yard, or if the leaves begin to taste a little bitter, simply keep it pruned down to the size you like and it will continue to send up new tender growth all summer long. If you keep pruning it back, it probably won’t produce seed, but one plant allowed to grow to full size and produce seed will provide more than enough seed to spread around for new plants next year.
To harvest, simply snip the tender tops off young plants or remove some of the young leaves from a large plant. Wash well, and add to a smoothie or salad, or toss in a skillet, or add to a soup or sauce. If you want to harvest more than you can use right away, you can store unwashed leaves in the crisper of your refrigerator or blanch and freeze them like spinach. You can also dry the leaves and use them in soups, stews, sauces, or even grind them into a sort of flour to add to baked goods. I hear they make great tortillas!
For more great information on Lamb’s Quarters, check out this site!
*Remember, never eat a plant that you are not sure is safe to eat, and be sure to select leaves and seeds only from plants that have not been sprayed with chemicals.