Lamb’s Quarters – Foraging for Spring Greens
It’s pretty much guaranteed that if you have a garden or flower bed, you’ve seen Chenopodium album, also known as Lamb’ s Quarters. It’s usually considered a weed, but it’s also very tasty, as nutritious as spinach and FREE! It’s my opinion that it gets labeled as a weed because of its ability to adapt to its environment rather than any tendency toward being aggressive or invasive.
Look for Lamb’s Quarters sprouting up where you’ve previously planted flowers or vegetables and in any other place where the ground has been disturbed. They have a lovely mild taste and can be prepared just like you would any other leafy green; cooked in soup and stews, sautéed or steamed or even used in place of spinach in a dip. If you find yourself with a ton of them, consider canning some. They preserve very well that way. We’re still using some from 2012 that I canned using the recipe in my Ball Blue Book Of Canning, Freezing & Preserving. It’s a generic recipe for canning all types of “Greens”. Once canned, I can pull them out of the pantry and use them in place of spinach in all kinds of recipes.
Some studies place the nutritional value of Lamb’s Quarters as the second highest among all wild foods and it definitely runs neck and neck with cultivated Spinach. Check out the comparison below, courtesy of USDA.gov:
Per 100 grams: Lamb’s Quarter-Raw Spinach-Raw
Protein 4.2 g 2.9 g
Fat .8 g .4 g
Carbohydrate 7.0 g 4.0 g
Fiber 4.0 g 2.2 g
Calcium 309 mg 99 mg
Iron 1 mg 3 mg
Magnesium 34 mg 79 mg
Phosphorus 72 mg 49 mg
Potassium 452 mg 558 mg
Sodium 43 mg 79 mg
Zinc .44 mg .53 mg
Vitamin C 80 mg 28 mg
Thiamin .2 mg .1 mg
Riboflavin .44 mg .2 mg
Niacin 1.2 mg .7 mg
Vitamin B-6 .3 mg .2 mg
Vitamin A 11,600 IU 9,377 IU
The usual recommendation for harvesting and eating Lamb’s Quarter is to do it before it starts to put out its clustered spikes of flowers in early summer. Although I have harvested it after this point, the taste and tenderness is at its best when it’s young. Look for the unmistakable “goosefoot” shape of its leaves that also gives the plant that nickname, and the powdery coating on the back of the young, new leaves.
“Goose Foot” Shape of Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarter
Back of Lamb’s Quarter Leaf
Wash LQ leaves thoroughly in several changes of water. Discard tough or bitten ones and any remaining pieces of stem. Heat until wilted in just enough water to cover the greens. Pack hot LQ into hot jars, leaving 1″ headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the top of each pint or 1 teaspoon if packing into quarts. Ladle boiling water over greens, again making sure to leave 1″ headspace. Remove air bubbles by gently tapping jars or by inserting a knife or similar object. Secure two piece lids until “finger tight”. Process pints for 1 hour and 10 minutes or quarts for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Both pints and quarts should be processed at 10lbs of pressure in a steam pressure canner.
*Although I’ve seen some recipes for greens that use a water bath, you really need a pressure type canner. It takes the higher temperatures of the pressure canner to kill botulism bacteria.
Recipes!!! Here are a few of the ways we enjoy Lamb’s Quarter…
Hot Lamb’s Quarters & Artichoke Dip:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 jar/can (12 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
2 pints canned Lamb’s Quarters, well drained
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Mix all ingredients until well blended and spoon into a shallow ovenproof baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.
Lamb’s Quarter Tart:
2 Pints Canned Lamb’s Quarters
8 oz. container of Sour Cream
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
2 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
Pastry for a 9-inch, two crust pie
1-2 Tbsp Sugar for Topping
Place lamb’s quarter in a colander and allow to drain. Squeeze out any excess liquid. Place in a large bowl and blend in Sour Cream, Butter, Sugar, Salt & Pepper. Roll out half the pastry and place in the bottom of a 9″ pie pan. Spread the LQ mixture evenly in the unbaked pie shell. Roll out the remaining pastry to make the top crust. Place on top of the LQ mixture. Seal the edges and cut six small slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle the 1-2 Tbsp Sugar evenly over the top. Bake in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. The tart may be served either hot or cold.
Pasta, Greens & Beans
2-3 handfuls washed, fresh Lamb’s Quarter
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellini Beans, drained
1 -28 oz. can peeled, stewed Tomatoes
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 small Onion, diced
Saute’ the onion in a few teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Once the onions have turned translucent, add the garlic and cook an additional 30-40 seconds. (just until you start to smell the garlic) Add tomatoes (with juice) and drained beans. Bring to a slow bubble on medium heat and simmer until heated through. Add lamb’s quarters and return to simmer long enough to wilt the greens. Serve over cooked, drained pasta and top with fresh parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of basil.
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The fun thing about LQ is that you can use your imagination and try substituting it for any green in just about any recipe. One of my favorite magazines and websites, tasteofhome.com, offers the following useful information about equating fresh amounts of spinach to frozen amounts and it will be roughly the same when converting fresh LQ amounts for commercial, frozen greens:
“When a recipe calls for cooked fresh spinach, 1 pound of fresh spinach will yield 10-12 cups of torn leaves, which will cook down to about 1 cup. One package (10 ounces) of frozen spinach leaves yields about 1-1/2 cups after cooking.”
Have fun and be sure to share the ways you find to use the “weeds”!