The Spring “Weeds” are here! Many people run to get the herbicide to spray the heck out of those darn weeds. I run to get my foraging basket to gather as many as I can find to make a wonderful spring tonic. But that’s just me. It’s the way I roll.
There are so many beneficial weeds/greens growing at this time of year, it was difficult to choose one to discuss today. But choose I did. And my choice is lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album). Chenopodium comes from the Greek language and means goosefoot hence the other names it is commonly known by – goosefoot and fatfoot. Album means white and refers to the white dusty underside of the leaves. This white dusting is full of minerals from the soil. A large patch of lamb’s quarters can look very dusty since the flower clusters have a white hue also.
This annual has a mild spinach flavor and is delicious prepared in the ways of spinach and Swiss chard. Tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, sautéed, made into a pesto or even made into a delicious soup. Recipe will follow.
Considered a bothersome weed by some people here in America, lamb’s quarters is one of the few wild greens that has been analyzed for nutritional content. It is listed in the USDA National Nutrient Database, Data Type: SR Legacy Food Category: Vegetables and Vegetable Products FDC ID: 169244 NDB Number:11244. It is exceptionally high in calcium and Vitamins A and C. Lamb’s quarter packs a huge nutritional punch. In 100 grams there is 4.2 g protein, 1.2 g iron, 116,000 IU Vitamin A, 80 g Vitamin C and 309 g calcium. This plant is appreciated in Europe as a nutritious potherb. A traveler can even find bundles for sale at local farmers markets in France.
Harvesting lamb’s quarter is best done in spring and early summer when the leaves are most tender. You can harvest during the heat of the summer but limit yourself to taking the tender new leaves at the top of stalk. You may have to pick the leaves individually. The larger mature leaves have a higher concentration of oxalic acid that is why the young leaves are better suited to eat raw. Mature stalks can reach six feet tall.
All parts of lamb’s quarter can be used roots, leaves, flowers and seeds depending upon when and what reason you are harvesting. The roots contain saponin and when mashed can be used to make soap. The mashed roots can also be used as a tea infusion to aid elimination of toxins through a laxative effect. In addition to eating the leaves straight away, they can be dehydrated and ground to a powder for use in soups, smoothies or other dishes. The flowers can be used in similar ways to the leaves. The seeds can be prepared and used like it’s cousin quinoa.
Used as a tonic lamb’s quarter is a gentle detoxifier. The high chlorophyll content will bind to the toxins and will be eliminated. The spring tonic recipe I use will follow.
Lamb’s quarter is widely distributed in zones 4 to 11 in North America, Europe and Asia . It will grow wherever it can find a niche. I had a large plant grow in a crack in my concrete apron at the front of my shop where the overhead doors are. There is no need to cultivate as it is a prolific selfseeder. If you do want to cultivate try the Magneta Spreen Lamb’s quarter sold by Baker Creek Seeds, www.rareseeds.com.
For further research into this very useful green I highly recommend all of the books by Susan N. Gillmore – “The Backyard Herbalist”. She is a certified Master Herbalist and certified Master Mittleider Gardener. Her books include, “Medicinal Weeds”, “First Aid Kit Herbs”, Making Herbal Remedies and the Healer’s Art”, and “Culinary Herbs and Spices”. These hard copy, spiral bound books are an invaluable addition to your SHTF library. She can be reached at sue@LDSPrepper.com.
- My spring tonic recipe –
- ½ cup packed fresh Lamb’s Quarter leaves
- ½ cup packed fresh Dandelion leaves.
- 16 ozs boiled filtered Water
- 1 Tbsp Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
- Raw Honey to taste
In a quart jar pack the lamb’s quarter and dandelion leaves. Add the boiled water. Steep for 15 minutes. Remove the leaves and give to your chickens or put in the compost. Add apple cider vinegar and honey to taste. Enjoy!
The soup recipe is on page 230 of “Forage, Harvest, Feast” by Marie Viljoen, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont 2018. This recipe is easily doubled.
- 8 ozs (227 g) Lamb’s Quarters
- 4 cups (1 L) Chicken Stock
- Salt to taste, your choice Sea, Kosher, Pink Himalayan, Redmond Real Salt
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 2 large uncooked Egg Yolks
- Fresh ground Black Pepper to taste
- 2-4 poached Eggs (optional)
- Bacon crumbles (optional)
Blanch leaves in boiling water for 1 minute. Strain leaves out and plunge into cold water. Squeeze and rough chop. Bring stock to a simmer. Taste and add salt if needed. Add lemon juice. Add leaves and cook for 3 minutes. Stir. Cool slightly and transfer soup to a blender. Pulse briefly. Transfer by to pot and heat. Do not boil. Whisk in egg yolks and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the soup is hot, it is ready to eat. Add pre-cooked poached eggs and bacon to individual bowls. This is excellent served with Irish Soda Bread and creamy butter. Enjoy!