Monday, April 23, 2012

Edible Weeds, Lambs quarter

Lambs quarter, Bellevue garden, 4/23/2012
      Many plants that people consider to be weeds are edible, and many are highly nutritious. A few that turn up here in Delaware are chickweed, dandelion, lambs quarter, plantain, and purslane. Right now the lambs quarter is popping up everywhere, and the young leaves are quite tasty.  Many of the plots at the park are now just vast expanses of recently tilled soil.  It will be weeks before the gardeners get some sort of harvest. Yet clumps of edible and even delicious "weeds" such as this lambs quarter are ignored or pulled out and discarded.
      Lambs quarter can be used much like spinach, either eaten raw in salads or used in soups or stir-fry. Steam it like spinach and serve like a side dish or put in an omelet or lasagna.  Now, have I actually done any of these.  No, but I do browse on it at the park and enjoy its nutty flavor.
      But I would suggest harvesting while the plants are young and tender.  Left to grow for the summer, it truly will be a weed of shrub size.  With a woody trunk.  And hard to remove tap root.  Been down that road first hand.  So though edible, tis much better to forage for this one than to actually encourage it in your garden.

      From Wikipedia:
Chenopodium berlandieri, also known by the common names pitseed goosefoot, huauzontle, and lambsquarters, is an annual herbaceous plant in the goosefoot family.

The species is widespread in North America, where it is native to Alaska and northern Canada south to Michoacán, Mexico, and including every U.S. state except Hawaii. The fast-growing, upright plant can reach heights of more than 3 m. It can be differentiated from most of the other members of its large genus by its honeycomb-pitted seeds, and further separated by its serrate, more or less evenly lobed lower leaves.

Although widely regarded today as a weed, this species was once part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex of prehistoric North America, and was a fully domesticated pseudocereal crop, similar to the closely related quinoa C. quinoa. It continues to be cultivated in Mexico as a pseudocereal, as a leaf vegetable, and for its broccoli-like flowering shoots.

      Now on to recipes.  This blog has some interesting ones:

The pesto looks tempting, as does the Greek Salad.  But when foraging any natural food, be absolutely sure that you are indeed picking an edible plant, and only harvest from areas free of pollutants, chemicals or poisons.

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