Photo and story by Donna Iverson
I love Lambsquarters. I know love is a strong word for an edible weed, but it's appearance every spring in my garden bed before the regular veggies are even planted, makes it a special treat.
And while I enjoy growing vegetables, herbs and native flowers, I am at heart a forager. And a defender of weeds, especially the edible kind. Which most of them are.
Suspect my foraging tendencies were inherited from my grandmother who used to track down edible wild food in the fields behind her Whitehall farm as I trailed along behind. We collected wild berries along the path leading to the orchard, and sassafras leaves and asparagus hiding in the tall grass. To me, hunting down wild edibles was a lot more exciting then picking beans in the large kitchen garden next to the chicken coop. Sometimes, we would encounter a snake, which would freeze us in our tracks, even though garden snakes are not poisonous.
While edible weeds are all of interest, Lambsquarter is my favorite. For one thing, it is easily identified and distinctive enough not to be confused with any other plants. It is a small dusty looking plant with alternate leaves, shaped like a goosefoot.
Secondly, this summer annual self seeds and appears without any effort by the gardener, although you can buy packets of Lambsquarters seeds and plant it as cover crop to enrich the soil.
Third, it tastes good, and has been compared to spinach. Like spinach, you can toss it in a salad, cook it like a vegetable, or nibble on it as you weed the garden beds
Finally, it is a healthy addition to your diet, high in calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, B, and C. It is also anti-inflammatory.
Lambsquarters was once thought to be a native of Europe, but recent archeological evidence places it in North and South America as far back as 6500 BC. Native Americans were especially fond of Lambsquarters' black seeds, which can be ground into a tasty flour, which we call quinoa.
A little research on the Internet, turned up recipes for Lambsquarters tea , mouth wash, soap and shampoo, all made from its roots.
So next time, don't be so quick to pull out and discard those garden weeds. You may have discovered this special little plant called Lambsquarters, and find you like the taste as much as I do.