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Toss Lambsquarters Into Your Skillet, Not Your Weed Pile

Hosting Savoring Kentucky for nine years has nudged me toward foods I should have eaten always, but somehow assigned to the "trash" category. (Hello mulberries, you beauties, you favorite berry. And a cheery wave to pawpaws, purslane, dandelion greens. Chickweed, unh...I'll see your beauty one of these days.)

Now behold lambsquarters, Chenopodium album, aka "lamb's quarters," "lambquarters," and "lambs' quarters" along with "Pigweed! Fat-hen, goosefoot, bacon weed, dirty Dick, Muck Hill weed," among others, as well as "all good," its ancient name. So says Jean Pollard in Lambsquarters: Prince of Wild Greens, an excellent article for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Snapped a pic and then snapped the plant itself yesterday, just around the corner from my downtown house. Lambsquarters are ubiquitous.

Snapped a pic and then snapped the plant itself yesterday, just around the corner from my downtown house. Lambsquarters are ubiquitous.

Pollard's article shines a light on the nutritional wonders of this mild-tasting, readily available green. Let's sum it up as better than spinach.

We've followed advice to eat the tender tops of young plants, to wash thoroughly, and to avoid the stems.  

We've followed advice to eat the tender tops of young plants, to wash thoroughly, and to avoid the stems.

 

A few cautions, too: eat the raw leaves sparingly to avoid over-eating oxalic acid. Cooking them a bit reduces this potential problem. Several sources advise being cautious about eating lambsquarters from sites where the soils or mulches could be contaminated. This interesting plant takes up lots of elements, including pesticides, from soils where it grows. That capability may prove useful in cleaning up toxic sites, but not so helpful to eaters.

So how did we try eating this incredibly prolific, familiar former weed? First, of course, a tentative nibble of a raw leaf: it's as mildly flavored and inoffensive as bland leaf lettuce (read: better than spinach.) Then we washed tender top sections, picked off the leaves, and sautéed in First Fresh olive oil, spiked with the first of this year's Campsie garlic heads, still a bit small and tender. Feeling sort of Kentucky-talian, we  tossed in some excellent Lexington Pasta gluten-free fusili, plus a splash of its cooking water. A grating of Parm Reg, and, yes, we converted lambsquarters from weed to feed, just like that.

We have a new vegetable in our lives, a green one that grows without our help from early summer until frost. For the record, I like both its taste and texture much, much better than spinach.

I'm a lambsquarters novice, reporting initial experiences here. The internet offers a gazillion opportunities to learn about everything from eradicating that pesky lambsquarters weed with potent pesticides to using every single part of that priceless lambsquarters plant, including roots and seeds. "Discovery" articles are common. Read around.

These beautiful eggs are headed toward a gluten-free breakfast sandwich; extra nutrients courtesy of lambsquarters.

These beautiful eggs are headed toward a gluten-free breakfast sandwich; extra nutrients courtesy of lambsquarters.

I'll put an egg on just about anything, especially when the eggs are fantastic beauties from the generous hens (and stewards) at The 4th Street Farm. In this case I added some lambsquarter leaves to eggs I made for breakfast. The slightly grey-green raw leaves grow greener when they first meet heat. Plenty good.

Final note: Most articles on lambsquarters include information about the whitish powder that coats the younger leaves. The presence of that coating amounts to one of the positive identifications for the plant. When I washed our first lambsquarters I was surprised when that powder left the leaves and adhered to bowls, sink and salad spinner. I found no references online to others' experiences when washing the young leaves, so I'm just reporting: this happened. I assume it's normal. After washing the (very clean already) lambsquarters, soapy water washed away the tiny granules that had clung to coated surfaces. No, I used no soap to clean the leaves themselves.

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