Series Intro: Using Common Weeds to Promote Health | Weed 1: Stinging Nettle | Stinging Nettle Frittata Recipe | Weed 2: Lamb’s Quarters | Lamb’s Quarters Pesto Recipe
Lamb’s quarters is the second featured weed in my Weeds are Good for You!: Using Common Weeds to Promote Health series. If you’re new here, I invite you to check that intro post out and if your heart desires, to learn more about the first featured weed, stinging nettle, here.
Lamb’s quarters. . . the thought of consuming something by this name may make the vegetarians out there a bit nervous. But don’t worry, this is purely plant-based; in fact, as you’ve already gathered, it is a common weed that also happens to be extremely healthful.
So . . .
Lamb’s quarters is the name for the lovely thing we call a “weed” pictured above. More officially, it is an annual that goes by many other aliases including goosefoot, fat hen, and pigweed – not to be confused with this other “weed” known more commonly as pigweed.
Lamb’s quarters is an erect plant that can grow up to 5 feet in height. Leaves are a dull/pale green color, triangular egg shaped or lance shaped, and about 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. The surfaces of the leaves, especially on young/new growth, are often covered with a fine white powdery coating.
Flowers bloom from May through November, depending on climate. Small, pale green stalkless flowers are packed in dense clusters at the tips of the main stem and branches. The flowers lack petals, and like the leaves, are also covered in a white powder.
The goosefoot family includes lamb’s quarters, quinoa, spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. How about that? Lamb’s quarters is in good company with other widely acclaimed nutritional powerhouses.
*Like its family members spinach & chard, lamb’s quarters contains oxalic acid, which can be dangerous if ingested raw in high doses. Be mindful of how much you are consuming and do some research on your own as well.
Lamb’s quarters is abundant. That is, after all, one of the key components of why weeds are so amazing. In fact, it is one of the most widely distributed plants in the world, extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India as a food crop.
Lamb’s quarters can be found in fields, pastures, agronomic and vegetable croplands, gardens, orchards, vineyards, landscaped areas, roadsides, and other disturbed locations.
I first came to know lamb’s quarters as a recurring foe in my weeding tasks at the first farm I worked on. I then came to recognize it nearly everywhere I went if I looked hard enough – from cracks in sidewalks to the typical backyard garden to gravel-covered parking lots.
This is when I learned to welcome it as a food source into my life. After all, if I was going to be pulling it up left & right, why not acknowledge it as the viable nourishing gift that it is rather than just garbage?
According to journalist and food advocate Michael Pollan, lamb’s quarters is one of the two most nutritious plants in the world (source). Incidentally, the other of the two is another “weed” – purslane.
Known as wild spinach to many, Lamb’s quarters is even more nutritious than its tame counterpart. It is rich in beta carotene, vitamin B2, niacin, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Lamb’s quarter greens are also an excellent source of vitamin A and more than 4% protein.
Lamb’s quarters can be used internally to relieve an upset stomach and to prevent scurvy. A tea can be made to treat diarrhea.
It can also be used externally as a poultice to treat burns or swelling. It’s also known for relieving itching.
Lamb’s quarters is often used in biodynamic farming/gardening practices to restore healthy nutrients to the soil and encourage growth in other plants.
It is also used as a trap crop for other plants, luring pests away from nearby crops.
First, be mindful of where you are harvesting lamb’s quarters from. Because it is so susceptible to absorbing what’s around it – whether good or bad – it’s best to avoid harvesting lamb’s quarters from areas that may be contaminated. (learn more)
Harvest the tender leaves of young plants – when under a foot tall. Though spring/ early summer is your best bet for harvesting lamb’s quarters, you are likely to be able to harvest through late summer/fall, as new plants often keep popping up throughout the growing season.
Lamb’s quarters can be used as a substitute for spinach in many dishes.
Renowned herbalist Susun Weed says, “the young, tender leaves of lamb’s quarter are tasty in salads. The older leaves, stripped from their stalks and cooked in a small amount of water for thirty minutes or more, are a rich and tasty bone-building green.” (source)
Some folks, like Ms. Weed, use the seeds of Lamb’s quarters mixed with grains in pancakes, rice dishes, breads, soups, and more.
To learn more about how to incorporate this green into your diet, check out my yummy Lamb’s Quarters Pesto Recipe.
Do you or have you ever cooked up lamb’s quarters?
How do you like to enjoy it?
Share in the comments below!