Sometimes I feel downright silly working so hard to grow a garden full of delicate vegetables and herbs and an orchard full of fruits and brambles, when so many carefree and hardy wild foods grow all over the place, free for the picking! I wrote an earlier post about this, especially highlighting a fabulous book on wild foods, called The Wild Table, by Connie Green. If you’re interested, you can check it out right here. Just on our few acres, right now I can think of several nutritious wild foods that I could waltz out at any time to pick and eat: dandelion, nettle, violet, dock weed, purslane, and the loveliest of all these, lambsquarters.
Lambsquarters, or Chenopodium album (some write it as “lamb’s quarters”) is also called white goosefoot or fat hen and grows wild nearly everywhere. It’s coming up at our place, the Old Depot Farm right now, and will soon threaten to take over our acres. The plants are very small now, but if you let them go, they’ll easily grow several feet tall and you’ll need a machete to take them down. It’s best, if you want to eat them, to cut them when they are small and tender, so now’s the time!
If you want to add this nutritious green to your diet every day, it’s quite simple while out weeding or planting or even walking the dog, to pull a few handfuls of these wonderful greens and have the basis of a delicious soup or stir-fry, or a nice addition to a green salad or a sandwich! Lambsquarters are wonderful wild plants that are completely edible, versatile, delicious and nutritious. You can use them wherever you would use spinach, raw or cooked.
Steam these greens like spinach and serve as a side dish, or put into an omelet or lasagna. They are one of my very favorite wild foods, and actually I think they taste better than spinach, especially steamed with a bit of butter and some fresh-ground salt and pepper, or a dash of olive oil and vinegar. Have I talked you into trying some lambsquarters at your house yet?
I found the following recipes in this excellent website where you can find even more recipes for lambsquarters and many other wild foods.
Let’s move on to the recipes! First, let’s make Steamed Lambsquarters:
* Olive Oil
* As much lambsquarters as you’d like to eat (a large, double handful makes a nice side serving per person)
* Fresh Minced Garlic
* Bragg or your favorite spice mixture
Gather any of the tender leaves and stalks while they are small. I prefer to let some keep growing in my garden and keep the tender shoots well trimmed. It is also handy to be able to use the small plants that you have just weeded from around your garden plants.
Steam these greens for several minutes until they turn a bright green, only a few minutes, because you do not want them to get mushy. Drain the water from the greens and place onto your serving dish. Pour a dash of olive oil onto each serving. Top with minced fresh garlic and a bit of Bragg’s or your favorite seasonings.
Voila! In just a few minutes, you have made the best plate of greens that this world could offer!
But don’t stop now. We’re just getting warmed up.
Now we’ll make LAMBSQUARTER SOUP (Soupe Aux Poulet Gras, for those who enjoy a shot of French now and then):
3 tbsp. butter
2 or 3 slices of onion
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
some fresh-ground pepper
3 c. milk
About 2 c. cooked, young lambsquarters, chopped lightly, with the cooking liquid
Saute onions in butter until soft. Add flour and cook until mixture browns a bit. Add salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add milk and lambsquarters. Then heat gently until heated through, but don’t let it boil. You can serve it at this point, or you can whirl with an immersion blender or in a food processor to make a creamier soup. Simple and yummy. You can use vegetable or chicken broth instead of the milk, if you like, and a chopped potato or two is a good addition!
Now we’ll get a little fancy with a recipe for Lambsquarters Spread!
You can eat this spread with crackers, as a sandwich spread, cooked into pasta, or even with fresh vegetables for dipping. Heck, you can smear it on an old boot and it’ll be tasty–it’s that tasty!
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small red or white onion, peeled
2 cups lamb’s-quarters leaves
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup toasted nuts
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives (black olives are good, also)
2 tablespoons mellow miso (optional)
1 tablespoon chili paste or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Chop the garlic in a food processor, or by hand. Dice the onion and add. Add the remaining ingredients and process or chop until fine. Makes about 2 to 3 cups.
This delicious spread will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Although if you let everybody know that it’s there, trust me, it won’t last that long!
There you go, Gentle Readers, four smashing and quick ideas for what you can do with a few handfuls of lambsquarters. Have fun cooking with these wild greens!
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