Learn how to forage for and use lambsquarters in everyday life.
If you want to learn more specifically about lambsquarters, the plant, read Lambsquarters: The Wild Spinach.
One of the first signs of spring is a flush of tiny little purplish-green leaves with red stems of baby lambsquarters all over the garden. Easy to hoe out, but don’t get too enthusiastic – make sure to save some for your good eating! Save a patch about 12” long by 4“wide to start or leave them along the border of your garden as a barrier of wind and a grasshopper trap. Intercrop peas and vining beans with them after the plant has grown to be about 6”. They produce a fantastic sturdy living pole for the legumes to scramble up with a bit of training. Lambsquarters can grow up to 6’ tall and produce double handfuls of greens with enough water.
Take those double handfuls of greens add them to your meals and reap a bounty of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. The plant is very adaptable as far as growth habit. If you are using the stalk as a pole for vining legumes, cut the branches along the upright stem to encourage tall growth. If you want wind protection for your garden, start lopping the top off at your desired height. The plant with become bushy as branches start growing from all the nodes. You can either pick a bit from each of your plants or harvest one plant down and move on to the next.
Smoothies, Salads and More
My go-to use is smoothies. My favorite healthful and tasty smoothie is made up of a couple of carrots, an apple, two sticks of celery, two big scoops of yogurt, a handful of wild greens like lambsquarters, and a knob of ginger. There are a zillion recipes on the internet, go wild by substituting lambsquarters for spinach.
The highlight of early summer in our home is Weed Salad season. Lambsquarters are a toothsome bite, the leaf is meaty and has a wonderful sharp-salty flavor. The leaf is not very dimensional and by itself will pack down in your salad bowl, so it needs additional ingredients. Purslane, mallow, beet greens, wild mustards, other homegrown lettuces, edible flowers and herbs contribute to make a salad rich with texture and nutrition that is fun to eat. Add some toasted bread cubes and some cheese to round out your meal. Or pick what ever fruit is in season and scatter cubes of plums over the top. Visual and gustatory perfection.
Lambsquarter can be substituted for spinach in most any recipe or use a blend. It doesn’t cook down dramatically like spinach though, so use about 2/3rds the suggested amount or to your taste. The soup I crave all winter is the chicken, quinoa, lambsquarter soup I make and freeze for just that use.
As the summer heats up, the plant will start to be insistent on going to flower and making a vast number of seeds. The leaves will become tough and not tasty. It is a weed and preservation of the species is the job one. Freeze plenty while the plant is flourishing in spring and early summer. I’ve used several methods and they have all worked well. For loose leaves, freeze them individually. Scatter well washed and picked over leaves on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer until solidly frozen. For soups and smoothies, chop or blend the leaves with some water and pour into ice cube trays. When solidly frozen, pop cubes out for storage. Finally, if you have a dehydrator dry the leaves until crisp. What ever method you use, store in a dated and labeled glass jar in the freezer. Use within a year.
Sheron Buchele Rowland gardens and runs The School of Enduring Arts, a place where she and other talented instructors can share the skills gathered in a lifetime of exploration and passion. Classes are offered on many diverse topics ranging from Leaf Essence ecoprinting, metalsmithing, garden shrines, labyrinths, and cookie decorating. We strive for a mindset of mastery in a world focused on “quick and easy”.