Lamb's Quarter
Also called wild spinach, I'm particularly fond of this weed because it's one my late grandmother taught me to prepare. It's plentiful, easy to identify, and absolutely delicious. Lamb's quarter can be transplanted and cultivated. Pinching the tops will encourage it to branch out, making the plant produce even more delicious leaves. This year I don't seem to have much growing around my property, so I've transplanted some into my garden. Have you ever considered putting weeds into your garden instead of out? It's not a weed if it's wanted, right? 

I'm not the first to cultivate it, however. Popular in many countries around the world, lamb's quarter has an interesting history in North America. According to the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, "A native species of lamb's quarter was one of the earliest agricultural crops grown in North America-- archaeologists have discovered seeds dating back 3,500 years. This cultivated strain of lamb's quarter predated the cultivation of corn by 1,500 years in eastern North America!"

This plant is edible when tiny or when it is as tall as you are.  Just strip the stalk with your fingers, and whatever breaks off will be tender enough to eat. You'll notice the center of the tops are dusted with a silvery powder which is gritty and waxy. Don't use the very center of the tops where the powder is most dense. Use the leaves anywhere you'd use spinach-- creamed spinach, spinach dip, in salads, boiled or sautéed. My favorite ways to eat the leaves are tossed in a mixed-greens salad, or layered on a homemade pizza. They are also excellent boiled or sautéed as a bed for fried eggs. The leaves are beautiful tossed in a cold pasta salad, and delicious layered in lasagna. They are easily dried and powdered to add color and nutrition to sauces, soups, smoothies and quiches or sprinkled atop mashed potatoes. You can also eat the smaller stems, preparing them like asparagus.

A cousin to quinoa, the edible seeds have been eaten for thousands of years in Eurasia. You can watch for the seed heads to form and collect the copious tiny seeds to sow in your garden next year. Tiny like poppy seeds, they can be used in breads and other baked goods, or boiled like quinoa. 

When you think of lamb's quarter, just remember your ABC's, because it's an excellent source of those three vitamins: Vitamin A, vitamin C and the B vitamin complex, such as riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. High in protein, it contains all eight amino acids.  It's a rich source of iron, antioxidants, beta carotene and chlorophyll. Like spinach, it is high in oxalates, but it is also high in calcium and phosphorus. Medicinal uses include a tea for diarrhea, a mouthwash to heal gums, freshen breath and prevent tooth decay, and due to the naturally occurring saponins, a cleansing body wash soap. 

An avid student of natural health since 1987, Ann is a Missouri native, health coach, triathlete, and collector of rocks and children. She can be reached at ann.hines@gmail.com

Howell County News

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Willow Springs, MO 65793

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