|Posted by Sage Traditions on May 28, 2014 at 12:10 AM|
Nature’s Gift to Our Gardens
by Bev Wein
Spring is always fun time of year in the garden. Those of us who garden have spent the entire long winter dreaming of what we are going to plant, patiently waiting for the snow to melt and the earth to awaken. Usually, in our climate, by the time I can get out there to actually plant anything, the ‘weeds’ have had a great head start and are flourishing! I used to hate the spring weeding that I always seemed to have to do before I could get to the exciting project of planting anything. But then I began to learn about all of the wonder weeds!
Many of the plants most commonly thought of as pesky weeds, are actually a wonderful gift from Mother Nature! Nowadays, its so exciting to head into the garden in early spring, especially the greenhouse in very early spring, and gather this gift from Mother of blessed food and medicine! My garden is so much happier these days now that I bless the weeds rather than curse them! I’m happier too! I love spring weeding now! It's like getting to harvest before I even plant! What a treat!
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)
aka Goose Foot, Fat Hen, Pig Weed
Young and tender Lamb's Quarters
This is one of my favourites! A relative of the spinach, Quinoa, and Swiss Chard family, Lamb’s Quarters, (or as my sweet little granddaughter says, ‘Doose Foot’), is way better than spinach in my opinion! Seriously! Her flavour is much more rich and she is bursting with more nutrients! Plus, BONUS, she grows pretty much anywhere and everywhere the soil has been disturbed (thus the name ‘Lambs Quarters’)! I was so delighted to enter my greenhouse this early spring and find the gift of harvestable greens even before the massive amounts of snow we got had melted! Lamb’s Quarters, among others, was in abundance there. We feasted on yummy greens for a side dish that night. What a treat!
A sink full of yummy Lamb's Quarters
I often struggle with growing spinach around here. Somehow, this sister of Lamb’s Quarters, seems to bolt on me before we get to eat much of her nutritious leaves. Either the weather is inconsistent or I fail to provide consistent care to keep these fussy greens happy. So, I’ve been thinking I might give up on spinach and eat Lamb’s Quarters instead. Why work at growing something when something better will grow all by itself in abundance?
Identifying Lamb's Quarters
This is a hardy annual plant that happily and generously reseeds itself. Often going to seed early summer for a second round of young greens to harvest before frost. She can grow up to 6 feet tall, but usually only about 3 feet in my climate. From a distance, the plant sometimes appears dusty, due to a powdery white coating on the leaves. I rinse this off before eating...usually, unless I’m nibbling in the garden or something. The leaves are diamond shaped kind of like a goose foot, thus the name ‘Goose Foot’, and can have toothed edges or sometimes smooth. They are a dusty green and whiter underneath. They will often have red or purplish streaks in the stem and leaves, or purple centers.
Lamb's Quarters beginning to bloom.
She matures to grow spikes of tiny green flowers on top which produce up to 75,000 tiny seeds per plant! When the seeds are ripe the plant and flowers lose their green and become more reddish purple.
Bursting with Nutrients
Just like spinach, the leaves of Goose Foot contain some oxalic acid, so eating smaller quantities when raw are recommended. Cooking, however will remove most of this. The entire plant, when combined with the seeds is actually a perfect protein with all of the essential amino aids available. She’s more than 4% protein! She is also a good source of Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A (11,600IU!), Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium (300mg in 1/2 cup serving!), Potassium, Copper and Manganese... boasting a higher all around nutrition content than spinach! (Popeye had no idea what he was missing. Lucky for Brutus!) This is a great survival food!
Traditional Medicinal Uses
The medicinal properties of this beautiful herb are gentle and nutritive. Traditionally this wonder weed has been used to treat stomach aches, coughs, asthma, bronchitis and to help prevent scurvy (due to its high vitamin C content). It has also been used for menstrual problems, gout and hemorrhoids. A cold tea from the leaves has been used to treat diarrhea. A poultice of the leaves has been used to treat burns, swelling, vitiligo and itching including bug bites. Good to know for those mosquitoes when gardening! Here’s another handy herb you can just squeeze a bit of the juice from the stem onto a bug bite to ease the itch!
How can it be prepared?
Goose Foot can be used in any recipes substituted for spinach, or you can eat it alone. Serve it as a side dish; put it in a salad; toss it in a smoothie. When the plants are young, maybe 8-12 inches tall, they are most tender. However the leaves can be harvested until the plant goes to seed. You may wish to serve the more mature leaves cooked rather than raw. If you have lots of young flowering tops, you can snip them off and cook up as a broccoli substitute.
Mmmm! Sauteed with garlic and butter!
To serve alone as side dish I pick off the leaves (if young, the leaf stems too) from the main stem and very young flower tops. We need about one huge double handful compressed per person. Chop if desired, and blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes for young plants, longer for older tougher ones, or until they are a nice bright green. Drain and press out most of the water, then saute in coconut oil, olive oil or butter and minced garlic and or onion for a few minutes until tender. Sprinkle with a little Herbamare seasoning or other spices such as paprika or cayenne or whatever else you want to get creative with.
She’s great just simply steamed or boiled as well. Or you can chop and add to soups, casseroles or quiche. Blanch some extra and keep in the fridge to easily scramble into eggs for breakfast. Add raw or blanched into smoothies as well, to boost your nutrition.
Don't forget the seeds!
When the plant goes to seed, you can even harvest the seeds. They are much like quinoa and can be cooked whole or dried and ground into a flour if you have enough of them. I usually harvest them more easily by pulling a large paper bag or pillow case over the top of the plant close it around the stem and then pull up or snip off the stem and flip plant over so the seeds fall into the bag. Then give it a good shake. What’s left you can brush off with you hand. They fall off pretty easily! And don’t worry if you lose or spill some. All the more plants next year!! The seeds can be dried within the chaf, on trays in the dehydrator or very low (110 degrees) oven with the door ajar for air circulation. Cool thoroughly and store in a tightly closed jar. If you wish, you can remove what’s left of the chaff before eating. You can just roll them between your palms.
The seeds can be tossed in with any grain you are cooking such as brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal. You can add them to soups and sauces too! They have a high protein content so are a great vegetarian substitute for meat in curries or pasta sauces.
Save some for later!
If you have more greens than you can eat at once, its easy to preserve for later. Lamb’s Quarters dries very nicely (just hang in small bunches upside down out of direct sunlight), or blanch first before drying if you want to get rid of some of the oxalic acid. Or you can easily blanch and freeze it just like spinach.
Lamb's Quarters hung out to dry.
I have some drying already from our abundant early spring harvest. I’ll use it in soups and smoothies as with other dried greens. And maybe I’ll try something new. Susun Weed has this great recipe for a herb salt that I might like to try next. It seems the uses for beautiful Lamb’s Quarters is endless!
Lamb's quarter leaves are so mineral-rich that they can be used alone as a salt substitute. But adding aromatic herbs enlivens the taste. Adding seaweed not only makes this herb salt salty, it increases the nutritive benefits.
1 part dried lamb's quarter leaves
1 part dried thyme or rosemary
1 part dried dill or celery leaves
1 part dried marjoram or oregano
2 parts dried seaweed (Nereocystis kelp is the best)
Gently toast seaweed in a cast iron skillet until very crisp. Grind each herb in a coffee mill while seaweed cools. Then grind seaweed and combine with ground herbs. Store in a shaker.
Like many of Mother Nature’s gifts, one of the reasons Goose Foot grows on disturbed soil is to purify the soil. So do make sure that you are harvesting from an area that is not seriously contaminated or heavily chemically sprayed or fertilized. The plant will take up the toxins from the soil and you don’t want to eat that! Just a precaution if you are harvesting from unknown sources.
I wish many blessings on you and your garden...including your weeds! When nature gives you weeds, eat them with gratitude!
Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and no diagnosis, treatment nor prescription is implied or offered, nor do I make any claim for a substitute for medical care for any specific medical issue. If you are experiencing any specific medical concern, it is recommended that you consult with your medical doctor as soon as possible.
Categories: Wonder Weeds