Lamb's Quarters Chenopodium album
Goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae)
Description: This annual plant is either introduced or native and somewhat variable in appearance. Depending on the fertility of the soil, it is 1-6' tall, branching occasionally. Large mature specimens have a bushy appearance, tapering gradually toward the apex. The stems are stout, angular, and variably colored, ranging from light blue-green to striped with purple and green. Young stems are covered with a fine mealy pubescence, while older stems become more glabrous. The alternate leaves are up to 5" long and 3" across (excluding the petioles). The older lower leaves are broadly lanceolate or ovate with irregular margins. These margins are undulate, slightly lobed, and/or dentate, and they are sometimes reddish purple along the edge. The dentate teeth are large, widely spaced, and blunt. The upper surface of the lower leaves is usually green or bluish green and glabrous, while the lower surface may be glabrous to more or less white mealy with tiny white hairs. The petioles are slender and long, often at least half the length of the leaves. The upper leaves have a similar appearance to the lower leaves, except that they are smaller, more narrow, and more white mealy from the presence of tiny white hairs, which are present on both the lower and upper surfaces.
The lamb's quarters plant, Chenopodium album, grows 2-feet high with tiny green or brown flowers and thin coarse leaves. It was once used as flour for baking or harvested for meals. It can be used to treat vitamin C deficiencies or brewed for a diarrhea tonic. Topically it can be used for inflammation and bug bites.
Cooking Delicious Lambs Quarter Greens
Lambs Quarters can be collected throughout the summer. The plants come up in late spring and while tender can be collected whole. As they get older, taller and tougher, restrict your harvest to the tender tops. Flowers and seeds are edible as well, so you can continue the harvest throughout the summer. The herb is best used as a spinach type vegetable in broth or as a green vegetable. Collect plenty if you want to make a meal of it as it reduces tremendously when boiled or steamed.
It can also be used raw in salads, alone or with other greens. It does contain oxalic acid and for this reason it is best not to overdo it, especially when eating the raw herb. People with kidney problems should avoid this herb since the crystals can irritate the kidneys.
Native Americans used to gather the flowers to dry and grind them into a flour, which can be used as an admixture to other flours. It vaguely resembles buckwheat.
The leaves and stems are edible and absolutely delicious, with a flavor that can be compared to spinach or chard with an earthy, mineral rich taste. It’s difficult to describe, but if you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach you’ll love lambs quarter and enjoy the change of pace provided by its distinct flavor.
When cooking lambs quarter the easiest preparation is to simply steam the leaves and stems in a small amount of water until tender. The greens will cook very quickly and turn a dark green color as they shrink down during cooking. The cooked greens are delicious just as they are with no additional seasoning or flavoring necessary.
The young leaves and smaller stems can also be eaten raw in salads. Or you can experiment by substituting lambs quarter for spinach or chard in some of your favorite recipes.
Lambs Quarters can be used as a spinach substitute either by itself or mixed with other greens. Try it as a filling for cannelloni or lasagne or ravioli, if you are a nifty pasta maker. It is also excellent as a filling for pastries, e.g. puff pastry filled with lambs quarters, cottage cheese, mushrooms and garlic, or add it to pies, crusts, omelettes or savory pancakes