Wild Edible Spotlight: Lamb’s Quarters
By Laura Killingbeck
Lamb’s Quarters can be found throughout the United States and is common in Massachusetts. It pops up in the spring in fields, farms, and other disturbed areas. If you have a garden, you might already have some Lamb’s Quarters!
The stem is upright, hairless, and branched. It can be green or reddish-purple, and it has conspicuous grooves.
When the young plant first pokes out of the ground in the spring, its leaves are simple and opposite. As the plant grows, the leaves become alternate. The leaves are triangular in shape, with toothed edges and a fine, mealy white coating.
Lamb’s Quarters has small, round or oval flowers that grow in clusters at the top of the stalk. The flowers are light green in color. As the seeds mature, they become black and shiny. The seeds are also edible.
To harvest Lamb’s Quarters, just pinch off the tender tip of the plant with your fingers. The first two to four sets of leaves at the top of the plant are usually very tender.
I often notice Lambs Quarters when the plant is just a few inches high in the garden. However, if you let it grow it can reach 3-5 feet in height.
I really enjoy eating Lamb’s Quarters raw. When I see one in the garden, I just pop the tip off and eat it right there. (Eating weeds is usually my favorite way of weeding!) If you have a nice big patch of Lamb’s Quarters, it’s relatively easy to gather enough to add to salad, or to use it in another dish like you would use spinach. This plant tastes great in quiche, lasagna, or with pasta.
Similar to other leafy greens like spinach, Lamb’s Quarters does contain oxalates. When eaten in large quantities, oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption. Cooking the plant destroys this compound. So if you’re eating bushels of Lamb’s Quarters, you might want to cook it first.
Lamb’s Quarters is extremely high in vitamins, especially vitamin K. It also has large quantities of Calcium, Manganese, and vitamins A and C.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups tender wild greens (Lamb’s Quarters, Nettles, Purslane, Chickweed, etc)
1 large head garlic
½ cup cheese
1/3 cup nuts (pine, walnut, sunflower, etc)
½ cup olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
Peel and rough chop the garlic. Saute it in a little olive oil. Add the nuts to toast, and then add the greens and saute until tender. Mix all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve on pasta, crackers, toast, etc.