Foraging in the garden: Lamb’s Quarters
My first foray into the wonderful world of foraging was with the popular Daylily, a perennial flower found decorating most lawns and fields in the North Country. But in case digging up the front garden isn’t quite up your alley, what about eating some of those pesky weeds taking over the lot?
Lamb’s Quarters, also known as goosefoot, is mostly considered a nuisance today. It is resilient and grows fast, popping up as soon as the snow melts and the sun begins to shine. But the herbaceous plant actually has a rich past of feeding the residents of North America, and can certainly do so today.
Ever noticed that when the weed goes to seed, it produces little seeds that look a lot like quinoa? That’s because the two are related, and Lamb’s Quarters was actually grown as a crop in prehistoric North America by the native peoples, after having been foraged for thousands of years. There are three edible pieces to the plant: the leaves, the flowering shoots, and the seeds–if one allows the shoots to bolt. As of early summer, the leaves are what are available, so that’s where I began.
Foraging often connotes a certain difficulty in procuring your edible, not so with Lamb’s Quarters. I joined Josh Carter, a Canton resident and passionate cheese maker, once more to gather some leaves from his slightly overgrown garden out on Route 68.
Lamb’s Quarters love fertile soil and lots of sunlight, so you’re likely to find them choking out your veggie plot or decorating the lawn.
There were three varieties growing in the garden – we harvested from the one with the largest leaves.
Unlike the daylilies, which I mercilessly ripped from the ground, the leaves of Lamb’s Quarters can simply be plucked from their stalks. However, if this is a dual weeding and gathering job, ripping mercilessly and then stripping the leaves would work too. Gather a lot. Just like spinach, once cooked, Lamb’s Quarters reduces to nearly one-tenth of its original volume.
The thin green leaves are much like any other leafy vegetable once picked. Think of them as a cousin to spinach. Gently rinsing them and then shaking off the water will do the trick.
Again, cook similarly to spinach. There are as many ways to cook with Lamb’s Quarters as you can come up with, but some foolproof ones for this mild, slightly sweet green are:
- Salad – use young, tender leaves raw in a salad.
- Broth – make a mushroom and Lamb’s Quarters light soup by bringing any sort of stock to a boil, adding the mushrooms for three minutes, adding the leaves, and turning off the heat.
- Pesto – half garlic mustard and half Lamb’s Quarters is quite the combination.
- Stir Fry – cook all other vegetables and then add leaves in for the last minute.
- Eggs – Saute with onions, add a few whisked eggs, and enjoy in an omelet.
- Summer Puree – cook in vegetable stock, then blend with salt, olive oil and pepper for a puree that’s delicious hot or cold.
Asian Summer Veggie Stir Fry (Featuring Lamb’s Quarters)
- Cooking fat (like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, or lard)
- Garlic scapes, minced
- Broccoli, cut into florets
- Asparagus, roughly chopped
- Lamb’s Quarters leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Sesame Oil
- Heat a heavy bottomed pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat. Once hot, add cooking fat and the minced garlic scapes. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until scapes are fragrant and soft. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add broccoli and a splash of water. Cover immediately and allow to steam for 2 minutes, or until broccoli has turned bright green but is still firm.
- Add asparagus. Cover once more for another 1-2 minutes, or until asparagus can be pierced easily with a knife.
- Uncover, add more cooking fat if anything is sticking, and toss in the Lamb’s Quarters. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the heat has cooked them (it won’t take long).
- Remove from heat, spoon into serving bowl, and add a drizzle of sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve alone, over pasta, or over rice.
- Optional: add in pre-cooked meat, cut into strips or shredded, at the very end with the leaves!
Tags: how to cook lamb's quarters, lamb's quarters recipes, north country foraging
Quinoa? Who knew? I like lambs quarters pesto, or weeding pesto, better than traditional basil pesto. All the little volunteer greens that come up in the garden are great in it, like the mustard greens or arugula.