Thirty some years ago, I lived on a farm in Reynolds, Missouri. Every Thursday I would go help an elderly neighbor woman -- Mrs. Glore -- old enough to have outlived three husbands. She taught me that most of the weeds we would be pulling out of the garden were useful and edible plants and that rather than getting rid of them, we should incorporate them as the evening's dinner and thus double or triple the yield of our gardens.
Wild foods are plants nourished by rain, sunlight, moonlight and wind. Learn to enjoy the freshness of a salad that was collected five minutes before being eaten when much of the produce bought at a store was growing a month ago! Learn to eat local, native and cut down on grocery bills. Many of the foods one buys in groceries are descendants of wild plants. In times of survival, we can be all the more prepared by recognizing the wild things around us.
Lambsquarter (Chenopodium album) is a member of the Chonopodiacee (Goosefoot) family and a relative of spinach, quinoa, amaranth and beets -- and much easier to grow. The genus name, Chenopodium is derived from the Greek chen, meaning "goose" and podus, meaning "foot." This is because the shape of the leaf looks like a goose's foot. The species name album means "white" and refers to the whitish beads of moisture that are on the top of the plant. Lambsquarter is also known as wild spinach, goosefoot, pigweed, Good King Henry and fat hen. Lambsquarter, the common name, is a corruption of "Lammas quarter," a harvest festival held August 1st.
The stems, leaves, and seeds of lambsquarter are all used as food. The goosefoot-shaped leaves of this abundant plant have long been used as a nourishing food during times of need. The leaves taste like spinach and nutritious being rich in beta carotene, vitamin B2, niacin, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
Eat lambsquarter raw in salads, prepare like spinach. Like spinach, lambsquarter contains oxalic acid, so be sure to get adequate calcium if you're ingesting a lot of this plant. Lambsquarter can be dried, frozen or canned for winter use and even fed to animals as fodder. Seeds of lambsquarters can be dried and sprouted or ground into flour for bread, pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies or gruel. The seeds are also used as a seasoning and a coffee substitute.
Lambsquarter is considered sweet and warm. It has long been associated with the elements of Jupiter, Earth, prosperity and the energy of green.
Native to Eurasia, lambsquarter has naturalized over North America, and is the predominant weed in soybeans. Lambsquarters grows mainly in disturbed areas, particularly in yards and around farm buildings near local concentrations of nitrogen or organic matter. It prefers moist, rich cultivated earth and is an indicator of good soil. It is considered a good companion plant to corn.
Common lambsquarters, an annual with succulent stems and leaves, grows from two to five feet tall. It may have reddish streaked stems, with short alternate branches. The stalked one to four inch leaves are variable: some are narrow, some broad, some are wide-pointed, toothed ovals, and others are almost triangular with wavy teeth, narrowing towards the tip in a series of toothed margins. The erect stems are multibranched and coated with a white waxy powder that acts as a water repellent, and keeps the plant cooler in hot weather. Common lambsquarters is primarily a self-pollinated plant.
Lambsquarter a la Salt and Vinegar
Simple, green, fresh and free!
5 cups washed chopped lambsquarter
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Celtic salt
1 teaspoon chili powder or 2 tablespoons of any finely chopped fresh garden herb of your choice (thyme, rosemary, mint, etc.) (optional)
Wash and chop greens and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and with clean hands, massage well the ingredients into the greens.
Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over forty years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman Holistic College of Nutrition and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of twelve books, including The Sexual Herbal, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, Healing Herbal Teas, and Rawsome!. Visit here for more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at brigittemars.com. Brigitte blogs for The Huffington Post, Care2 and My Intent.
Check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at www.rainbeaumars.com