Lambs Quarter – Chenopodium album Goosefoot, Pigweed, Lambs Quarter-
What is your name?
Are you a despicable weed, or a delicious veggie?
You were a weed, last summer, But, now that I know you,
You’re a veggie and You’re a medicine.
Isn’t it interesting
How you change,
When what’s in my head
decides to listen.
This European immigrant is an odorless, branching, annual weed, with stalked, opposite, simple leaves which are clammy-feeling, and have a whitish coating underneath. The first leaves are diamond-shaped and toothed toward the point. The later leaves are narrow and toothless. Now this always confused me. I think Lambs Quarter when it’s young, looks nothing like the older plant. Even after I’ve come to know this, it still baffles me! When drawing the picture above, I couldn’t get myself to quite make those older leaves ‘toothless’, as they should be. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
Lamb’s-quarters grows everywhere, even through the cracks in sidewalks. It generally grows from 1 to 3 feet tall, under favorable conditions. If you listen, you can here these ‘children’ screaming-
“Eat me! Eat me! Take me home and Eat me- please!”
This is one of those weeds that just might become a favorite veggie for you. It’s a cousin to spinach and the young leaves can be eaten as greens or when freshly picked, added to salads.
My friend John (Thunder Creek) Winger, says you haven’t tasted anything until you’ve eaten Lambs Quarter leaves fried in hot bacon grease! I’ll try this for sure next summer. John never lies, so I know it’ll be a real treat!
I’ve also heard that the seeds can be ground into a meal for cakes, gruel or boiled into a cereal. Or, they can be sprouted and used in a stir fry meal. (This weed is a relative of quinoa, a grain, which is eaten mostly in Chili and Peru, but now available here also.)
Medicinally, Lamb’s-quarters has been used to treat nutritional deficiencies, such as scurvy, as it’s very high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus and is also a good source of protein, trace minerals, the B vitamins- thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, iron, and fiber.
Collect the young tender plants whole, and then when the stems become tough, collect just the leaves and tender tips. Do not collect Lamb’s-quarters growing in artificially fertilized or treated soils. It will absorb pesticides from the soil and is also prone to accumulate high levels of nitrates. Just go ‘harvest’ it in the wild, or gather some seeds from the wild and plant them in your garden. That’s the safest way and you’ll know exactly what you’re getting in your food.
Medicinally, Lambs Quarter is said to have sedative and refrigerant properties- people have used the poulticed leaves to soothe burns.
The leaves are also used for stomach aches and diarrhea in tea form. Traditionally, it has been used internally for roundworms, hook worms, small tapeworms, amebic dysentery, asthma and excess mucus. Externally, it can also be used to treat athlete’s foot and insect bites.
This weed comes with a caution:
Not to be given to pregnant women, as excess could cause dizziness and vomiting.