Survival Food to Forage: Lambsquarters
This past year, beginning in the early spring, we had a TON of these "mystery plants" springing up around our back yard...everywhere! We had recently pulled out a lot of Horehound, which is considered a noxious and invasive weed here in our high desert mountains, and this left the ground disturbed. Up sprang a new "weed." We let them grow about 2 feet tall, then decided we'd better pull them up in the area near the chicken coop. After asking neighbor after neighbor and my parents who know all about plants out here, nobody knew what it was! "Just a weed," they said. The ones we left to grow out of curiosity grew to between four and six feet high! That's quite a weed!
Then...I discovered what they were! Here's how to identify and use Lambsquarters:
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Lambsquarters (also known as goosefoot, Latin name Chemopodium album)
Lambsquarters are actually delicious, with a taste and consistency similar to spinach. In addition, it's said they are highly nutritious....even more so than spinach!
We had a second very large patch in our inner yard, too, by our fruit trees. I told my husband that I thought we should just let them grow and see what happens! So all summer long, I have been trying to figure out what they are, as I watched them grow up to 6 feet tall! The leaves have variable and irregular edges, and are very soft, with a white powdery cover on the bottom. Later in the summer tiny flowers emerged at the top of the many stems, which emerge from woody stalks. The flowers are tiny---almost microscopic in fact, and bunched together in spires about 4 inches long. I know I'm not describing these well in botanical terms, so here are some pictures:
How to Use Lambsquarters
1) You can eat them raw in salads! They are high in oxalates, though, just like spinach, so some people may be sensitive.
2) Steam them up! In fact, here is my very successful experiment! (I love when experiments turn out....sometimes they don't)
3) I understand you can use the seeds too. Lambsquarters, it turns out, is a relative of amaranth and quinoa. To harvest the seeds, just place a paper bag over the flower clusters, bend upside down, and shake well. The seeds fall into the bag. Cover with water overnight to soak, then rinse. Cook up! If you want to cook them even more traditionally, add a tablespoon of whey to the soaking water. I haven't tried this yet, but as soon as the seeds are more ready, I'll be giving this a try!
4) I love dehydrating my plants and making a fine powder from them. You can sprinkle the powder into your foods for additional nutrition. If your kids don't like their beet greens or spinach, try this out! I plan to use lambsquarters to make an exceptional powder!
How I Finally Identified this Plant
Well, having never seen it before in my life and with nobody else knowing where to even start, it was a little tricky. Then I ran across this book, Southwest Foraging by John Slattery.
What a lucky find! Not only was I able to identify lambsquarters, but many other plants in my yard...like Sow's Thistle, which I thought was really scraggly Dandelion. Amazing. I love being able to eat right from my yard, even though I have a fine garden this year (except the tomatoes...they did very little for us this summer).
NOTE: I am not a botanist or a scientist. Be sure that you know what you are eating when trying to identify wild plants to forage and use. I checked several sources besides the above book before giving our lambsquarters a try...just to be sure.
Do you forage any of your own food? I'd love to know, and I value your comments!
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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If you live in the Southwest, this is a must-have book if you are into or thinking about possibly having to survive if something happens...or if you just have an interest in the edible plants in the area! I've been using this book constantly since I bought it!
This is a really great book with many ideas for using wild harvested edible plants. Lambsquarters can be found in this book too, I was happy to see! I like using this book for all kinds of things, especially making cold infusions from foraged plants such as pine, manzanita, and Mormon tea. There is a LOT more to this book, too!