Chenopodium album, meaning white goose foot, related to spinach, rhubarb, beets and chard, known as lambsquarters, pigweed and a number of other names, grows in all gardens in this area – anywhere that soil has been turned. Of all the weeds I pull in my vegetable and flower gardens, fully half of them must be this weed. So if cleaning your garden means you have some healthful and tasty vittels for dinner, you kill two birds with one stone.
Like so many overlooked wild plants, this one is full of good stuff: niacin, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus and, even more, dietary fibre, protein, vitamins A, B6 and C, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. If you are still not convinced that this is worth eating, it is a great substitute for spinach, at no cost, and if you pick it in an unpoluted garden free of chemicals and contaminants, probably better than spinach.
If you know how to cook spinach, there is no real need for recipes. Young shoots can be used in salads, and as the plant ages, just pick the leaves off the sturdy stem (discard any blemished ones), rinse well and use as you would spinach.
This recipe I am sharing is one that requires a little more effort than sauteing or steaming, but I think highlights the rich green colour and delicate flavour of the plant. It could also be made with rice, as you would a risotto.
If my pictures are not enough to help you identify it, there are plenty of pictures and descriptions available on the internet, and if you are still not sure if you have it in your garden, check with someone familiar with local weeds – there must be one somewhere near you.
Barley with Lemon and Lambsquarters
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup barley
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
grated rind of one lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp. mint
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. salt
4 cups lambsquarters, leaves only.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion until soft, but not browned. Add the barley and fry for a couple of minutes, being sure to coat all the barley with oil. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Stir in the herbs, salt and grated lemon peel. Pour 1/2 cup of the water or stock and stir the mixture occasionally until most of the water has been absorbed. Continue to add water, 1/2 cup at a time. When the last addition of water is made, add the lambsquarters and mix well until there is no more liquid visible.
- Wild Green Recipes: Lambsquarter Crostini (sierraclub.typepad.com)