My first crop of lambsquarters (chenopodium album) is ripe for picking. For the backyard forager, this is a real gift. There is no crop I could plant that would give me as much mass and nutrition as this one does, and I know I am guaranteed another few batches wherever the garden has been dug. Lambs quarters not only like the recently tilled soil of vegetable and flower gardens – they grow virtually everywhere, and if you think you are not familiar with them, it may be just because you overlooked them because they are so common. However, pick only from clean, uncontaminated areas.
I wrote about lambsquarters last year at this time, when I made a Barley and Lemon dish and outlined the health benefits and tried to give enough information to identify it safely. I will share again the photo from last year which is a good close-up.
And here is this year’s first patch.
It is easy enough to pick – just pluck off the tender tops and snip off leaves lower down if they are unblemished. Many people don’t like to eat them raw because of the fuzzy texture on the base of the leaves, but remember that when cooked, they will shrink just like spinach, so you will need a good amount.
They work in any recipe calling for spinach, although their flavour is a bit milder and therefore they benefit from additions of herbs and other strong flavoured ingredients. For that reason my spinach-inspired recipe, something very much like spanakopitas, contains not only lambsquarters and cheese but also a few young dandelion leaves and a generous bunch of mint. You can mix them with any seasonal greens, or use them on their own if you gather enough.
3/4 lb. lamsquarters + mixed greens
1 shallot, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
200 grams feta cheese, crumbled
ground pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 lb phyllo pastry
olive oil for frying and brushing on pastry (about 1/2 cup all together)
Fry the shallot in 3 Tbsp of olive oil. When cooked, but not browned, add the minced garlic, pepper and nutmeg.
Wash the greens. If using greens other than lambsquarters, chop the larger leaves so they may be evenly distributed among the mixture.
Add all the greens to the frying pan, lower the heat and cover. Stir once in a while so everything gets cooked evenly. This will take only about five minutes until all the greens look cooked.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and the cheese. Allow to cool slightly and add one beaten egg.
To make the triangles, cut the phyllo into strips about 3 inches wide. Be sure to cover the rest of the phyllo with a damp cloth, as it really does dry out quickly. Brush the strip lightly with oil.
Place a generous teaspoon of the mixture on one of the bottom corners and fold the pastry lengthwise in half, covering the filling. If the pastry has been folded left to right, take the bottom right corner of the pastry and draw it towards the left hand edge. Then take the left hand corner and draw it to the right. See photo following the recipe for clarification.
When rolled to the end, you should have a neat triangle. If the pastry rips a little in the process, not to worry. The folding will cover it up.
Brush the top lightly with oil and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden.
I am sharing this at this week’s Fiesta Friday. I know some of the guests have been doing some foraging, but for those who haven’t tried yet, these flaky pastries filled with wild garden greens are just the encouragement you might need to get out and enjoy the weeds!