Go whole hog for pigweedcalled lamb’s quarters
I once commented in an herb class I was teaching that lamb’s quarters are one of my favorite wild edibles, thanks to their mild taste and bounty of vitamins and minerals. I added that some people might have a hard time stomaching the idea at first. Unfortunately, one of the students who showed up late misunderstood me and thought I was referring to an actual lamb and that lamb’s hind quarters.She was a vegetarian. After her rather lengthy tirade about how disgusting it was to encourage the consumption of a poor lamb’s quarter, I would describe her as a “militant” vegetarian. Once the class calmed her down with a cup of chamomile tea and assured her that I wasn’t about to slaughter a lamb and pass around its hindquarters, I continued discussing the wonderful plant known as lamb’s quarters. Lamb’s quarters is, of course, a common garden weed. My statement regarding lamb’s quarters being a difficult idea to stomach relates to the fact that a lot of people consider this plant a noxious weed. But do me a favor. Relax your staid and wary viewpoint when it comes to what you’ve always known as a “weed” and consider this bountiful green as a new addition to the rotation of “acceptable” vegetables you enjoy. If you need data to back up your decision, check out these nutritional statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: a mere four ounces by weight of fresh lamb’s quarters (leaves and seeds) has 11,600 I.U. of vitamin A, 80 milligrams of vitamin C, 309 milligrams of calcium, 72 milligrams of phosphorous, 4.2 grams of protein and respectable amounts of fiber, folic acid, iron, vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin). Interestingly, cooking only slightly diminishes the vitamin content. Raw lamb’s quarters has 309 milligrams calcium per four ounces – when cooked, it still has 258 milligrams. Vitamin A only drops from 11,600 I.U.s to 9,700. Another plus about growing lamb’s quarters: it doesn’t require frequent watering. In fact, some wild lamb’s quarters can be found happily growing in parched, cracked soil far from any water source. Lamb’s quarters also do not require great care and attention. In fact, it seems the less you care about the plant the better it will grow.It is always best to collect the leaves when the plant is 12 inches or less in height. Once the seed heads form, the leaves tend to become tough and bitter. The young leaves, on the other hand, taste like a gourmet field green fit for the finest restaurants. In addition to having a lovely, somewhat salty flavor, the plant is over 80 percent water so you will feel your thirst satisfied. Eat lamb’s quarters raw mixed into salads or lightly steamed (wilted) and served as a side dish as you would spinach. To perk them up, add a sauce made with equal parts lemon and olive oil (or butter) and a pressed clove of fresh garlic. Don’t overdo your consumption of lamb’s quarters since, like spinach, the leaves have oxalic acid. Too much oxalic acid in the system can contribute to kidney stones. Also, never, never, never pick lamb’s quarters (or ANY wild edible) from a yard that has been routinely sprayed with chemical weed killers. So, give this garden weed a try. Once your tongue tastes the tender leaves, you might say “baa-baa” to supermarket greens. E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at firstname.lastname@example.org. The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.
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