Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Holly's Top Ten Edible Herbs...#6

Every gardener is familiar with the next on my list, lamb’s quarters. Properly called Chenopodium album, lamb’s quarters begin in early spring as ¼ inch high bluish-green bi-lobed sprigs. These tiny seedlings often carpet a rich area such as a garden or cultivated field, and they can be eaten beginning now all the way through their maturity, which is in late fall. At their height, lamb’s quarters grow 7 or 8 feet tall with branches that reach out several feet and leaves the size of your hand. They are annuals and will rapidly self-sow, but don’t worry—they’re entirely welcome. (Of course, remove those that will shade your vegetables.)

Lamb’s quarters offer two distinct types of food to the discriminating forager: the leaves, and the seeds. The leaves are green on top and pale silver underneath, like a raspberry’s leaves, and are deeply serrated and soft, with a dusty quality about them. These can be plucked and eaten raw, or they can be gathered en masse and steamed much the way you would steam turnip or spinach greens. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and vinegar, and you have a side dish par excellence.

These greens are incredibly high in minerals, in fact they are as nutritious as spinach and should be consumed in the same ways. I’ve read that lamb’s quarters were cultivated by the American colonists and traded, but since they readily grow wild they were not a viable commodity.

So to the seeds: In the late fall, the large plant will virtually be falling over with the weight off its small, brown seeds. They hang in slender little bunches and can easily be stripped off by hand and collected in a bag. Do this, because you will be rewarded with nutty-flavored seeds that, when lightly roasted, add a delicious (and highly nutritious) crunch to oatmeal, granola, and even salads. Try baking them in your breads and muffins; they are hearty and grounding. Many “hippies” soak them and use them like TVP, textured vegetable protein, as a meat substitute. Imagine: all this for simply enjoying the sideline “waste” areas of your garden!

to Your Whole Life,
Holly

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