by Laurie O.
Now that I've discovered them, I may never go back to spinach. They're free, they're delicious, they're easy and fast to cook, they're good in salads. They're nutritious. They store well. You can freeze them. They grow like - weeds. I mean, really.
Lamb's quarters are growing all over the community garden. I gathered some last Sunday, washed them and stored them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, then gathered the rest of the ones in my row yesterday. The ones in the refrigerator were just fine to cook today. I bagged them stems and all, and maybe that made a difference.
In the chapter about lamb's quarters in Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons mainly takes issue with another nickname for this fine wild food, "pigweed." But he does have a bit of advice for the wild foods cook: "There are few better wild potherbs than this close relative of garden spinach.
Only young, tender plants, less than one foot high, should be collected. Fortunately, in cultivated ground, one can find young plants, just right for eating, from midspring until frost. It requires a bit more cooking than spinach, but it doesn't need parboiling as some wild greens do. The taste of well-cooked lamb's quarters is very similar to that of spinach."
"...All in all, I would say that pigweeds are too good for pigs."
Last night I soaked some navy beans that I picked up at the farmers' market, and cooked them for a couple of hours first thing this morning. I filled a small pot with the lamb's quarters leaves, covered them with water, brought them to a boil, and simmered them about 5-6 minutes. I wanted to taste them by themselves before I added them to the beans. They definitely passed muster, so much so that I saved the broth to cook brown rice.
I added them to the navy beans with a minced half clove of elephant garlic from my garden, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of Liquid Smoke for that cured pork flavor without the meat. I was about to add some onions, but after I tasted it, I realized that it was perfect just the way it was. With the brown rice, it was a delicious and inexpensive vegetarian lunch!
Lamb's Quarters and Navy Beans:
3 c navy beans, cooked
1 clove minced elephant garlic (or two small cloves regular garlic)
1 small pot full of lamb's quarters leaves (probably about 4-5 cups raw)
Cook lamb's quarters leaves 5-6 minutes. Chop them and combine with everything else. That's it.
Now if the rain lets up, I'm going back to the community garden and gather a bunch more before somebody gets the un-bright idea of either nuking them with herbicide or plowing them under. These are too good to waste!