Monday, March 19, 2012


When you have an organic garden, weeds are a fact of life.  You are pulling them, mulching them, or grubbing them out.  Lamb's Quarters falls into all three categories with an exception, it is a desirable weed.  When it is young, like on the left, the leaves are a wonderful substitute for spinach.  When it has bloomed and set seeds, the seeds can be harvested and ground into flour (at least that is what I have been told, I have never tried it.  I have tasted the seeds and they have a very nutty taste.)

If you have a fertile garden with plenty of nitrogen sources you will have Lamb's Quarters popping up.  I consider this a free food because I don't have to till the garden for it, I don't have to plant it, I just need to wait until it is ready to harvest.  Harvest time occurs within a couple of weeks of the first sign of sprouting.   It grows very quickly especially in protected areas like our cold frame/green house.

The perfect size to harvest is about 6-8 inches.  The growth on the left is the correct size (the larger plants).  The smaller plants are also very good, but it is easier to pull the sturdier plants getting the root systems.  You  want to get the roots.  Any root left with a little stem will re sprout and the root system gets very strong.  They are a deep rooted plant.

I harvested the path on the left.  I will tell you how I harvest and freeze this vegetable.  If you like spinach you'll love Lamb's Quarters.  BTW it is very high in calcium and vitamin K.  If you have kidney problems you might not want to consume them or only having them occasionally, they contain oxalic acid. 


This is a close up for what you are looking for, sometimes it is a darker green.   Notice the center leaves.  They look like they have talcum powder dusted on them.  You can also feel it when you touch it (it will rub off). 

All the leaves have some of this "dust" on them but the center leaves, as they are just opening up, have an abundance of it.   It is not poisonous, nor is it anything wrong.  I am only pointing it out as a means of identification of the plant.   I haven't noticed this on any of the other wild plants I forage for.

Another close up on a pink napkin, see the frosted look the "dust" gives the leaves.

This is the plant you are looking for when it is young.   I have found it usually doesn't grow just one solitary plant.  Usually a lot of seeds fall in the same spot and you have a plethora of plants.

In "Spring Flora of Missouri" by Julian A. Steyermark he spells the name the way I am using it here.  Other names are Lambsquarters, goosefoot, and pigweed. His discription of the"dust" is:  "Leaves and flowers covered with a white mealiness."


The above pictures are what I do when I pull the Lamb's Quarters.  The picture on the left is my hand grasping a bunch with the roots all the same direction.  I grasp the plants just below the major bulk of the leaves (the top 2 or 3 segments).  In the right picture you can see I clipped off the roots close to my hand.  The clipped remains made a happy trip to the compost pile.  The leaves are nestled in a plastic bag till it's filled.


This is the bag of Lamb's Quarters in a 13 quart stainless steel bowl.    The copper thing is a biscuit cutter for size comparison.  The first thing you need to do is a little difficult to picture but easy to understand.  You need a very large pan or even a bucket. Fill it with water about 2/3 full.  What you are going to accomplish is washing as much of the "dust" off the leaves as you can.  I usually wash the leaves about 3 times (the dust on the plants leaves a film on your teeth.  That is the reason I wash it off).  I also wash the pan with soapy water between rinses (the sides of the pan seem to velcro the "dust").  Do not soak the leaves.  Put them in the water and swish them around, like the agitator in a washing machine. Rinsing in running water will not remove the "Dust".  After you have removed all the loose "Dust" drain the leaves.   While they are draining put a pan to heat with adequate water to immerse the leaves.  Bring the water to a roiling boil.  Have another large pan handy with ice water in it. I use two, eight quart stock pots for this.

When the water comes to a boil throw in your rinsed and drained Lamb's Quarters.  Stir them constantly until they turn a beautiful dark green (this takes less than a minute).  Immediately fish them out throwing them into the ice water. Stir them so all leaves are exposed to the ice water, chilling them down, stopping the cooking.  Drain in a colander in the sink.  If they are still cold tap water on them in the large pan and drain again.  At this point I can picture the next steps.

The picture on the left is the blanched Lamb's Quarters.  This is to show you the quantity you will get from the above un-blanched amount.
After blanching the Lamb's Quarters you need to remove the excess water before freezing them.

The Lamb's Quarters are placed between two linen dish towels (flour sacks or cotton pillow cases will work).  Make sure what you use is lint free.

I roll up the "sandwich".  You can see there is a blue towel underneath.  It is a very thick one.  You will be rolling your rolled sandwich in this. 

Treat it like you would delicate lingerie.  You don't want to wring the Lamb's Quarters.  You want to apply slight pressure, squeeze and roll the contents.  The towels are to wick the water away from the leaves.  You don't want the leaves interior juices to be "wrung" from them.  You want to remove the excess blancing water. 
This is the dried Lamb's Quarters (half of it already chopped).  Next you grab your chef's knife and start chopping.  I do not think a processor would work for this.  I think it would make mush out of it. 

Once it is chopped you can divide the amount into plastic bags.  I put 8 ounces in each bag (I use the zip lock sandwich bags).  After it is bagged, I flatten all the bags and layer them in a gallon freezer bag which has been labeled with the contents. (Three bags will also fit in the Zip Lock heavy duty quart size freezer bag.) 

For another comparison, here is the chopped  Lamb's Quarters in the original bowl.  I have always been impressed with the quantity you end with compared to what you would with the equal amount of spinach.  Once you have tried this you will see why I don't try to plant spinach in the spring.

I hope I have encouraged you to forage for your veggies.  I have used Lamb's Quarters for any dishes I have florentined.  I have creamed them. They are delicious with sauteed onions and butter.  A famous person once said, "Try it you'll like it."

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  1. Thanks so much for this, I look forward to seeing more blog posts from you for handy tips. I think foraging for greens and wild edibles has lost its way in modern times because we are all taught (most of us) to just go to the store to get it. I grew up on a small farm and wasn't taught this and I would like to teach my kids how to find their own edibles and how to cook them deliciously at home. Thanks for this recipe and how to prepare the lambs quarters. How do you find the veggie in soup, does it work well and is it possible to dehydrate for later and rehydrate or is that possible with leafy veggies ( root veggies work but was unsure of leafy ones). Thanks, NaturalMom

    1. I haven't dried many foods even though I used to can or freeze our entire diet. If you have dried spinach, then iI imagine the same rules would go for both...except...lambs quarters is a thicker leaf and I think might get tough..another thing, the oxalic acid content might be messed with in the drying and concentrated too much. I have used it in quiche and in flouentines but never tried it in soup. I would say if you use it in soup blanch it first and throw it in at the last minute...long cooking might make everything taste muddy. Done properly, lambs Quarters is as mild tasting as spinach.

    2. my other wild food blog is:
      EPAZOTE: Nature's Beano

  2. This is terrific information - thank you! I find plenty of Lamb's Quarters here in my Omaha garden and use it in quiche or cook it with new potatoes, like my mom used to do.

    One thing, she only harvested it in the Spring. I continue to use it in quiche throughout the summer, but now that it's August what do you think? The plants are now tall and leggy. Heck, I think I'll go ahead and freeze the leaves, just to see how it goes.
    Again, thanks!

  3. Your mother was correct to only harvesting in the spring. The leaves become tough and bitter. They also have lots of that powdery stuff on them (which is very unpleasant to eat). Another thing I don't know if it is a fact I have never heard it before, but my thoughts on the plant is that the older the leaves the higher the concentration of oxalic acid which would be a health concern in some. Poke weed as it ages also becomes more poisonous. Maybe something like that happens with Lambs Quarters. BTW..When Lambs quarters is mature and sets seeds, They are edible. They are a real nutty grain (I've tasted it but never tried to use it). Amaranth, I believe the Indians ground it into flour.