Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lambs Quarters

You thought you were going to see big hunks of meat didn't you? That's the funny thing about this vegetable. Called pigweed, lambs quarters or any of a dozen other names, this delicious relative of spinach is found growing in parks, fields and roadsides across North America. Also known as chenopodium album, lambs quarters is one of my favorite foraged foods. This green is just plain delicious, and it doesn't require any fancy cooking to bring out its full flavour. Like beet greens and spinach, it can be cooked relatively quickly with just a little water, and cooked lambs quarters can be substituted wherever you might use cooked spinach. (It is tough and gritty raw, however).

I ran across some lambs quarters the other day and stuffed a plastic bag full of the tender tips. They will quickly send up new shoots to replace what I took, so I didn't feel bad about raiding the patch. Here is what I did with them the next day:

Your basic Lambs Quarters

A large bunch of lambs quarters
about 1/2 cup water
hot sauce to taste
several tablespoons red wine or cider vinegar
salt and fresh ground black pepper


1. Thoroughly wash the lambs quarters. The leaves have a slightly downy feel to them, and the water will run off without completely wetting the leaves, but clean them up as best you can.

2. Strip the leaves off of the bigger and tougher stems. You can keep the whole tender tips, stem and all. (If you can pinch through the stem without too much effort, its a keeper).

3. Heat the 1/2 cup water in a big pot over medium heat. Add the lambs quarters, cover and cook until tender. This will take 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and toughness of the leaves. Taste one if you aren't sure.

4. Add the vinegar and hot sauce to taste, along with the black pepper and salt. Cover and let cook for a minute or two more.

5. Remove the lambs quarters and the juice (pot liquor) from the pot and dump into a bowl. Place in the fridge or freezer to quickly cool them down to handling temperature. Get yourself a good cutting board and knife, take the bowl out and grab a handful of the lambs quarters. Give it a nice squeeze to let the juices run back into the bowl, place on your cutting board and chop thoroughly. Do the same for the rest of the lambs quarters, and return to the bowl with the pot liquor. Serve with curried chickpeas, black eyed peas, red kidney beans or any other type of bean and rice, or use as a side dish with a meat (or tofu) and potatoes meal.

I ate these lambs quarters with some curried chickpeas.

They were delicious, and free, which is great considering the price of food these days.


Ellie Hamilton said...

Great-sounding recipe and thanks for the post! I've been trying to decide whether the "weed" in the garden and all around is actually lamb's quarters. I'm 99% sure it is. Very nutritious, if that's what it is! Found your blog via Google search "Lamb's Quarters."

Lyra said...

Hi Ellie, if you do a search for images you should be able to find some more photos that could help you with the identification. Another test is to run some water over a few leaves. It should run off the leaves without really wetting them.

You can pretty much substitute lambs quarters (or pigweed, as it is also called in some places) for spinach in any cooked recipe. Have fun enjoying the free bounty!

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