A few months ago, we didn’t think Spring would ever get here, but now there’s no doubt about it as rain and warm weather cause weeds to spring up faster than we can push them back. However, in the midst of battle against the farm flora we despise, we’ve found a few double-agents: weeds we can eat. Being able to recognize wild edibles in our vegetable beds has allowed us to increase productivity and provided an added source of income, while we don’t do much to maintain them. It is an opportunity for us to allow plants that want to thrive naturally to do so, as opposed to forcing less native species to grow. One other added benefit is that plants such as these act essentially like edible cover crops, breaking up soil, preventing other more pesky weeds from growing, and ultimately adding organic material back to the soil at the end of their life-cycles.
Lambsquarters belong to one of the largest families of flowering plants on earth, and share a common ancestor with more commonly cultivated species such as spinach, chard, and beets. The fact that it hasn’t been selected for certain superficial traits like color and size, means that it contains even more nutrients than our delicious and purposefully cultivated leafy greens we send to you every week. Most importantly though, it has many uses in the kitchen and tastes wonderful. It is the traditional ingredient in the Indian dish saag paneer, a mixture of leafy greens, garlic, spices, and freshly made cheese.
When cooking with it, simply use other common greens as a reference point. The entire plant can be used, and we recommend separating the leaves from the stem, which should be chopped finely, as it takes slight longer to cook. When preparing the stem, inspect like you would asparagus, i.e., the older and larger it becomes, the more woody it can be. You can use it to bulk up other greens you intend to braise, but it is unique and delicious on its own. It can be eaten raw in a salad; its leaves will hold up to vinaigrette longer than delicate spinach or lettuce. Combined with nuts, garlic, oil, and a hard salty cheese like romano, manchego, or parmesan, lambsquarters can be made into a take on classic pesto.