The other day I got an e-mailed advertisement, “Frugal is the new fashionable!” it declared. As I hit “delete”, I chuckled to myself, “If that's the case, I must be incredibly cool. After all, we ate garden weeds for dinner last night.”
Yes, it's true. We sometimes eat our weeds. What's more, you should too―they're delicious. Purslane, dandelion greens, wild onions, lambsquarter―all are edible and fairly easy to identify correctly with just a little research beforehand.
At our house right now we happen to be rich in lambsquarter.
Lambsquarter is most easily identified by the powdery appearance of its blue-green leaves. The leaves are also shaped like webbed feet, which is probably what led to one of lambsquarter's more common names, “goosefoot”.
Like spinach, which is lambsquarter's domesticated cousin, lambsquarter is packed with vitamins and minerals. If you find a patch, you'll be set all summer as―like most weeds―lambsquarter can take care of itself without much human help.
There are just a few precautions to take before you dig in.
Also like spinach, lambsquarter contains oxalic acid, which can interfere with iron and calcium absorption. To avoid that problem, either don't eat much of it or lightly steam it before eating, which will break down the acid.
When you think you've found a patch of lambsquarter, crush a few leaves in your hands. They should be odorless or give off just a slight “green” smell. If they smell like resin or turpentine, you've found one of lambsquarter's poisonous cousins and should leave it be.
Last, as is important any time you're foraging, make sure you're not picking from a spot that's been treated with chemicals or could otherwise be contaminated. That's a quick way to get sick.
Once you've successfully identified and picked a big basket of lambsquarter you can use it just about any way you'd use spinach. I like to mix ours with a small handful of basil and make up a big batch of this pesto.
Lambsquarter Pesto (makes about 1 ½ cups)
- About 4 cups packed lambsquarter leaves
- 1/2 cup packed basil
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are all good choices)
- About ½ cup olive oil
- salt, to taste
Wash the lambsquarter well. Leaving most of the water clinging to the leaves, transfer them to a lidded skillet and cook over medium heat until the leaves turn bright green and begin to wilt.
Then, scrape the leaves out into the bowl of a food processor and pulse them together with the basil.
Once the leaves have broken down just a little, add the garlic and nuts and continue to pulse until everything has turned into a bright green paste.
Finally, leaving the processor on low, drizzle in the olive oil. You'll know you've used enough when the pesto magically seems to come together. For me, that amount is usually right around half a cup.
Add a good pinch of salt right at the end, pulse a few more times, then taste your pesto. Add more salt or garlic if necessary.
When it's seasoned to your liking, pack your pesto into small jars or tupperware. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for about 6 months, and it's great on pasta, bruschetta or as a marinade for grilled meat.