Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.
Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.
Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.
Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.
Edible Uses of Lambsquarter
Lambsquarter is exceptionally nutritious. Our bodies can produce fourteen of the essential amino acids, but eight of them need to be found in external sources. Lambsquarter is one of those valuable sources.
The whitish dust present on each leaf is made up of mineral salts from the soil and is an indication of its mineral-rich value. Often the lambsquarter leaves will taste salty and therefore make quite a nutritious salt replacement or addition to dishes! Lambsquarter seasoning is made easily by drying the leaves and mixing them with other spices.
Lambsquarter is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, 3.5 ounces of raw lambsquarter, which is about 1 cup of greens, contains 73 percent vitamin A and 96 percent vitamin C of your recommended daily allowances suggested by the USDA. It is also a fantastic source of the B vitamins complex including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
Use Like Spinach
Wild lambsquarter vary in their tastes. The flavor is related not only to different species, but also to the stages of growth and to the soil conditions. In general, however, all lambsquarter leaves are edible. The wild greens can be used just like spinach. They can be eaten fresh in salads, juiced, and added to any recipes that call for greens. They are best eaten when younger, however; when the leaves mature with age, the flavor can change due to a greater potency of oxalic acids. I find that when lambsquarter has built up too many oxalic acids, I experience a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat. This is why I recommend tasting the leaves by themselves before harvesting any quantity of them. This is especially important when making green juices or smoothies. When downing a liquid in several gulps, your body does not have the time to tell you to stop.
Harvest Seeds in the Fall
The seeds make a highly nutritious food staple for multiple uses in recipes. They can be harvested in the fall and ground into cereal or used as flour for bread. Similar to quinoa, lambsquarter seeds can be easily sprouted in one to two days. Add the sprouts to any meal to benefit from the rich nutrients. Lambsquarter seeds also make great microgreens. They start out small and frail looking but given time grow into healthy plants with delicious flavor.
All lambsquarter seeds are edible; however, some are easier to use for a food staple than others. The wild versions have varying natures of seed production. Some varieties are easy to harvest and separate the chaff, while others are quite difficult. When possible, separate the seed from the outer layer and always taste the wild grains alone before adding any seasoning or salt, to get the true taste of the food. This practice will protect you from overeating something that your body would normally tell you to stop eating.
Wild grains are more potent than domesticated grains and a small amount is often enough to sustain your energy. Another way to increase the seeds’ resources is not to cook them, but instead to sprout them. Sprouting the seeds is a natural way to let the outer layer fall off on its own. Using lambsquarter sprouts is a way to increase seed benefits and sustain your winter storage to last even longer! If wild plants are potent already and go a long way, sprouted wild grains are even more concentrated in nutritional value and truly go the extra mile for supporting your optimal health.
Medicinal Uses of Lambsquarter
Lambsquarter is an important source of food that can be considered a key staple, while at the same time it is also an extremely valuable medicine. When the leaves are chewed into a green paste and applied to the body, it makes a great poultice for insect bites, minor scrapes, injuries, inflammation, and sunburn. The greens are beneficial for soothing arthritic joint pain when chewed into a mash and placed directly on the sensitive areas.
The leaves support the decrease of pain by reducing inflammation and bringing about an increase of circulation.
A tea of the leaves is beneficial for diarrhea, internal inflammation, stomach aches, and loss of appetite. The tea can also be used as a wash to heal skin irritations and other external complaints. Soaking the body in bathwater with lambsquarter tea added will support skin health by toning and tightening the tissues.
The green leaves when eaten in their fresh raw state are particularly beneficial for supporting the healing of anemic blood conditions. The leaves are exceptionally rich in iron and help to increase blood cell count and overall vitality of the circulatory system. The greens and seeds are very high in protein and phenolic content, and also have significant antioxidant capacity for eliminating unwanted free radicals in the body.
The roots contain a significant amount of saponin, which creates a natural soapy quality when mashed or beaten. In addition to the roots being extremely useful in making a cleansing soap, the composition of saponin also creates a cleansing and laxative effect in the body when drunk as a tea. Lambsquarter root tea is helpful for removing excesses from the body by the way of assisting elimination.
The young greens, especially when tender in the spring, can be juiced for their calcium and vitamins A, C, and B complex in addition to vital enzymes, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. The juice has a gentle detoxifying nature. Lambsquarter is an important green in this day and age of accumulated pollution. The greens are valuable for purifying the body of unwanted toxins due to their exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll binds with or chelates toxins that may be stored in fat cells and removes them in the urine. Our body is wise and tends to isolate toxins away from our vital organs by storing them in fat cells. When the toxins are released into the bloodstream it is key to have a source of chlorophyll to bind up the toxins until they are discharged from the body. We want to assure that they are not redeposited in the body while in the bloodstream. Fasting is a beneficial way to detoxify the body; however, because of the concentrations of petrochemicals found in our daily environment, it is wise to avoid fasting on water alone. It is best to have the support of wild greens in the form of dilute juices to protect our cleansing bodies from the potential side effects of environmental toxins causing harm on their way out.
The young lambsquarter green juice is delicious, but when the leaves get older, make sure to taste them first to know if the flavor is agreeable to you. The gentle astringent properties of lambsquarter make it healthy for tightening internal organs as well as externally for skin. The juice makes a beautifying and cleansing body wash. It is also a useful mouthwash for tightening the gums and eliminating bad breath.