Known as an undesirable weed to many gardeners, lamb’s quarter has many uses that few utilize. Lamb’s quarter, also known as wild spinach, is a cousin to the popular plant quinoa. It is one of the earliest crops grown in North America and has been traced back by archaeologists over 3,500 years. Lamb’s quarter stands around 1-3 feet tall, it has diamond shaped leaves close to the base while the leaves toward the top of the plant are smaller and thin pointed. They are also covered in a white coating which is a mineral salt. The flowers are greenish white, and clustered together. They can be found near streams, rivers, forest clearings, and disturbed earth. Lamb’s quarter is extremely nutritious and filled with essential minerals and vitamins. One cup of raw greens contains 73% vitamin A and 96% vitamin C of the daily recommended allowances. It is also a great source of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. It is also rich in iron, which can be beneficial to people with deficiencies.

After moving to Alaska, I was intrigued by this plant and surprised to find out that it was edible. An old family friend taught me all about the different parts of the plant and it’s uses. She showed me how to make a paste from the leaves by chewing them to put on my mosquito bites (which were plentiful!) She also used the roots, which contains saponin, as a soap as well. I loved spending the summer picking these plants and bringing them to her to see what she surprised me with next.

Lamb’s quarter as a paste is a great ointment for bites, small scrapes, sunburn, and inflammation. You can also rub it on arthritic joints to soothe them. The leaves can also be dried and used in tea to aid stomach aches and discomfort. All parts of the plant are edible, but they are best eaten when young. You can use them in smoothies, finely chopped into salads or in place of spinach in cooked recipes. You can harvest their seeds in fall, and it can be ground into flour for bread or sprouted like microgreens. Lamb’s quarter contains oxalic acid, commonly found in other greens, and is recommended in small quantities when raw. Cooking the lamb’s quarter or adding lemon juice to your greens will neutralize this acid.

One of my favorite dishes my friend would make is pesto. I could sit there and eat it every day, the luscious spread paired so well with the giant loaf of artisan bread she baked earlier that morning. It was a delicious snack for a summer evening and a great additive to pasta! Below I’ve shared this recipe with you, I hope you enjoy.

Lamb’s quarter pesto:

2-3 cups lamb’s quarter leaves
1/3 cup Parmesan
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Add nuts, garlic, and cheese to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Then add leaves & lemon juice and continue to mix until well combined. Slowly add in olive oil until the desired texture is achieved. You can freeze up to 6 months or in the fridge for a few weeks. 


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