Edible Weeds: Weed Them and Eat!

| 8/17/2012 1:47:27 PM

A few years ago, during our daughter Addie’s senior year at the University of Chicago (yes, the Green Barbarian Lifestyle does produce fantastically brilliant and beautiful children, both of whom graduated from the University of Chicago, and thank you for noticing!), she managed to acquire one of the very scarce community garden plots available near the University. By the time she took possession, most of the other plots had already been planted, and hers was knee deep in weeds, many of which she harvested and brought home, much to the amazement of her roommates, who had never heard of, much less eaten, lambs-quarters, (Chenopodium album) which is one of our family’s favorite greens.   

Lambs Quarters Plant 

Ever since my husband and I first started harvesting and eating lambs-quarters (pictured above) about 30 years ago, we have not bothered planting spinach, because not only are lambs-quarters cheap, easy, and abundant in the garden, like many wild relatives of cultivated vegetables, they are also more nutritious than their domesticated kin. And, since they contain far less oxalic acid, I find lambs-quarters much tastier than spinach.  

But I digress. Addie and her roommates were mutually astonished. Up until that moment, she hadn’t realized that most Americans do not eat weeds, and perhaps, because of our family’s attitude towards the edible volunteers that come up in our garden, she hadn’t really thought of lambs-quarters as a weed: It was simply our favorite spring green, which we steamed and ate with mayonnaise; sautéed in olive oil with garlic and onions; cooked in an omelet; or added to soups. (Every spring, when I do the first major weeding — which is mostly done with an eye towards stocking the freezer — I pull the lambs-quarters out by the roots, snip the root ends off with a scissors, and put the stalks in a colander. Once indoors, I pluck the most tender, healthiest leaves off the stems, and freeze the leaves in freezer bags so that all winter long I can add lambs-quarters to my soups.) 

Two of my very favorite wild greens come up a bit later than lambs-quarters: stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), a perennial plant that I brought with me when we moved, and purslane (Portulaca oleracea), which grows like a weed everywhere that there is rich soil. 

Stinging Nettle Weed 

5/3/2016 4:57:26 PM

I hate to sound stupid, but how do I tell a mature purslane leaf from an immature one?

5/16/2013 1:05:47 AM

Thank you for this article.  In New Mexico, the locals call Lamb's Quarters "Kelita's".  It's amazing warmed up with a little lemon on it.


5/16/2013 1:04:11 AM

Thank you for this article.  In New Mexico, the locals call Lamb's Quarters "Kelita's".  It's amazing warmed up with a little lemon on it.


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