Category Archives: Edible weeds

Susun Weed’s article on Lambsquarters

Here is a picture of our Magenta Lambsquarters.

I started to write an entry about this amazing plant and then found that Susan Weed had previously written one. I am a big fan of her books and her work in general.

Here is her article reposted here from Wisdom Magazine’s Web Edition (

Susan Weed wrote-

I told the new apprentice we were having lamb’s quarters for dinner.
“I won’t have any. I’m a vegetarian,” she replied.
With a smile, I corrected myself. “Some people call it fat hen.”
“I don’t eat chicken either,” she responded with a frown.
“It’s also called goosefoot,” I countered, suppressing a grin.
“Not goose, not even the feet, do I eat,” she said with force.
And I agreed, “Pigweed is a more common name for it.”
“No matter what kind of animal it is, I am NOT going to eat it,” she stated firmly, her eyes shining with fervor and unshed tears.
I confessed, now openly laughing. “It’s a weed. A plant. A cooked green!”

Whatever you call it, Chenopodium album and its edible sisters – there are dozens of useful species – is a versatile weed that offers incredible amounts of nourishment to those who harvest it instead of cursing it. It is one of the most widely distributed plants in the world, tolerant of poor soils, high altitudes, and minimal rainfall. Global warming is just fine with lamb’s quarters. In higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, it grows almost double in size. And that’s good news for those who are in the know about its benefits.

The young, tender leaves of lamb’s quarter are tasty in salads. The older leaves, stripped from their stalks and cooked in a small amount of water for thirty minutes or more, are a rich and tasty bone-building green. Left to mature, lamb’s quarter plants produce copious amount of protein-rich seeds which are easy to harvest and use. The roots are used as medicine.

The goosefoot family (cheno is goose, pod is foot) includes lamb’s quarters, quinoa, spinach, red beets, sugar beets, and Swiss chard (silver beet). Indigenous peoples all over the world have made use of wild goosefoots and cultivated them, too. Chenopodium seed stores have been found in many European Neolithic ruins. They were in the ritual meal fed to the Tollund Man 2000 years ago in Denmark.

In North America, Blackfoot Indians used the seeds as early as 1500CE, while both lamb’s quarter greens and the seeds are firmly embedded in the cultures and meals of the Navajo, the Pueblo, all the tribes of Arizona, the Diggers of California, and the Iroquois. In South America several tamed wild goosefoots have been created: Chenopodium quinoa and canahua for their nutritious seeds; huauzoutte for its delicious greens.

I am especially fond of lamb’s quarter greens cooked. A half-cup serving (110 grams) contains over 300 mg of calcium (Swiss chard has 88g, spinach 93g) and 11,600 IU of vitamin A activity. (Swiss chard has 6500, spinach 8100.) Lamb’s quarter greens are also an excellent source of B vitamins, especially riboflavin and folic acid. And they are more than four percent protein.

Lamb’s quarter leaves enrich plants as well as people. Bio-dynamic farmers dry them and combine with equal parts dried dandelion, nettle, purslane, sage, and chamomile to make a special plant food for the autumn garden.

Depending on where you live, it may be too late to enjoy lamb’s quarters greens right now. Lamb’s quarters is an annual, so it doesn’t last long once it has put out its tiny green flowers. But you can probably still harvest lamb’s quarter seeds. I harvest protein- and mineral-rich lamb’s quarter for seed in September and early October here in the Catskills. I cut the plants low to the ground and immediately put them heads down – in paper bags.

When I have harvested all I want, I lay fresh paper or an old sheet on the floor, take the plants out of the paper bags, and hang them – still heads down – above. The seeds that fall out as the plants dry are easy to collect. I use my hands to release the seeds that don’t fall out. I dehydrate the seeds in a very slow oven (110F), let them cool completely, then store them, chaff and all, in a tightly sealed glass jar.

I cook lamb’s quarter seeds in with any grain that I make, such as brown rice, kasha, even quinoa. I stir lamb’s quarter seeds (and nettle seeds and plantain seeds) into my morning oatmeal when I put it up to boil. I sprinkle lamb’s quarter seeds in pancakes and muffins and cornbread. I add lamb’s quarter seeds to soups, sautéing them with the onion at the beginning of the soup making. I throw lamb’s quarter seeds into my tomato sauce, where they add so much flavor and protein that some people swear I’ve used meat in my sauce.

Lamb’s quarter seeds are totally safe to eat, but there are two cautions to keep in mind when eating lamb’s quarter leaves. All edible plants in this family – including spinach and chard – concentrate oxalic acid in the leaves. And oxalic acid can interfere with calcium utilization unless eaten with a good source of calcium, such as cheese or yogurt, at the same meal. The roots of lamb’s quarter search out and concentrate nitrogen (protein). Plants growing in fields that have been heavily fertilized (with chemical fertilizers) can contain large amount of nitrites and nitrates. Fertilized plants have harmed livestock and, theoretically, could harm us.

Green blessings are all around you. And a gardener’s best revenge is to eat the weeds, especially lamb’s quarter.


Herb Salt-

Lamb’s quarter leaves are so mineral-rich that they can be used alone as a salt substitute. But adding aromatic herbs enlivens the taste. Adding seaweed not only makes this herb salt salty, it increases the nutritive benefits.

1 part dried lamb’s quarter leaves
1 part dried thyme or rosemary
1 part dried dill or celery leaves
1 part dried marjoram or oregano
2 parts dried seaweed (Nereocystis kelp is the best)

Gently toast seaweed in a cast iron skillet until very crisp. Grind each herb in a coffee mill while seaweed cools. Then grind seaweed and combine with ground herbs. Store in a shaker.

Zuni Steamed Dumplings

From Carolyn Niethammer’s American Indian Food and Lore (c. 1974). An easy and delicious wild food addition to any casserole, stew or soup.

Combine 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 cup cornmeal with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add slowly to 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Cover and thicken over low heat. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup ground lamb’s quarter seeds. Form into small balls. Place on a rack over boiling water and steam for 15-20 minutes, or until done. Add to a casserole, stew, or soup and cook gently for another half hour before serving.

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Lambsquarters Pasta with Pesto!

In Cooking From the Garden Camp making our own pasta is always one of the highlights. This year we have an abundance of a highly nutritious “weed” called Lambsquarters. I have let it go to seed in the garden to the point that it is just about everywhere. That’s fine with us since it is excellent fodder for the chickens, ducks and rabbit. Better yet, it’s highly nutritious food for us!

We intentionally got our first plant as a weed in a seedling from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center ( They grow the variety called Magenta Lambsquarters (Chenopodium Giganteum). In our garden these plants grow as tall as 6 feet. They are super high in Vitamin C and A and are loaded with minerals too. Around here we call Lambsquarters a “superfood”. They are so nutritious that friends have been making green smoothies with them. The kids love the magenta variety because they contain a pink powdery substance at the growth center of each leaf. This powder comes off with their fingers and they like to paint their faces with it. They love being able to paint their faces and then pop the leaf in their mouth and eat it. Even the seeds can be eaten as a source of protein and minerals. One half cup of seed contains 19.6 grams of protein, 1036 milligrams of Calcium, 1687 milligrams of Potassium and 27.1 grams of fiber. They can be ground and used as a hot cereal or added to bread. One plant produces seeds like you wouldn’t believe and brings Bushtits and Chickadees to the garden in droves. Just yesterday the kids were happy to find the more common variety (Chenopodium album) growing in our favorite forage field.

So… back to the pasta! We harvested our Lambsquarters and steamed it up to use instead of spinach for making green pasta. While we were in the garden we also harvested Italian Parsley, Cilantro, and Chickweed with which to make pesto.

Into the pasta dough went our pureed Lambsquarters and homegrown duck eggs. The kids love making anything they can get their hands gooey in!

A little muscle went into kneading the dough.

Then, even more muscle went into cranking out the pasta.

First, they made sheets of pasta then they ran it through the linguine cutter and hung it up to dry a bit.

Counting the noodles was a fun task. They counted 109!

I refrigerated the pasta in an air-tight container overnight. For lunch the next day we boiled it up, topped it with our pesto and a little grated Pecorino-Romano. They devoured it all! It was hit!

Herbs for Kids Camp

We harvested garlic and Stinging Nettles and both are now are hanging up to dry. We made mint sun tea and juiced lemons. The next day we combined both and made our first lemon-mint sorbet. We processed dried Lemon Balm for tea. Lucy happily filled a big jar to take home.

On our field trip to Salmon Creek School we spent lots of time in the garden. Everyone picked there own herbs for tea and we all tried different combinations. We had Spearmint and Peppermint leaves, Chamomile flowers, and Raspberry leaves. In the past we’ve used Calendula flowers, Lavender flowers and Sage too. The kids were so happy with their teas that many of them made a second cup.

They also discovered the Jerusalem Sage flowers and happily sucked the nectar out of every last one! Next to the beautiful cob greenhouse was a large Bronze Fennel. Calvin was particularly fond of munching on the leaves and with his teeth in their current state I couldn’t resist taking a picture.

Every day of camp we played the WILDCRAFT! board game, read stories from Leslie Tierra’s A Kid’s Herb Book, and tried herbal recipes from the great zine series Herbal Roots. If someone got a splinter or mosquito bite we made an herbal remedy for it. These kids are so open and curious. They really want to learn and they know so much already. They never cease to amaze me!

Weeding Our Neighbor’s Garden, Part 2 (Chickweed)

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is delicious and plentiful in the backyards of our neighborhood. When we can’t keep up with it we feed it to our chickens and ducks who love it. It comes up on its own in the garden beds and is easy to identify. The stem when gently broken and pulled apart has a little ‘string’ inside. When the plant blooms the flower looks like a little star. Hence the name Stellaria.

My favorite Spring tonic! Chickweed is highly nutritious and contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid. I have made a salad of only chickweed and dressing much to my taste buds’ delight. It tastes just like a spinach salad without the funny feel on your teeth. I have read about large quantities causing stomach upset but I’ve sure never experienced it. Lately I’ve been making pesto out of it. Because the flavor is so mild I add Cilantro to spice it up a bit. Just combine garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper with your herbs in a blender. That’s it. I make big batches in wide mouth jars and then freeze it. We’ve been eating pesto all winter this way. We put it on everything! We put in on toast, sandwiches, tamales, pasta, rice dishes, meat loaf, anything that needs a little extra flavor.

I’m not the only one around here who’s hooked on Chickweed pesto on toast topped with a backyard egg!