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If you can’t grow spinach, eat weeds

May 28, 2013

We moved five years ago and have not been able to grow spinach in our new garden. It is a great garden with much better soil than at our old rocky place … but spinach does not thrive here.

Here is my one lonely spinach plant that came up this year.


For several years, I’ve been listening to my neighbor, Harold, tell me I ought to try eating lambsquarter. Harold is in his eighties and whenever we have a gardening question, we ask him. (You can spell lambsquarter like that or as two separate words, the dictionary says).

If you garden in North America, you have likely seen this weed. It is ubiquitous and fierce to pull if you let it go like we sometimes do at the end of the season and it grows to be 4-5 tall.

Of course it is no good to eat when it gets like that, but when it is smaller and fresh especially in spring, Harold said he welcomes and loves lambsquarter—along with his dandelion greens.


Small lambsquarter growing all over my garden.

So this week instead of weedeating the tall plants that always grow along the edge of our house,  we ate weeds, and loved them—in a fresh salad.


Lambsquarter with a bit of cilantro.

I’d like to try sautéing them with a bit of onion and garlic too and serve with a splash of vinegar like collard or turnip greens.

The dressing I used on my small lambsquarter salad was from a slaw recipe from my niece-by-marriage Jessica, who was about five months pregnant at the time she made this for our extended family when we were on a camping/cabin family vacation in Kentucky. She talked her dear husband into driving one hour each way to fetch soy sauce that had been forgotten. I thought that was pretty remarkable: that she asked her husband, and that he went!  The salad was remarkable too: it is a very common recipe, but always tasty. First is her recipe, then how I adapted it for my small lambsquarter salad.


Keeping lambsquarter fresh in a jar of water until ready to fix.

Jessica’s “Kentucky” Salad (Cabbage slaw with Ramen noodles)

3 packages Ramen noodles only (I used chicken flavor)
2 one pound bags of shredded cabbage (or shred it yourself)
1 cup slivered almonds, browned lightly in butter in a skillet
2 bunches green onions, chopped to small rounds
(Can be prepared ahead of time; refrigerate until serving)

1 cup sugar
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup cider vinegar
2 Tb. soy sauce

Shake dressing together to blend.
Add Ramen noodles and dressing to cabbage mixture at the last minute.
Serves 15 or more with leftovers, which are great, even though the Ramen noodles get a bit soggy.

Lambsquarter Salad

1 cup lambsquarter leaves
¼ crumbled Feta cheese
¼ cup pecans, chopped
½ cup fresh strawberries, slivered or quartered

Wash weeds thoroughly.
Snap off leaves.
Add cheese, pecans, strawberries or any of your favorite condiments.  Serve with your favorite dressing.

I had some of Jessica’s leftover dressing (described above) from an earlier salad, which I had refrigerated. Naturally the olive oil congealed and looked gross. However, I put it in a glass measuring cup, heated it briefly in the microwave until I could stir it up again. I served it warm on the salad—it was like a hot dressing on greens which many people love.

I especially loved that we were eating free food and loving it! Here are some more recipes for serving lambsquarter leaves.

But guess what I spied in the garden today: a few shoots of new spinach that I had replanted. It’s a little late, but with the wacky weather we’ve been having, it may stay cool enough to mature. A gardener  or farmer is nothing if she doesn’t have hope!


Do you have a tasty weed  to recommend? Any recipes to share?



From → Food, Nature, Recipes

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