Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wild Spinach, also called Lamb's Quarters or Goosefoot – "Chenopodium Album", Annual Forb/Herb

This was a fun weekend as I went canoing with friends down the Cahawba River.  Along the way we saw beautiful scenery including Bald Eagles, beautiful fern covered soapstone banks and beautiful edible plants including Spotted Ladysthumb (Polygonum Persicaria), wild grapes, Broadleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria Latifolia) and one of my favorites, Lambsquarters (Chenopodium Album).

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Lambsquarters "Chenopodium Album"

Lambsquarters is also commonly spelled also Lamb's Quarters.  Other common names for this plant are Goosefoot, Fat Hen and even White Goosefoot mainly because the shape of the leaves resembles  goose's feet.  The plant is in the Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot) family.

C. Album is not the only plant in the Chenopodium genus that is edible, but it is the only plant I will be talking about today.  Lambsquarters is also called wild spinach probably because its taste resembles spinach and it is also rich in oxalic acid, vitamins A,  C and other minerals and proteins making this plant a very valuable nutritional source.

Lambsquarters is located in waste places, cultivated grounds or gardens, old fields and I have seen it a lot growing along the Cahawba River.
This weekend I went with a few friends on a two day float down the Cahawba River and we had a blast.  Along the way we stopped on a few sandbars and I spotted some wild spinach right way.  Being an annual it often grows in stands together as the seeds/grains often drop near the original plant.
Here is the group that went on the float this weekend...
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We started this trip in Centerville, Alabama November 2010 traveling over 30 miles in three days.  This time the water cfs was higher and we made 26 miles in just 1 1/2 days making the final journey into Selma, Alabama.

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Beautiful scenery the entire trip.

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This was a 2' drop a couple of years ago.  The water was higher this time, but it was still fun.   However we were wearing life jackets here due to the high cfs and suck hole nature of the drop.

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There were multiple eagles following us downstream for miles.

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Can't live without a good cell phone and gps battery.  Go solar :)

So, anyway, back to the plant of the week, Lambsquarters;  It was real easy to prepare and cook.  I took a large zip lock back, so I took the leaves and minor tender stems and placed them in the Ziploc bag with some bottled water, zipped the bag and shook vigorously to clean the beach sand off the leaves.  I then drained and placed the leaves on a propane burner with some water, a little garlic, salt and pepper to boil for about 6 minutes.  Lambsquaters is completely edible raw in salads so the boiling was not to necessarily make it edible, or even more tender.  It was really about trying to get my friends to try some, and Aaron did.  Shane and Jason just aren't the "spinach eating type (I think they are meat eaters mainly).

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Wild Spinach on the campstove - Cahawba River

There was one poisonous plant that looks similar to wild spinach when "young" growing on the river banks in great abundance and that plant is cockle burr.  The younger plants are the only ones that have leaves resembling the "goosefoot" but with close inspection you'll notice the hairs and rough texture on the plant.  You'll probably look around and notice older plants with much larger and wider leaves as well.  Stay away from this plant.  There are books that say the oil extracted from the seeds are edible, but I do not know of anyone trying it, but I have read that farm animals have died from eating cockle burr.  Another poisonous look-a-like that grows in the south is nettleleaf goosefoot (Chenopodium murale), so stay away from that plant as well.

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NOT lambsquaters.  This is young cockle burr and is poisonous.

Don't let it discourage you that there are a few plants slightly resembling Lambsquarters.  Just learn your plants.  Lambsquarters has dark green leaves with a silvery underside and sometimes the upper leaves have a powdery or "frosted" like appearance.  Also, the leaves are waterproof and water should "bead" up on the leaves.

It can be boiled or eaten raw in salads.  Below is another picture of a salad I made previously combining regular lettuce, wild green amaranth (pigweed) and lambsquaters.

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Wild Pigweed and Wild Spinach (lambsquaters) salad

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Amaranth (Pigsweed) Left and Wild Spinach (Lambsquaters) Right

Without a doubt, this plant tastes good, is easy to prepare (eaten raw or boiled) and is one of my favorite wild vegetables.

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