There is likely a salad green growing near you | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

There is likely a salad green growing near you

Lamb' s quarter is a self-sustaining weed that is delicious to eat

While our cultivated backyard garden keeps expanding, I'm a bigger fan than ever of the "weed" called lamb's quarter.

Spinach and lettuce must be planted and tended, and still they get stripped by mysterious insects. Lamb's quarter, by contrast, grows on its own, everywhere, in profusion, from late spring into fall, and nothing seems to eat it (except gophers).

Chenopodium album tastes like spinach and is super-nutritious. The USDA' s nutritional website says it' s full of calcium and vitamins A, C and K, and even packs significant iron and protein.

Its green leaves are diamond-shaped and roughly serrated, the lighter-colored undersides having a powdery feel. While lamb's quarter bushes can reach several feet in height, this annual, non-native species' leaves are perhaps half-dollar-sized. But they' re easy to harvest. And don't worry about pulling a whole plant up by the roots for lunch; another one's probably already growing nearby.

My salads this June have had more lamb's quarter than any other green, its mild flavor complemented by bitter arugula. But it also steams and sautées nicely. Use it any way you would spinach.

If such a wild plant is so great, why bother cultivating greens? Variety' s sake aside, that' s a good question. Like fellow edible weeds dandelions and purslane, lamb' s quarter reminds us of how permaculturalists are working to grow food in ways that mimic nature, with perennial or self-seeding plants. Someday, perhaps, we can all eat this well, for free.

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