Wild Spinach (what I prefer to call this plant), more commonly called lambsquarters, is cultivated in some regions, the plant is elsewhere considered a weed.
North America was primarily an agricultural society a hundred years ago. So terms like lambsquarters, fat hen and pigweed had a little more meaning to the everyday person. The number of people currently working on farms these days is only a small part of the population, so the old plant names retain little meaning.
What do the terms lambsquarters, fat hen and pigweed all have in common? Farm animals! The impression one gets from these names is that this plant was well known for its ability to fatten up livestock. Farmers today use more systematically efficient ways to feed farm animals than bringing them wild plants. But if you are looking for a simple, low cost and self-sufficient way to feed your livestock there is no better than Wild Spinach (Lambsquarters).
So why “wild spinach”? Everyone in modern society knows what spinach is, and they know it is good for you. Spinach is a cousin of wild spinach. An d while their flavors are different, young wild spinach flavor gives a hint of spinach. Most importantly, you could substitute wild spinach in any cooking recipe that asks for domesticated spinach and, flavor wise, few would notice the difference.
Wild spinach is one of the most nutritious leafy greens ever analyzed, beating out domestic spinach in fiber, beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, copper and maganese. Domesticated spinach wins in omega-3’s, folic acid, and iron. So both are exceptional foods and worthy of being part of a nutritious diet.
The phytochemical and antioxidant potential of this plant have yet to be investigated in depth or in any organized fashion. And even though this plant contains soluble oxalates like cultivated spinach, its widespread use in North America would be a great addition to the array of vegetables we eat. Widespread use already occurs in other parts of the globe.
Wild spinach contains a considerable amount of oxalic acid. Oxalates tend to bind with calcium and other minerals, making them partially unavailable. But in spite of that, wild spinach is still a nutritional powerhouse. Oxalates are not a problem for normal healthy people eating a good diverse diet.
Wild spinach has tremendous potential as a wild food and as a new crop plant. It already grows with little effort on farmland and on any disturbed soil.
It is delicious and abundant, produces lots of seeds for next year’s growth, is easily harvested, and requires no special preparation to fit into any conventional greens recipe.
- Growing tips of leafy stems
- Bud Clusters
Where Does Wild Spinach (Chenopodium Album) Grow?
How To Identify Wild Spinach (Chenopodium Album)
Wild spinach sprouts are small. by the time they have four leaves, they look a little like tiny green propellers. The coryledons (first two leaves) are linear and straight with a rounded tip. The second two leaves are more lance-shaped ( a little wider at the base) and occasionally show the beginnings of teeth along the margins. They are covered with hundreds of tiny glistening grains.
Sprouts of wild spinach and green amaranth can be confused. They are different in the following ways: amaranth’s coytledons, while strap-like, are less straight along the edges, and their tips are round but show some tapering. Amaranth’s first two leaves after the cotyledons are often reddish and more rounded, and have a clear mid vein and a notched tip.
One of the reasons that wild spinach is also called goosefoot is because the leaves eventually take on the appearance of a web-footed waterfowl. That leaf shape can vary a bit from narrow and pointed to quite round. From an overhead view, the leaves are arranged in a starburst pattern, radiating out from the center.
Just like the sprouts, the whole plant is covered with a fine crystalline, waxy-like powder, which is most evident and denser at the growing tips.
As the growing tips expand in size, the powder spreads out and becomes less obvious. This powder is an important identifying characteristic fro the plant and also renders the plant waterproof. Water droplets bead up and roll right off during a rain storm. You can use a spray mister to test this in the field.