Lamb’s quarters is extremely nutritious, in some nutrients moreso than its relatives, spinach and beets. The leaves are a superior source of beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron. It also contains trace minerals, B vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. The seeds, available in the fall, contain protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and niacin. "Wildman" Steve Brill reports in his great book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, that Napoleon used the seeds to make bread for his army when grain was scarce. I even found this really cool website that lists the daily value of the nutrients in lamb’s quarters. It probably does other weeds as well, so I’m going to look at it more. Apparently, if a food has 20% or more of the daily value of some nutrient, it is considered high in that nutrient. Get this, lamb’s quarters has 281%DV of vitamin A, 111% vitamin C, and 1112% vitamin K! Honest! Check it out yourself! Now do you believe me?
Get a good field guide, like the one I just mentioned, or Weeds of the Northeast, before eating anything you are not familiar with, but do start using this wonderful plant. It has a very mild flavor, hardly noticeable, really. It’s delicious both raw or cooked. You can use both the tender young shoots and the leaves, especially the smaller, younger ones. I put it in my salads and add it to my soups. You can chop it, stems and leaves (preferably not the older, tougher stems, but they are still edible) and cook as you would spinach. However, it does lose about 2/3 of its volume, so collect a lot, or mix it with something else. Once I made a side dish of a bag of frozen spinach and Lamb’s Quarters. Somehow the kids noticed a difference, but ate it anyway, without complaint. It was still quite pleasant.
When collecting, check closely for aphids or tiny eggs on the undersides of leaves. I can only surmise that this plant is so darn good for you that even insects prefer it. Use only leaves with no chew marks or little red lines that look like a miner bug has been in it. Older plants are more likely to have these issues, but there are plenty healthy plants around!
I now include Lamb’s Quarters in my Edible Bouquets, in an effort to introduce this delicious and nutritious wild plant to more palettes. From now on, if you see it while weeding, don’t throw it out; run it right into the kitchen!