eating pigweed & lambs quarter

kabutiJune 27, 2007

I have a large pigweed (amaranth?)growing in one of the garden beds, very healthy & a good sized lambs quarter just on the edge of a path. Since it has amused me to leave them there & I have been using the branches to shade the tomatoes. I picked a mess of leaves & boiled with chicken bullion. As good as any spinach or any other green Ive tried save for beet greens, always the best. we also have lots of purslane, I think it is eaten raw in salad? What do you think?

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nygardener(z6 New York)

Don't know about pigweed, but lamb's quarters is a surprisingly good (and nutritious) green, considering that it volunteers everywhere. The young leaves are even good raw. Purslane cooks up well sautd with garlic or whatever you want to add.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:06AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Purslane is also good raw. I add it to salads or just nibble on it. It's extremely high in Omega 3 fatty acids (what we're told to eat fish or flax oil for) and also high in several vitamins, including C.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 5:39AM
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My mother was just complaining this morning that she was way too nice to the wild lamb's quarters, and now it has taken over her garden.

She uses it the same as she would spinach, and makes a great Lamb's Quarters Quiche.

She also eats burdock, leaks and cow slips, but I don't think I've ever gotten a sample of those recipes.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:17AM
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Lamb's quarters contains more iron than spinach. Consider using it as a ravioli filling. Deelish!

Purslane has the most Omega 3 of any edible plant and is best eaten raw in salads since you retain the nutrients over cooking.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:53AM
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I copied a webpage on pigweed. My daughter had an asian friend who said that her family ate the tender tips all the time. Just be cautious with some of these plant varieties.


Amaranthus retroflexus

(pigweed family)

TOXICITY RATING: High. The plant is quite common and very toxic.

ANIMALS AFFECTED: Cattle and swine are the animals most likely to be affected; goats and sheep can also be poisoned.

DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT: Leaves, stems, roots.

CLASS OF SIGNS: Breathing problems, trembling, weakness, abortions, coma, death.

PLANT DESCRIPTION: Redroot pigweed (fig. 33) is a large (to 5 feet tall), coarse, annual with red stems and simple, egg-shaped, wavy-margined, alternate leaves. The green, inconspicuous flowers are borne in short, compact clusters along with green spines. Seeds are small, shiny, and black. Fields, barnyards, and waste areas are the favorite habitats of this weed.

SIGNS: Pigweed contains a nephrotoxin that causes kidney failure, and also contains soluble oxalates and is capable of accumulating nitrates. Therefore, toxicity can be due to any combination of these toxicoses.

Animals need to consume pigweed in fairly significant quantities over several days before signs appear. Typically, onset of signs is 3 to 7 days from the onset of ingestion. Animals will usually avoid pigweed if there are better forages available. Common incidences of poisonings have occurred when swine have been raised in confinement and are then turned out into a pigweed-infested pasture in the late summer to early fall. Under these circumstances, the swine consume large amounts of the plant quickly, with 5-90% of the animals becoming affected, with 75% or greater mortality among the affected animals. Modern management practices have largely eliminated this type of poisoning, but it can still occur. In cattle, pigweed toxicosis resembles oak toxicosis.

In affected animals, early signs include weakness, trembling and incoordination. This progresses to an inability to stand and paralysis, yet the animals may still be alert and able to eat. Near the end of the clinical course, the affected animals may go into a coma, and have edema under the skin of the abdomen and the legs, have a bloated abdomen, and die. The course of the disease is approximately 48 hours and is primarily consistent with kidney failure. Cases where animals consume smaller amounts of plants over long time periods have not been well studied, but this is also believed to cause toxicology problems.

Treatment with herbicides may render pigweed even more palatable, therefore make sure all treated plants are dead prior to introducing animals.

FIRST AID: If pigweed is being rapidly consumed, limit further access and ingestion of the plants. A veterinarian will be able to provide supportive care for the different toxicants contained in pigweed, but the animals may still succumb to the nitrates, soluble oxalates or the kidney toxin.

SAFETY IN PREPARED FEEDS: Pigweed is not safe in hay or other prepared feeds.

PREVENTION: To prevent pigweed poisoning, do not allow animals to have access to affected pastures, especially if the animals are hungry. Spray or mow plants down, making sure they are dead before animals are on pasture. Provide for supplemental feed if pasture quality is poor, since well-fed animals are less likely to consume pigweed.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:36AM
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Last year was our first with our new garden(s) here in Tahlequah, OK. As I was battling to get some soil under cultivation, I noticed one (just one) lamb's quarters plant coming up in my squash patch. I left it, thinking that perhaps it would multiply and we could get some good eating from it. Well, this year we had at least 150 square feet of thick lamb's quarters come up! It was easy to weed out. But I ended up leaving about 60 square feet, where I had intended to plant something else. It's just too productive and delicious to justify weeding it out! We're freezing many pounds of it for winter use. The whole family loves it. I'll remember to leave one or two plants go to seed (but no more)this year!

On another vein, back in 1989, when our family was living in the Sierra to the north of Puebla, Puebla; our neighbors pointed out a delicious green, growing in the corn fields. They called it *quintonil rojo*. "Rojo" means red. It's a variety of amaranth, closely related to pig weed with celosia type seed sprays. I scattered some seed in our garden and it came up as long as we lived there. When we moved to the state of Hidalgo, to the high desert, where this stuff wasn't found, I scattered some seed on our new garden and it grew for us every year (8 years) producing many delicious meals. When we moved to NJ, I scattered the seed and it did the same, for 4 years. When we moved to Oklahoma, I scattered the seed... and none came up! So, this year I started some indoors, in a pot and we now have it growing int the garden again. It too, like pigweed, is delicious, only I find that it is a larger plant.

These semi domesticated plants are really handy since they have weed like vigor but produce good food! Incidentally, the simplest way we enjoy both of these plants is to steam or boil them and serve with a dash of soy sauce.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Karen Pease

Bmoser: It's called pigweed because it used to be used as pig fodder. Amaranth is cultivated for human food all over the world, too; it's incredibly nutrient-rich, esp. the seed. The leaves do contain some oxylates and nitrates, though, so intake should be limited esp. by those with kidney problems.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 12:09PM
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Karen, I get your point but just wanted to add a word of caution. I'm very familiar with this weed. Growing up and pulling it we always referred to it as "redroot".

A deceased friend was an extension veterinarian who wrote a book on poisonous weeds. Raising dairy goats was also a hobby of Sam's. Sam had been feeding his goats Comfrey and I remember him asking if I could test the protein level on this herb that had increased milk production of his goats. A few weeks later Sam requested more testing since some of his goats had died, others aborted. It turns out that Comfrey tends to accumulate Nitrares in high levels under certain weather conditions.

Many of these "Weeds" are untested under varying weather and growing conditions.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:11PM
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