I admit, I’m a little obsessed with lamb’s quarters these days. It’s hard not to be. They’re so abundant and tasty. It’s easy to harvest enough for 10 – 12 meals in less than an hour, then blanch and freeze the leaves to use as wild spinach all year long. After processing my last batch, I was ready to throw away the stems, when I remembered reading that the tender ends of the stems could be steamed or boiled like asparagus. Since I already had them in the kitchen, I figured I’d give it a try. Lamb’s quarters stems are a whole ‘nother vegetable!
You’ll hear lots of foragers talk about using tender shoots (stems) as they would asparagus, but that doesn’t mean the plants taste like asparagus. It simply means they can be treated/prepared the same way asparagus might be prepared. The stems of lamb’s quarters stems are slightly more fibrous than asparagus, and boiling produces a more tender vegetable than steaming. Younger stems harvested in early summer might be fine steamed or microwaved, but by the end of July, you’ll probably want to boil them.
I like to experience the pure taste of a foraged food the first time I make it, rather than load it up with hollandaise or ponzu sauce. Frankly, I think both of these would be delicious with lamb’s quarters stems.
Use only the flexible ends of the stems. In mid to late summer this will give you pieces about eight inches long and between 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. You can feel the right place to cut the stem by flexing it back and forth. If the stem doesn’t bend easily where you are trying to flex it, it’s too tough and you need to move up the stem.
What You’ll Need to Make Lamb’s Quarters Stems
- 20 tender, 8 inch pieces of lamb’s quarters stems, stripped of their leaves
- salt & pepper
- sesame oil
- lemon slices
What You’ll Do to Make Lamb’s Quarters Stems
Boil a few inches of water in a pan large enough to hold the uncut lengths of stem. (I use a sauté pan.) Add the stems to the boiling water and boil for six minutes. Test for doneness and if the stems aren’t entirely tender, boil for a few minutes more.
Strain the stems and return them to the warm pan. Add salt and pepper to taste; start with 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt and adjust as needed. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sesame oil and toss the stems in the pan to distribute the seasoning and oil.
Remove the lamb’s quarter stems to a cutting board and line them up, then cut into bite size pieces. Serve them with a few slices of lemon for a dead simple and surprisingly delicious side dish.