Weeds are, more often than not, considered noxious nuisances in the garden, and yet they have much to give. They grow in abundance, do not fear the harsh Yukon climate, and don’t need any fussing over to grow. Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium album), also known as pig weed, is one such plant. It happily grows in every Yukon garden, self-seeds profusely, is among the first greens to appear, and I absolutely love seeing it in my garden!
Lamb’s quarter is in the same family as spinach, amaranth, and quinoa. It is packed with nutrients (proteins, vitamins A, B and C, essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium) and fiber, and has medicinal properties such as anti-parasitic and appetite improving qualities. Which of course is no surprise, considering how delicious it tastes, raw or cooked!
So why work so hard to get rid of this “weed”, when you can enjoy it as one of your most abundant garden greens, with no effort at all? If you have lamb’s quarter growing in your garden in the spring, simply clear it out of the area where you will seed or plant your veggies. While you wait on your salad greens to sprout and grow, you can harvest the young lamb’s quarter leaves and make salads with them. Start by harvesting the ones closest to where your other vegetables are growing and work your way out from there. And once the other salad greens are ready to be picked, the lamb’s quarter will be big enough to be harvested in bigger batches and cooked like spinach. Or blanch and freeze them for garden greens year-round. And the seeds can be saved and used in soups or baked goods for added protein.
Growing your own food in the Yukon is a lot of work, but if you keep an eye out for edible weeds, you may not have to work quite so hard. Other weeds to cherish are chickweed, strawberry blight, stinging nettle, clover, and plantain. They are just waiting for you to add them to your salad bowl!
Gray, Beverley – The Boreal Herbal. Aroma Borealis Press, 2011.
MacKinnon et al. – Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, 2009.
Schofield, Janice J. – Alaska’s Wild Plants. West Margin Press, 2020.