Thursday, June 17, 2010

CSA weeks 1 & 2: Lamb's-quarters

For the first time in several years, our family is staying in the DC area for the summer, and I'm participating in community sponsored agriculture -- a CSA. For a flat fee at the beginning of the summer, I get a weekly share of the farm's harvest, a grocery bag full of fresh vegetables, eggs and fruit.

I like that I know where my vegetables were grown (on Allan Balliett's farm, near Shepherdstown, WV), that they are grown biodynamically, and that they were harvested the same day I receive them.

Fresh & Local CSA's Web site promises "over 150 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs" in the course of the season, but I was still surprised by the quantity and diversity in the market bag when it was all spread out before m.

There were spring onions and shallots, fava beans, purslane, lamb's-quarters, chard, escarole, heirloom lettuce (Simpson), mixed baby greens, and basil. What to do with this bounty?

I had to go online and find images to identify the purslane and lamb's-quarters. I learned that lamb's-quarters is also known as pigweed, dungweed, or goosefoot. This did not immediately inspire me to start cooking.

Some online sources recommend using tender young lamb's-quarters in salads. I tasted a raw leaf and found it weedy and unappealing. It had a flavor like the smell of a fresh-cut lawn.

Several recipes treated lamb's-quarters like spinach. I took spring onion and garlic scapes from the market bag, minced them and sauteed them in olive oil. I found a yellow bell pepper in the fridge that needed to be cooked, so I diced some of that and tossed it in the pan, mostly for the color contrast.

The lamb's quarters took a little longer to wilt in the pan than spinach would, and it didn't cook down quite as much. I served it with some leftover grilled chicken breast and steamed rice. Cooking mellowed the greens nicely.

According to my favorite veggie cookbook -- "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by Deborah Madison -- lamb's-quarters is an excellent source of beta carotene and antioxidant vitamins C & E. I would continue to use it as an occasional alternative to spinach.

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