Sunday, July 10, 2016

Foraging: Lambs Quarters (Svinmålla)

Of the many things that I love about Sweden, foraging for edibles ranks on top.  Unlike in the USA, at least where I have lived, the Swedes still maintain bonded to the land and old traditions still live.  Many Swedes have a country home, usually a simple cottage near a lake or in the forest, where they retreat for the holidays.  It is typical to see Swedes hanging out their laundry in the countryside and picking wild flowers in the fields.

Picking mushrooms and wild berries is a favorite activity, beloved by most. There is a satisfaction in the hunt.  An excitement as to what you might find, whether you will return home with your basket empty or full of edible treasure.

Another very typical country activity is making "saft" or cordial during the summer, with whatever might be available in your garden.  Most country houses have a few currant bushes and perhaps a rhubarb plant or gooseberry.  Elderflower trees grow everywhere and elderflower cordial made from the flowers is a traditional marker of summer.

This summer, I found a website called Dags att Plocka (Time to Pick) which will send you a weekly newsletter on what is ready to be foraged.  This week's newsletter discussed a common weed called Lamb's Quarter or Svinmålla, in Swedish.  The Latin name is Chenopodium album.  The newletter intrigued me.  Lamb's quarters were commonly used as a main food item in the middle ages but spinach gradually replaced it.  Lamb's quarter is very nutrious, a good source of vitamins A and C.  It said that in India and other countries, the plant, called bathua, is still cultivated for food and used in curries.  I had to try it.

My son and I went out in the fields nearest to our house to have a look.  We found a plant that looked similar, but we weren't sure because the leaves weren't exactly the same as in the photographs. I showed a picture to my husband.  He said that the last time his father had been to visit us, he had pointed out a whole field of lamb's quarter.  His father had mentioned that it was edible. Eureka! This morning he went out and picked me a basket. Tonight I cooked it for dinner.  It was delicious.  It tastes like a mild spinach.  In fact, if you ate it without knowing what it was, you would think it was spinach.

The plant is quite distinctive because of the shape of the leaves. The entire plant is edible, including the seeds, which are a relation of the very fashionable quinoa.  You can use it in the same manner as you would use spinach.  For dinner, I briefly blanched it with a bit of boiling water, and then I sauteed it with garlic and olive oil. Tommorrow, I plan to use the leftovers in a omelette.  I won't be buying spinach again here in the summer! Why would I when I can have lamb's quarter, fresh, delicious, and free?

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