I'm making all these mental notes of things I should remember in May. Things such as, where did I leave my pruners last fall and what is that thing growing in the middle of the perennial bed, a weed or something I planted on purpose?
I look out over the gardens now and see mounds of snow pulling down the already sad-looking contorted white pine I transplanted last spring and wonder if it will survive the winter. I see stalks of last year's plants that probably should have been pruned back, weren't, and will be the first things tended to when the time comes. And the time will come, I tell myself. It may seem to take forever, but it will be here and once again, it will fly by faster than I can get all the work finished that needs to be done.
So it doesn't escape my notice when I come across a bit of information that could make my life a little easier when the garden wakes up and erupts into a lively, green explosion. The information I refer to is about a weed that seemed to love my garden last year, lambsquarter.
I've written about
lambsquarter before. It is one of the edible herb-weeds that some misguided people insist on calling pigweed, although calling a weed pigweed is like George Foreman naming all of his sons George. This is the problem of giving plants all these common names and then mixing them up so that all sorts of plants end up with the same name. Lambsquarter, of course, also is a common name and the real name of the plant I'm referring to is Chenopodium album, which in itself is a mouthful. I will concede to those who insist on the term pigweed. Call it whatever you want. I'll call it lambsquarter.
It could be called pigweed because it, along with many other edible weeds, were once pulled out of the garden and tossed to the pigs, but the origin of its name is from a Greek term meaning goosefoot, referring to the shape of the plant's leaves. Other members of the goosefoot family, Chenopodiaceae, include beets and spinach. I have never eaten the plant, but I've heard claims by others who say it tastes something like a cross between spinach and asparagus.
Like the hard-hearted Hairy Galinsoga, lambs-quarter is a difficult weed to deal with in the garden, especially in areas that have been cultivated. Tilling will overturn seeds encouraging germination. It is the last weed to be killed by frost at the end of the season, and according to one source, seeds that were believed to be buried for more than 1,500 years still germinated when they were exposed to air, water and sunlight. That's just scary.
In ancient times, everyone ate it. Young plants were gathered in early spring and served with salt and pepper and a little butter. Today, foragers still gather it from the garden and saute it in garlic infused oil and serve it with sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese.
Still others purposely reserve a part of their garden where they cultivate the soil and wait for the lambsquarter to grow. After harvesting the first young leaves, the rest is left to grow to attract aphids that would otherwise feed on the real garden vegetables.
If the thought of eating weeds doesn't sound palatable to you, you can always order cultivated lambsquarter seeds from Internet sources. Simply type ''lambsquarter seeds'' in your search engine and you'll find a host of retailers more than happy to sell you hundreds of seeds at a relatively low price.
One of my favorite garden writers, Leslie Land, garden columnist for the New York Times (www.leslieland.com), posts a recipe for lambs-quarters quesadillas on her website.
Next spring, when I am contemplating my headache when I see the blanket of weeds that appear overnight throughout my garden beds, I hope I remember that I wrote about lambsquarters in December. If I do, those weeds just might be lunch.