Buy Less Plastic Boxes of Leafy Greens & Fuel Athletic Performance with 2 Common Weeds

Tuesdays are for tips. On Tuesdays, I brainstorm inexpensive and creative solutions to a variety of outdoor recreation and endurance training dilemmas. Today’s post explains how to identify two common edible weeds to fuel (and recover from) long miles on the trail. Welcome to the table Purslane and Lamb’s Quarters.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

A lot of cities, including Flagstaff, now recycle only plastic jugs and jars. This means those big bins of greens many of us rely on to top off our daily antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral levels go into the trash and off to the landfill where they will sit for 400 plus years trying to decompose. If you’re anything like me, peak training often means several bins of greens in one week, which equates to a lot of guilt and, these days, a drain in where Unemployment Insurance Benefits go.

So, join me in scouring the trail (or backyard) for free greens to top off salads and add to stir-fries. In researching the nutrition profiles of purslane and lamb’s quarters, I learned Michael Pollen hails them as nutrition powerhouses in In Defense of Food. I’ve added it to my reading list.

Purslane

Weeds can be tricky to identify, but purslane stands out because it’s a succulent. A really pretty succulent, as a matter of fact, with tiny yellow or purple flowers (depending on the variety) popping out in the afternoon.

The entire purslane plant is edible. Pinch off a few leaves or pull up the entire plant if you don’t intend to come back for a second helping.

Purslane growing out my backdoor.

Purslane is a superfood in a lot of ways. Here’s a handy review of the academic research on purslane’s pharmacological attributes. Basically, slam on your mountain bike brakes and pick some purslane (or wander into your backyard) if you’re interested in:

  • Lowering blood glucose
  • Increasing antioxidant activity
  • Reducing triglycerides & lowering cholesterol

Purslane is also really high in Omega-3 fatty acids. However, like all plants with Omega-3s, it contains Alpha Linoeic Acid and not eicosapentanaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are found in fish oil. The Survival Gardener has a convenient write-up explaining this Omega-3 difference specific to purslane, and check out this review of academic research for more about purslane’s Omega-3 profile and other nutrition benefits. Purslane is high in:

  • Trace minerals
  • Pottasium
  • Antioxidants

Lamb’s Quarters or Goosefoot

Lamb’s quarters is the new spinach. Add it to smoothies, salads, stir-fries, and grain bowls. My understanding is the nutrition profile of lamb’s quarters is similar to all those amazing leafy greens in the big plastic supermarket salad bin, but perhaps even better.

The stem of Lamb’s Quarters (also called goosefoot) develops red streaks as it matures and the leaves often have tiny fuzzy hairs.

I’ve been foraging for lamb’s quarters in my backyard, on hikes into canyons, and on mountain bike rides in areas with shade (where there hasn’t been recent thinning). I look for their webbed leaves (which are often a little fuzzy in the southwest). The leaves generally taste the best raw on smaller plants, and cooking the bigger leaves mellows out the tang. Wildflowers and Weeds and the Old Farmer’s Almanac are two good resources for lambsquarters

From left to right: pigweed, lamb’s quarters, sow thistle, and purslane about to go into a bowl of cheesy pasta.

Happy foraging! I’ll be back tomorrow with an Ask Chase post about how to buy the right sleeping bag.

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