Warm-Weather Spinach Substitute #1

I haven’t really had too much luck growing spinach in containers. Maybe its another one of those things I underestimated. When I did get a bit growing in the spring, it was quickly destroyed by pests. The few leaves I did harvest and eat were delicious, but I never did get enough to even put together a salad.

A few years back a friend gave me something she called wild spinach and told me to make sure I planted it in the ground. I was a little wary of digging holes in the common areas of my apartment complex, so I gave it a nice five gallon bucket to live in. It was beautiful. It grew to about five feet high, had a stem streaked with red and a purple “powder” on its newest leaves. She explained that it was a spinach substitute, and while the tender leaves were edible, both the taste and texture were less than appealing to me. The powdery feel on the tongue was a bit strange and the flavor was a bit metallic.

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Flowering Magenta Spreen lambsquarters

It took a little research to find what I had in that bucket was lambquarters. It is considered a weed by most standards. It withstands many different climates, it roots deeply, and it self-sows. This particular plant is a semi-wild cultivar of lambsquarters known as Magenta Spreen. Tender, new leaves can used from the plant at any time, but the whole, young plant can be used when it under a foot tall. Alternatively, they can be kept cut back and will continue to grow new, tender foliage.

Maybe I never really gave it a chance, but I did let the thing grow and it hit about five feet tall when it flowered and produced hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny seeds. From my research, I learned that these seeds could be used as a grain and cooked like porridge or turned into flour. I’m fascinated by the possibilities and the resilience of this plant, but I must admit that I’ve not yet tried to use it since the first disagreeable taste test. I saved that seed, though, and a few dropped to the ground and just sprouted where they landed. One of them found a nice spot by a potted plant and enjoyed a nice, consistent watering schedule. The darn thing is now about ten feet tall and has begun to flower. Now I get why one of its common names is Tree Spinach.

It’s beyond time for me to give this plant another chance. Maybe a little porridge this winter? Some baby greens next spring?