Quelites – Preservation & Preparation of Lamb’s Quarters
We’ve been enjoying meals packed full of preserved and fresh greens nearly every day for the last few weeks. We don’t have a freezer or fridge out here so we’ve had to be a bit inventive with our preservations techniques. We also don’t care much for canned greens, and you can only eat so many pickled anythings! So for our lovely lamb’s quarters (also locally known as Quelites, that’s pronounces something like kay-leet-ays for all you Spanish illiterates) we have learned to dry them by the five gallon bucket full. The below notes are taken from Loba’s ongoing kitchen writings and will probably be inserted in the cookbook at some point. Oh, and most people think lamb’s quarters smell REALLY weird during the boiling process, but don’t worry, they don’t taste that way when they’re done.
Processing Lamb’s Quarters
We harvest lamb’s quarters anytime after they’re about a foot tall, up until after they’ve gone to seed, but before the leaves start to dry out noticeably. When the plants are big and tall, we have such an abundance here, one person can harvest a hundred or more pounds of lamb’s quarters in a few hours. To use fresh, just strip the leaves from the stalks, and proceed with the following recipe. To dry for use all year, spread the plants or stripped leaves on trays or a tarp in the shade and turn at least twice a day until they’re brittle. If you strip the leaves after drying, strip the leaves off the biggest stems, and don’t worry about separating out the small stems and seeds. Most of the small stems are tasty even when reconstituted, and the woodier ones can be picked out after cooking. The seeds are good to eat as well, and very nutritious. Store in food grade buckets or glass jars.
To prepare lamb’s quarters:
The flavor of these amazing greens can be a little intense for some. Rinsing the lamb’s quarters after boiling makes a huge difference! I used to have a hard time getting my family excited to eat lamb’s quarters till I tried this little trick. Now everyone will happily devour pots and pots full!
Put 5-6 cups fresh or dried lamb’s quarters in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the leaves are submerged, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot into a colander, and pour a few quarts of fresh cool water over the cooked greens, squeezing out the excess water. In a large skillet, saute a large minced onion in 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil. When the onion is lightly browned, add the cooked greens, a scant teaspoon of sea salt, and a cup of goat or coconut milk, and a few handfuls of chopped sundried tomatoes, pre-soaked if necessary. Saute the greens in the milk for ten minutes or till they’re done to your liking. Enjoy!