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Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

Lamb's Quarters

Flickr: Wendell Smith

Scientific Name: Chenopodium album

Common Names: Goosefoot (because the leaves resemble the shape of a goose’s foot)

You’ll find this common annual edible weed growing all over North America and Europe in unmanicured areas that receive a lot of sunlight. It’s also common to see Lambs Quarters growing along roadsides, in backyards, in overgrown fields, and in disturbed soils. It grows from spring to first winter frost. A mature Lamb’s Quarters plant can reach as high as 5 feet tall.

The leaves of Lamb’s Quarters, especially new growth, are covered with a fine white, powdery coating. The stems are single or may have a few rigid, angled branches and are sometimes striated purplish-red. The tiny, green, stalk-less flowers of Lamb’s Quarters generally bloom from May through November. The tiny flowers do not have petals, and similar the leaves, are also covered in a white powdery coating. Up to 75,000 seeds can be produced by one Lamb’s Quarters plant.

Edible PartsLamb's Quarters Flower & Seeds

Leaves, flowers, seeds, and shoots are edible.

The leaves and stems may be collected from spring to late fall and can be eaten raw or cooked. If eaten raw, small quantities are suggested at a time because they contain some oxalic acid. Cooking will remove this acid. Add them in a salad, soup, or saute them in olive oil with a bit of salt. The leaves can be dried and crushed to make a delicious flour. The leaves have a flavor resembling that of spinach and are high in beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and potassium. They are also an excellent source of vitamins A, B2 and C, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6.

The tiny, black, Lamb’s quarter seeds may be collected in late autumn and can be eaten raw or cooked. You can mix the seeds in with other grains such as quinoa or rice. Add it to oatmeal in the morning or sprinkle a few seeds to pancakes and muffins. Lamb’s quarter seeds can also be added to soups or tomato sauces.

lambs-quarter-smallMedicinal Use:

Native Americans ate the leaves to treat stomachaches and prevent scurvy. A cold tea can be made from the leaves to help treat diarrhea. A leaf poultice used for burns and swellings.

Toxicity: 

None. However, lamb’s quarters does absorbs nitrates rather readily, so it is good to avoid eating it if it is located in contaminated soil. Lamb’s Quarter can be high in oxalic acid and therefore should be avoided by those who suffer from or are at risk for kidney stones, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and those whose stomach is easily irritated.

Also, beware of any lookalikes that emit a bad or resinous odor. Edible Lamb’s quarters does not emit a bad smell when you crush the leaves between your fingers.

Other Notes:

Lamb’s Quarters makes an excellent garden companion as many insect pests prefer to eat the leaves of lamb’s quarters instead of common vegetables.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.