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Chenopodium album

Common Name(s):
Bacon weed, Fat hen, Goosefoot, Lambsquarters, Pigweed
Categories:
Annuals, Edible Plants
Comment:

Lambsquarters is an annual wild edible. It was once thought that lambsquarters was native to Europe. However, recent archaeological studies show that the seeds were stored and used by the American Blackfoot Indians during the sixteenth century, before European trade had come to the New World. 

More than likely, the seeds of common lambsquarters were harvested and stored for human consumption in prehistoric times. Many members of the goosefoot family are edible vegetables, and their seeds may be dried and ground to make flour.

The genus name, Chenopodium, derives from the goose-foot shape of the leaf of many species, and the species name, album, refers to the mealy white sheen of the leaves. 

The leaves are green with a white mealy coating produced by tiny hairs on the leaves. The hairs are more dense on the underside of the leaves making it appear whiter. As the leaves mature the white hairs become more sparse. Leaves are alternate and lance or goose foot shaped and can reach up to 10 cm long. The leaf margins are mostly smooth with some teeth along the edge. Stems are striate often tinged with purple or red.

Mature plants are pyramidal, have many branches, and are crowded with clustered spikes of dull green flowers. Flower clusters are located at the ends of stems and branches or in the crooks (axils) of the upper leaves. Tiny green flowers form in spikes at the end end of stems and branches or in the axils of upper leaves. Seeds are usually round with notched edges. The seed surface is slightly roughened or glossy. Seed color varies from black to brown to brownish green. One lamb’s quarter plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds. 

This plant is highly adaptable to different environmental conditions though it does not have the aggessive nature of many weeds. When trying to idenify them as seedlings, the stem below the seed leaves, or first leaves, is smooth and can be light green, tan or maroon. They are easiest to manage by hand-pulling when they are small and before they have flowered and set seed. Tilling mature plants disrupts the roots or mowing the tops of plants can reduce seed production. 

Season:
summer to fall
Light:
full sun
Color:
green, white
Height:
a few inches to 3 feet
Edibility:
This plant has an earthy, mineral rich taste; some say is close to chard. If you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach then you will probably like lambsquarter. Leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers. Saponins in the seeds are potentially toxic and should not be consumed in excess. Lambsquarters contain some oxalic acid therefore when eating this raw, small quantities are recommended. Cooking removes this acid. Lambsquarter can be eaten in salads or added to smoothies and juices. Steaming this edible weed is one method of cooking, or can be added to soups, sautés and much more. Drying this wild edible is one way to add this nutritious plant to your meals throughout the winter or you can blanch and freeze the leaves.
Tags:
edible weed, summer, weed, silver leaves, insignificant flower, gray leaves, edible, white leaves, annual

NCCES plant id: 2842

Chenopodium album Full plant
Harry Rose, CC BY - 2.0
Chenopodium album Full plant
Harry Rose, CC BY - 2.0
Chenopodium album Flower
Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY - 2.0
Chenopodium album Leaf
NY State IPM Program, CC BY - 2.0
Chenopodium album Seedlings
NY State IPM Program, CC BY - 2.0