Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Lamb's-Quarters, White Goosefoot, Fat Hen, Wild Spinach
Chenopodium album

Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Chenopodium (ken-oh-POH-dee-um) (Info)
Species: album (AL-bum) (Info)

Synonym:Chenopodium album var. album

One vendor has this plant for sale.

11 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 15 photos.
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7 positives
10 neutrals
8 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Chillybean On Oct 6, 2014, Chillybean from Near Central, IA (Zone 5a) wrote:

I will not often give an invasive, non-native plant a positive rating. Yet, I will continue pulling this when I find strays in the wrong spots.

Why do I give this a positive?

My first reason is because I enjoy creation and have begun hunting for the smaller things, like insects. In my looking for them, I came across the tiniest star shaped flower. It was so perfect! (I wish I could post the photo directly with my comment. ) Much of the leaves were chewed up, so I did not recognize it as a Lamb's Quarter right away.

Amazement aside, I have long known it to be edible and we have eaten the leaves a time or two in mixed salads. Also, I just learned it is a good "trap crop" to have around the garden even though it is not native to the United States. Plant eating insects apparently really like this stuff and will go after it instead of our planting efforts.

I had tried getting rid of it, but since we are out in the country and own a large pasture, it will be impossible without the use of chemicals. We do not use chemicals, except for carefully on the trees to maintain our prairie-like habitat. So for the most part, I've decided to live with it and have chosen to "make lemonade out of these lemons."

Neutral PamHou On Aug 1, 2014, PamHou from Houston, TX wrote:

This plant is not naturally poisonous. However, it absorbs and transmits heavy metals, nitrates, etc. readily, and if they are in your soil and you eat this plant, they will be in you, too.

Positive Michaelp On Jul 22, 2013, Michaelp from Glendale, UT (Zone 5a) wrote:

I find this plant quite tasty, and enjoy it a lot mixed with other {weeds] plants growing in my garden, like wild amaranth, and wild radish, as well as the plants I plant on purpose. They make a wonderful meal raw or cooked.My Rabbits grow well and are healthy raised on these "weeds" as a part of their diet. Lambs-quarters is very high in protein, and oxalic acid, [like spinach]--so-- moderation is the key. I love it-

Neutral Sonnenblume On May 12, 2012, Sonnenblume from Aurora, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

I had read before how nutritious it was supposed to be so I ate probably quite a bit last year while letting it grow for a while but I felt ill in my stomach repeatedly directly related to eating this particular edible weed (dandelion and purslane I do not get any negative reactions from) so I am very cautious eating more than a few small leaves... I have to admit it tastes pleasant to neutral when small and fresh but not as good as spinach to me, while now I am pulling lamb's quarters again, its one of the common weeds in my garden popping up in unwanted places but its not annoying just present I am just cautioned by an ill feeling in my gut if I eat too much Lamb's Quarters, I would be curious as to which ingredient causes this as I am not allergic to has to be something else unique to this plant and i don't use pesticides in my backyard.

Positive CrispyCritter On May 1, 2012, CrispyCritter from Clayton, GA wrote:

A tasty vegetable that plants itself, comes back every year. How is this a problem???

I weed AROUND this "weed" everywhere I find it in the garden.
Some comes up with my beans, some in the tomatoes, just wherever it feels like it. Thats how nature works.

Maybe if I'm lucky, this year it really spread all over my garden!

Negative pirl On Jan 23, 2012, pirl from (Arlene) Southold, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

It's a very invasive, miserable weed for us and we're always on the alert to remove it upon sight or it spreads very fast.

Positive btoadflax On Jun 27, 2011, btoadflax from Wheaton, IL wrote:

A first class edible green raw, steamed for a minute, or sautéed in a simple water and flour recipe with optional spices. If you like spinach, especially as a pot herb, you may eat it faster than any weed. Ranks with purslane as plant most likely to be better than what you break your back trying to grow.

Neutral Erutuon On Apr 27, 2011, Erutuon from Minneapolis, MN wrote:

This grows as a weed in our front yard. The leaves taste like spinach when young, but later they get tough.

Positive 1stmeridian On Aug 21, 2010, 1stmeridian wrote:

The leaves of lamb's quarter are edible, delicious and more nutritious than spinach actually. It is the seeds that are toxic/poisonous. it is not much different than spinach and in fact was introduced to the US as a leafy vegetable.
If you like spinach then you will love lamb's quarter. There are many "weeds" that we ignore and abhor that are actually very nutritious for us.
One of my favorites is blue mustard, sometimes called wild radish. This plant is delicious and also a "noxious weed" to those uneducated educated folks out there.
I have eaten lots of both plants with no ill effect whatsoever.

Neutral otter47 On Apr 26, 2010, otter47 from Livermore, CA wrote:

When I was a student at Ohio State University, we had community gardens. In early April, we would be out planting our first seeds, pulling weeds, and hauling water. The plot next to mine lay unattended during the spring. By June it was a thicket of weeds, primarily lamb's quarters, which by then were 4 feet tall. Finally those of us who had so carefully nurtured and cultivated our plots were able to harvest the first peas, spinach, and radishes. One day, the woman student appeared with a hoe and took out some of her lamb's quarters, which nature had planted and watered for her. We called her the Lamb's Quarter Lady - so much harvest for so little effort. She told us how delicious they were as greens. Every couple of weeks afterward, she returned to her plot for a new harvest.

Now I live in California where lamb's quarter grows but not as prolifically as in Ohio. However, when it appears as a "weed" in my cultivated garden, along with the occasional dandelion, miner's lettuce, sow thistle, wild radish, or chickweed, I offer it to my pet rabbit who delights in his fresh locally-grown salad.

Negative skiekitty On Jul 6, 2009, skiekitty from Parker, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

This thing takes over my yard every year.. I'm not a big veggie eater (sorry, more carnivorous than herbavorus) so I'm not going to be eating them. Death to them all! (on a different note, to the person who stated that it's poisonous to cattle,sheep,horses, etc - so isn't avocados & chocolate. Doesn't mean I'm gonna stop eating those!)

Positive Sherlock_Holmes On Jun 18, 2008, Sherlock_Holmes from Millersburg, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

Many people find this edible wild plant to be an annoying weed. But that's to be expected from people who are not interested in edible wild plants. For those that prefer to grow wildflowers and edible wild plants, it’s very welcome in the garden.

"Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide" by Elias and Dykeman has this to say about Lamb's-Quarters:

"Harvest: Pick young leafy stems to 25 cm (10 in) tall or tender growing tips of older plants. Gather abundant seeds in autumn by rubbing fruiting spikes into paper bag and winnow away chaff.

Preparation: A superlative green vegetable, lacking strong flavor and high in Vitamins A and C. Use leafy stems alone in salad or mix with stronger greens. For potherb, use large quantity of greens because cooking greatly diminishes bulk. Boil young leafy stems in small quantity of water about 5 minutes until tender. Add butter, salt, and pepper or sauce of 1/4 cup diced onion, 4 slices of crisp bacon chopped fine, 1/4 cup vinegar, salt, and pepper, simmered gently. Use same sauce on raw greens as salad dressing. Soften seeds by boiling, crush, grind in food mill or blender. This produces nutritious black flour, good mixed with wheat flour for pancakes and muffins.

Poisonous look-alikes: Species of Chenopodium that have bad odor and taste can be somewhat toxic."

"Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America" by Fernald & Kinsey says:

"The common Pigweed, so familiar in rich garden soil, in barnyards, and similar habitats, has always been a popular potherb; under the more appetizing name, Lamb's-Quarters, highly prized by European peoples.

In spite of a spendthrift American prejudice against it because it is so common, the Pigweed, which annually appears in all good garden soils, is really one of the most valuable, though promptly destroyed crops of the garden before the planted vegetables are in season. Cooked and eaten like spinach, the tender shoots and leaves are often called delicious, and nearly everyone who tries it, unprejudiced by the knowledge that it is an every-day weed, is enthusiastic...

...In cooking, Pigweed reduces considerably in bulk and it is necessary to gather two or three times the bulk that is wanted when cooked. The fresh leaves readily shed water but, as soon as steamed, lose this peculiarity. The boiled Pigweed is a comparatively dry potherb and it is particularly good if mixed with Dock-greens which are unusually wet or mucilaginous.

The seeds of Pigweeds can be gathered in great quantities and they were largely used by the American Indians as a source of bread or in gruel. They are very hard and slippery, inclined to jump and bounce while being ground; and, although they may be ground dry, we have found it advantageous to boil them for a couple of hours, then to mash, and then dry the mass before grinding. The flour and bread are very dark-colored on account of the black seed-coats but of good flavor and highly nutritious, tasting somewhat like buckwheat but with the characteristic "mousey" flavor distinctive of this group of plants."

Neutral VEGGIEHAPPY On Jun 22, 2007, VEGGIEHAPPY from New Braunfels, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I pluck this up as I find it and use it in "green smoothies".

It grows everywhere you don't want it to unfortunately which is annoying to most people :-)

Positive IndoorGardner On Feb 23, 2007, IndoorGardner from Falls Church, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

II just found out that this is what was growing between one of my other plants indoors. My friend gave me seeds from the dollar store. I was surprised when they germinated. Now I have this 3 foot little "herb weed". I potted her separately so she would not bother the other plants. She is raised organically so I gave her leaves a try. Yep .. they are good. I was a little nervous at first but after that I kept popping them. Poor thing, it was a happy growing plant now I am looking at like food. It probably wants to run now :) And in case you are wondering, yes like my profile says I grow everything indoors. She is indoors. Matter of fact in my office window. She is healthy and very happy. At least until I finish eating her up.

Neutral Mitternacht On May 4, 2006, Mitternacht from Chester
United Kingdom wrote:

Poisonous? Yeah, right...

*QUOTED* Edibility and Preparation : An excellent pot herb. Stems and leaves can be cooked like spinach or used in salads when young and tender. When freezing for storage blanch first. The small dark seeds can be ground an dused for flour. Harvest them by rubbing a husk between your hand. This seperates the chaff, then winnow.

Neutral sallyg On Mar 4, 2006, sallyg from Anne Arundel,, MD (Zone 7b) wrote:

Supporting 'woolylam,' I first read about this in a book on wild edibles. I find it just as tasty and tender for cooking as spinach, and it plants itself. I take a few cuttings until it starts to shoot up. More than about knee high it does get very hard to pull out, and by end of summer can be 5 feet and produce lots of seed.

Negative CaptMicha On May 3, 2005, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is the worst weed in my gardens, other than grass. I would never plant this intentionally, recommend anyone planting it or have anything to do with it.

It spreads every where, when you pull them up, you just find hundreds more in another place.

Neutral saya On Mar 8, 2005, saya from Heerlen
Netherlands (Zone 8b) wrote:

A very common weed of horticulture. Native to Europe. ..sorry.

Negative melody On Jan 1, 2005, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Way more of these plants show up in my garden than I can get rid of. They seem to produce a vast amount of viable seed that can lay dormant for extended periods of time.

As stated, the leaves can be eaten, but I rate it with some of the other wild greens, such as Pokeweed.....far more trouble than the food benefits. They aren't that tasty...they are just edible...and lots of stuff falls in that category.

I'll pull mine out, plant something like a tasty mustard or spinach if I want a green veggie.

Negative lmelling On Nov 14, 2004, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

Same here (invasive). I pick more of these little guys out of my front cutting garden every spring and summer than I can count. Wish I had a nickel for each one!

Negative jcangemi On Oct 9, 2004, jcangemi from Clovis, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

It's an invasive weed here. . wish I had a nickel for all the ones I've irradicated through the years. . .

Neutral pixy242 On Nov 16, 2003, pixy242 from oshawa
Canada wrote:

While I don't recommend anyone consuming anything if they have a doubt about it, the Cornell Univ warnings re: poisonous effects of certain plants have to be taken in the context of modern agricultural practices.

When allowed to graze freely, and have choice, animals instinctively avoid certain plants, or eat only judicious amounts of them. When animals are not free-range and passively receive bales of fodder which may have large amounts of such weeds, they consume it indiscriminately and can fall ill.

We would not be here discussing this -- our ancestors would not have survived eating such plants -- if they are so harmful to humans. It is only in the past 100 years that such plants are treated as noxious weeds, subjecting them and our environment to even more poisonous chemicals.
Human consumption is fairly low, but we should learn the traditional ways of preparing these foods, as by trial and error humans figured out safe ways of consuming foods, which science is only now coming to understand.

Negative nowheat On Nov 15, 2003, nowheat from Midland, TX (Zone 7a) wrote:

This plant is listed in the Cornell Poisonous Plants Collection as poisonous to "cattle, horses, humans, sheep, swine" so you might want to stop eating it.

Neutral woolylam On Dec 28, 2002, woolylam from Decorah, IA (Zone 4a) wrote:

Originally my comment would have been negative, but after finding this weed was edible I have enjoyed pulling it and popping it in my mouth. It still is everywhere in my garden, but I have learned that it thrives way better than some other greens and has no bitter taste (when young). If you can't beat them, join them. :)

Negative talinum On Aug 11, 2002, talinum from Kearney, NE (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is another agressive plant in the midwest. It can be used as a pot-herb when the leaves are young. It is said it is a good spinach substitute or can be used in salads. It has a long tap root and is difficult to pull out.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hazel Green, Alabama
Flagstaff, Arizona
Clovis, California
Aurora, Colorado (2 reports)
Parker, Colorado
Clayton, Georgia
Wauconda, Illinois
Benton, Kentucky
Slaughter, Louisiana
Brookeville, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Linthicum Heights, Maryland
Detroit, Michigan
Isle, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Belton, Missouri
Cole Camp, Missouri
Rogersville, Missouri
Deposit, New York
Fairport, New York
Ithaca, New York
Southold, New York
Willsboro, New York
Henderson, North Carolina
Wake Forest, North Carolina
Wilsons Mills, North Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Vinton, Ohio
Boise City, Oklahoma
Tecumseh, Oklahoma
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Clarksville, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Eagle Mountain, Utah
Glendale, Utah
Lehi, Utah
Falls Church, Virginia
Bremerton, Washington
Mercer Island, Washington
Spokane, Washington

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