Lamb's-Quarters
(Chenopodium album)

A Pictorial Portrait

Illustrations and photos by "Wildman," clipart from Clipart.com

This European relative of spinach and beets, which grows throughout the North America, bears large quantities of edible, spinach-flavored leaves you can collect from mid-spring to late fall. It's one of the best sources of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron in the world; also a great source of trace minerals, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber.

Gathering Lamb's-quarters in Central Park

Lamb's-quarters in Central Park.

Urban and suburban parks feature this "weed" in unmanicured sunny areas. You can also find it along roadsides, in overgrown fields, backyards, on disturbed soil, and in vacant lots.

Don't confuse this odorless plant with epazote, which smells resinous and is poisonous if eaten in quantity; and don't collect where the soil might be contaminated with toxic nitrates, which it absorbs.

lamb's-quarters sprouts

Lamb's-quarters Sprouts

Note the diamond-shaped leaves with shallow teeth and a white, waxy powder on the smallest leaves.

You can eat the leaves and stems at this stage, in early spring, when this annual (1-year) plant first appears.
Large lamb's-quarters plant

Large Lamb's-quarters Plant

Note how this non-woody plant branches like a tree.

Strip the leaves and add them to salads, steam 5 to 10 minutes or until just wilted, add seasonings, and serve as a vegetable side dish; or prepare like spinach.
Mature Lamb's-quarters

Mature Lamb's-quarters Plant

Here the diamond-shaped, shallow-toothed leaves growing on branches, with whitish powder on the leaf undersides and smaller leaves, make identification absolute.

Lamb's-quarters tip

Lamb's-quarters Tip

The smaller leaves at the tip of the plant are elliptical with smooth edges.

Lamb's-quarters in Flower

Lamb's-quarters in Flower

Wind pollinates these small, green, inconspicuous flowers, which grow on slender, branching clusters. Edible, they don't taste very good.

Lamb's-quarters Flowers

Lamb's-quarters Flowers

The tiny black seeds that develop inside the flowers in autumn are tasty and healthful, but very labor-intensive to collect.

Read my lamb's-quarters article in the Vegetarian Times.