Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album, aka pig weed, fat hen, goose foot. The name lamb’s quarters believed to be associated with “Lammas Quarter,” an ancient English festival that was held at the time this plant, or its relative orache, was harvested.
The name Chenopodium album translates as: cheno “goose,” podium “foot,” and album “white,” referring to the shape of the leaf resembling a goose’s foot and the color of the leaf’s underside. White – goose- foot.
Stems, leaves and seeds are all edible. Primitive humans used the seeds as a source of fat. A naturally mummified body of a man who lived in the 4th century BC, known as Tollund Man, had lamb’s quarters seeds in his stomach. Napoleon lived on bread made by turning the tiny black seeds into flour. The Blackfoot tribe used the seeds for food. Who knew such a common weed could have such a rich history?
Lamb’s quarter leaves and stems are best harvested before they reach 7 inches tall if both the stem and leaves are to be eaten. The leaves may be harvested up until the plant dies after several frosts in the fall. Lamb’s quarters are one of the most nutritious wild foods. Leaves are excellent source of beta carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron comparable to spinach and kale, but lamb’s quarters will not bolt in the heat making them harvestable throughout the growing season. The flavor is much like spinach and milder than kale. (You can compare their nutritional value to spinach here).
Use lamb’s quarters in any recipe calling for spinach or as a simple side dish.
Lamb’s Quarters Greens
- 1 lb. lamb’s quarters young leaves and stems cleaned
- Cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
- Butter, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or other condiments commonly served with cooked greens
1. Clean and slightly chop greens and stems
2. Place in covered saucepan.
3. Cook without water starting on low heat. Change to medium heat when enough of the natural liquids have extruded. Cook until greens are tender. Stir occasionally.
4. Add crumbled bacon
5. Serve with butter or other toppings per choice.
Interested in learning more about wild edible plants? Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension, (518) 483-7403 or visit their website to register for classes and workshops offered.
Photos, from above: Leaf shape showing white, dusty underside; and Prime young greens, provided.