Vegetables Weeds

Lambsquarters: Edible, But Don’t Let It Near Your Veggies!

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), also called goosefoot, is a common weed found all over the world. It has the advantage of being edible and in fact, quite nutritious. It’s very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of niacin, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, plus a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. And it’s delicious, tasting a lot like spinach.

But before you decide to embrace lambsquarters in your vegetable garden, think twice, for it has a dark side  … in fact, a few dark sides. 

Lambsquarters in bloom. Photo: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons.

First of all, it’s incredibly invasive: due to its early emergence and rapid growth rate, lambsquarters can outcompete many garden crops. It has, for example, been shown to produce crop losses of up to 13% in corn, 25% in soybeans and 48% in sugar beets at an average plant distribution.

Worse yet, it’s the host of a huge number of plant diseases that could easily be spread to your vegetables by sap-sucking insects, including:

  • Alfalfa mosaic virus;
  • Barley mosaic virus;
  • Bean yellow mosaic virus;
  • Beet curly top;
  • Beet mosaic virus;
  • Clover yellow vein virus;
  • Cucumber mosaic virus;
  • Cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus;
  • Eggplant mosaic virus;
  • Hops mosaic virus;
  • Lettuce mosaic virus;
  • Mulberry ring spot virus
  • Pepper ring spot virus; 
  • Potato ring spot virus;
  • Potato viruses X, M and S;
  • Primrose mosaic virus;
  • Prunus ring spot virus;
  • Soybean mosaic virus;
  • Squash mosaic virus;
  • Tobacco etch virus;
  • Tomato ring spot virus;
  • Turnip mosaic virus;
  • Watermelon mosaic virus.
  • Wisteria mosaic virus.

One study by Elizabeth T. Maynard at the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University showed that a single lambsquarters plant in a 10-square-foot (1-square-meter) plot would be expected to reduce the yield of squash by 10 to 15%.

Oh, and did I mention its lightweight pollen is also a cause of hay fever?

In other words, lambsquarters is like the typhoid Mary of the plant world: harvest it from the wild if you want, but you probably really don’t want to grow it in your vegetable bed! 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Lambsquarters: Edible, But Don’t Let It Near Your Veggies!

  1. Yup. We can find it growing wild, so there is not need to waste space on it in the garden anyway.

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