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! 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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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