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

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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! 

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