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Chenopodium album, Lamb's Quarters leaf
Chenopodium album, Lamb’s Quarters leaf (Photo By: Rasbak / Wikimedia Commons)

Lamb’s Quarters (Genus: Chenopodium) is a group of wild edible plants that is native to North America and other parts of the world.  Lamb’s Quarters is also known as Lambs Quarter, Pigweed, Goosefoot, Fat Hen and other colloquial names.  There are many species of Lamb’s Quarters, two very common species in America are Chenopodium album, and Chenopodium berlandieri.  Both of these species grow in all 50 states as well as the vast majority of Canada.  Many of the other species are very similar and should have the same edibility and uses.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Lamb’s Quarters have edible leaves, flowers, and seeds.  The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and make a very good spinach substitute(check out this Garlic Lamb’s Quarters Recipe), they have a mild flavor and go well with many things.  The flower clusters can be eaten and when picked before blooming are said to resemble broccoli in taste and texture.  The seeds are also edible but should be soaked in water and cooked because they contain saponins.  Quinoa(Chenopodium quinoa) which is becoming a popular grain sold in health food stores is a type of Lamb’s Quarters.  Many plants of this genus have been food for Native North and South American Indigenous people starting as far back as 3000 years ago.

Health Benefits

Chenopodium berlandieri, Lamb's Quarters leaf
Chenopodium berlandieri, Lamb’s Quarters leaf (Photo By: Matt Lavin / Wikimedia Commons)

The leaves contain small amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and the seeds contain much more proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  This plant also contains many other nutrients including: Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2.  In General this is a very nutritious plant, and very abundant, we can see why it has been a Native American food for at least 3000 years.


Lamb’s Quarters contain saponins which are poisonous to people but are not absorbed well in our digestive systems so will usually pass right through with no harm.  Cooking and soaking in water also will destroy or remove saponins.  Lamb’s Quarters also contain oxalic acid just like rhubarb, spinach and some other common vegetables. Oxalic acid aggravates conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity. Cooking this plant will help break down oxalic acid.  Lamb’s Quarters can also concentrate high levels of nitrates if grown in soil with high levels of nitrates. Lamb’s Quarters can also concentrate hydrogen-cyanide if grown in very nitrogen rich soils. Despite all these cautions Lamb’s Quarters has always been considered a very nutritious food, most of these cautions have to do with eating the plant in very large amounts so eat in moderation and you can enjoy the health benefits without worrying about the cautions.


Chenopodium album, Lamb's Quarters leaf
Chenopodium album, Lamb’s Quarters leaf (Photo By: Enrico Blasutto / Wikimedia Commons)

A healthy and abundant food, Lamb’s Quarters has a number of uses and is a great general purpose wild edible.  I usually eat the leaves raw when I pass by a plant.  They often grow in fields and garden plots, so I leave a few standing when weeding my garden. They are edible from spring till fall so there is lot of opportunity to eat and enjoy Lamb’s Quarters.

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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also known as American black elderberry or common elderberry, is a shrub that can easily be found throughout North America. It’s known for its delicious, dark purple berries and lacy white flowers. Elderberries and elderflowers are famous for their culinary and medicinal uses. Edibility and culinary use Almost all parts of this plant are poisonous, except for its flowers and ripe berries. Elderflowers are delicate and fragrant with a slightly tart flavor. These cream-colored flowers are typically used as an edible garnish or to flavor desserts and beverages. Elderflowers can also be made into jelly or deep-fried to make fritters. Dried elderflowers can also be brewed to make medicinal herbal tea. Much like elderflowers, elderberries taste tangy and tart, although stronger. These dark purple berries should never be eaten raw as it might cause stomach aches. Elderberries are usually made into jam, marmalade, pastry filling, juice, wine, tincture, and syrup. Elderberry tincture and syrup are often used for medicinal remedy. Health benefits Elderberry is packed with important nutrients. Both the berries and flowers are rich in vitamin A, B, and C. The tiny berries even contain more vitamin C than oranges. They’re high in dietary fiber which can promote a healthy digestive system. Elderberries and elderflowers also contain a lot of antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. This means they’re great for reducing oxidative stress in the body, preventing cancer, and reducing inflammations. Elderflowers and elderberries are often used to treat and prevent cold. They’re also great for alleviating cold symptoms, such as cough, nasal congestion, and fever. Elderberry is also said to be good for treating allergy and asthma symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory property also makes it great for alleviating pain, treating mouth and gum inflammation, reducing toothache, and treating digestive problems. Lastly, consuming elderberry can improve cardiovascular health as it helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Cultivation Elderberry is not very hard to cultivate. With some work and patience, you’ll be able to grow some elderberry shrubs in your own garden. While it loves moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, this plant can tolerate almost every type of soil. But, it can’t tolerate drought at all. So, be sure to water the plant regularly. Plant elderberry in a location with full sun for a better harvest. Before planting, prepare the soil by incorporating manure or compost. Plant elderberry bushes in the spring, after the last frost date has passed. Plant each plant 6” to 10” apart, make sure the roots are well-covered. Water them once or twice a week to ensure they don’t dry out. Get rid of surrounding weed regularly, especially when the shrubs are young. Let the shrubs grow wild for the first two years. Don’t prune them or harvest the flowers and berries. This way, they’ll grow nicely and produce a lot of berries. Then, starting from the third year, prune the shrubs each spring and remove all the dead areas. The berries will start to appear at the end of summer and they will ripen around mid-August to mid-September. Make sure to pick them before the birds finish them off. Cautions Common elderberry leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. Ripe elderberries are generally safe, but unripe elderberries contain toxins that can only be destroyed through cooking. Eating unripe or uncooked elderberries may result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Elderberry may cause the immune system to be more active, so people with autoimmune disorders should avoid consuming elderberry. Also, be careful not to confuse elderberry shrubs with the toxic water hemlock. These plants look somewhat similar, moreover, they typically grow in the same area. Elderberry has opposing leaves while water hemlock has alternating leaves.  Water hemlock doesn’t grow berries, but they do grow flowers. Water hemlock flowers look similar to elderflowers, but they have a firecracker-like formation. Do not touch or ingest water hemlock flowers at all. Conclusion Elderberry can be a valuable source of food and herbal remedy if you know how to prepare it. This plant’s tiny berries and dainty flowers definitely pack a punch when it comes to flavor. They’re versatile and can be used in a lot of delicious recipes. And their health benefits are undoubtedly amazing as well. It’s not a surprise to find that Native Americans have been using elderberries and elderflowers to make traditional herbal medicine.
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