Chenopodium album

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Chenopodium album
Melganzenvoet bloeiwijze Chenopodium album.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Chenopodium
C. album
Binomial name
Chenopodium album
Chenopodium album GBIFDistMap1.png
Distribution, from GBIF[1]

Chenopodium album is a fast-growing weedy annual plant in the genus Chenopodium. Though cultivated in some regions, the plant is elsewhere considered a weed. Common names include lamb's quarters, melde, goosefoot, wild spinach and fat-hen, though the latter two are also applied to other species of the genus Chenopodium, for which reason it is often distinguished as white goosefoot.[2][3][4] Chenopodium album is extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India,[5][6] Nepal,[7] and Pakistan[citation needed] as a food crop known as bathua.


Its native range is obscure due to extensive cultivation,[8] but includes most of Europe,[9] from where Linnaeus described the species in 1753.[10] Plants native in eastern Asia are included under C. album, but often differ from European specimens.[11] It is widely naturalised elsewhere, e.g. Africa,[12] Australasia,[13] North America,[4] and Oceania,[3] and now occurs almost everywhere (except Antarctica)[1] in soils rich in nitrogen, especially on wasteland.[citation needed]


It tends to grow upright at first, reaching heights of 10–150 cm (rarely to 3 m), but typically becomes recumbent after flowering (due to the weight of the foliage and seeds) unless supported by other plants. The leaves are alternate and varied in appearance. The first leaves, near the base of the plant, are toothed and roughly diamond-shaped, 3–7 cm long and 3–6 cm broad. The leaves on the upper part of the flowering stems are entire and lanceolate-rhomboid, 1–5 cm long and 0.4–2 cm broad; they are waxy-coated, unwettable and mealy in appearance, with a whitish coat on the underside. The small flowers are radially symmetrical and grow in small cymes on a dense branched inflorescence 10–40 cm long.[3][4][11] Further, the flowers are bisexual and female, with five tepals which are mealy on outer surface, and shortly united at the base.[14] There are five stamens.[14]


Chenopodium album has a very complex taxonomy and has been divided in numerous microspecies, subspecies and varieties, but it is difficult to differentiate between them. The following infraspecific taxa are accepted by the Flora Europaea:[9]

  • Chenopodium album subsp. album
  • Chenopodium album subsp. striatum (Krašan) Murr
  • Chenopodium album var. reticulatum (Aellen) Uotila

Published names and synonyms include C. album var. microphyllum, C. album var. stevensii, C. acerifolium, C. centrorubrum, C. giganteum, C. jenissejense, C. lanceolatum, C. pedunculare and C. probstii.[citation needed]

It also hybridises readily with several other Chenopodium species, including C. berlandieri, C. ficifolium, C. opulifolium, C. strictum and C. suecicum.[citation needed]



The species are cultivated as a grain or vegetable crop (such as in lieu of spinach), as well as animal feed in Asia[5] and Africa, whereas in Europe and North America, it is commonly regarded as a weed in places such as potato fields,[15] while in Australia it is naturalised in all states and regarded as an environmental weed in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.[16]

Potential impact on conventional crops[edit]

It is one of the more robust and competitive weeds, capable of producing crop losses of up to 13% in corn, 25% in soybeans, and 48% in sugar beets at an average plant distribution.[citation needed] It may be controlled by dark tillage, rotary hoeing, or flaming when the plants are small. Crop rotation of small grains will suppress an infestation. It is easily controlled with a number of pre-emergence herbicides.[17] Its pollen may contribute to hay fever-like allergies.[18]

Pest control[edit]

Chenopodium album is vulnerable to leaf miners, making it a useful trap crop as a companion plant. Growing near other plants, it attracts leaf miners which might otherwise have attacked the crop to be protected. It is a host plant for the beet leafhopper, an insect which transmits curly top virus to beet crops.[citation needed]

Uses and consumption[edit]


Raw lamb's quarters are 84% water, 7% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat (table). In a 100 gram reference amount, lamb's quarters provide 43 calories, and are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of protein, vitamin C (96% DV), vitamin A (73% DV), riboflavin (37% DV), vitamin B6 (21% DV), manganese (37% DV), and calcium (31% DV), with several other dietary minerals in lesser amounts (table).

Culinary use[edit]

Rice and Chenopodium album leaf curry with onions and potatoes
Lambsquarters, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy180 kJ (43 kcal)
7.3 g
Dietary fiber4 g
0.8 g
4.2 g
Vitamin A equiv.
580 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.16 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.44 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.2 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.092 mg
Vitamin B6
0.274 mg
Folate (B9)
30 μg
Vitamin C
80 mg
309 mg
1.2 mg
34 mg
0.782 mg
72 mg
452 mg
43 mg
0.44 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water84 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

The leaves and young shoots may be eaten raw or cooked as a leaf vegetable,[19][a] but should be eaten in moderation due to high levels of oxalic acid.[21] The flower buds and flowers can also be eaten cooked.[19] Each plant produces tens of thousands of black seeds. Quinoa, a closely related species, is grown specifically for its seeds.[22] The Zuni people cook the young plants' greens.[23]

Archaeologists analysing carbonized plant remains found in storage pits and ovens at Iron Age, Viking Age, and Roman sites in Europe have found its seeds mixed with conventional grains and even inside the stomachs of Danish bog bodies.[24]

In India, the plant is called bathua and found abundantly in the winter season.[25] The leaves and young shoots of this plant are used in dishes such as soups, curries, and paratha-stuffed breads, common in North India. The seeds or grains are used in phambra or laafi, gruel-type dishes in Himachal Pradesh, and in mildly alcoholic fermented beverages such as soora and ghanti.[26] In Haryana state, the "bathue ka raita" i.e. the raita (yogurt dip) made with bathua, is very popular in winters.[27] Bathua seeds also double up for rice and dal. Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have once relied on bathua seeds to feed his troops during lean times.[citation needed]

In Nepal, it is known as bethe or bethu. It is used to make dish known as saag.[7] The leaves are stir fried with spices, chilly and diced garlic. A fermented dish known as masaura is also made by dipping the leaves in a lentil batter with spices and then dried in sun for some days. The fermented masaura can be made into a curry and served with rice. It is also used to make an instant salad-style-achaar and chutneys.[28]

Animal feed[edit]

As some of the common names suggest, it is also used as feed (both the leaves and the seeds) for chickens and other poultry.[citation needed]


The juice of this plant is a potent ingredient for a mixture of wall plaster, according to the Samarāṅgaṇa Sūtradhāra, which is a Sanskrit treatise dealing with Śilpaśāstra (Hindu science of art and construction).[29]


In Ayurveda traditional medicine, bathua is thought to be useful for treating various diseases,[30] although there is no clinical evidence such uses are safe or effective.[citation needed]




  1. ^ Black nightshade looks similar to this species when young, but the leaves of C. album have a white mealy texture and its axils have a red streak.[20]


  1. ^ a b Chenopodium album L. (25 November 2018) GBIF Occurrence Download doi:10.15468/dl.ie2d48
  2. ^ BSBI: Database of names (xls file) Archived 2009-07-07 at the Portuguese Web Archive
  3. ^ a b c Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk: Chenopodium album
  4. ^ a b c Flora of North America: Chenopodium album
  5. ^ a b National Institute of Industrial Research (Niir Board) (2004). Hand Book on Herbs Cultivation and Processing. Delhi, India: Asia Pacific Business Press. p. 146. ISBN 81-7833-074-1. OCLC 60522522.
  6. ^ "Chenopodium album - Bathua". Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Bethe ko sag: Love it or curse it, it's a wild weedy wonder - OnlineKhabar English News". Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  8. ^ "Chenopodium album". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  9. ^ a b Flora Europaea: Chenopodium album
  10. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1753). Species Plantarum 1: 219. Facsimile.
  11. ^ a b Flora of China: Chenopodium album
  12. ^ African Flowering Plants Database: Chenopodium album Archived April 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Australian Plant Name Index: Chenopodium album
  14. ^ a b "VicFlora (Flora of Victoria) Chenopodium album". Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation Victora. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  15. ^ Grubben, G. J. H., & Denton, O. A. (2004). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 2. Vegetables. PROTA Foundation, Wageningen; Backhuys, Leiden; CTA, Wageningen.
  16. ^ "Chenopodium album Weeds of Australia". Biosecurity Queensland Edition, Queensland Government. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  17. ^ "University of Florida IAS extension". Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  18. ^ Amini, A.; Sankian, M.; Assarehzedegan, M.A.; Vahedi, F.; Varasteh, A. (April 2011). "Chenopodium album pollen profilin (Che a 2): homology modeling and evaluation of cross-reactivity with allergenic profilins based on predicted potential IgE epitopes and IgE reactivity analysis". Molecular Biology Reports. 38 (4): 2578–87. doi:10.1007/s11033-010-0398-2. PMID 21086179. S2CID 6366778.
  19. ^ a b Benoliel, Doug (2011). Northwest Foraging: The Classic Guide to Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest (Rev. and updated ed.). Seattle, WA: Skipstone. p. 111. ISBN 978-1-59485-366-1. OCLC 668195076.
  20. ^ Nyerges, Christopher (2017). Foraging Washington: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods. Guilford, CT: Falcon Guides. ISBN 978-1-4930-2534-3. OCLC 965922681.
  21. ^ Johnson, Derek; Kershaw, Linda; MacKinnon, Andy; Pojar, Jim (1995). Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland. Lone Pine Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55105-058-4.
  22. ^ PROTAbase: Chenopodium album Archived August 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Castetter, Edward F. 1935 Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest I. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food. University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(1):1-44 (p. 16)
  24. ^ Miles, David (1978). An introduction to Archaeology. Great Britain: Ward Lock. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-7063-5725-7.
  25. ^ "Bathua (cheel Bhaji) Glossary | Recipes with Bathua (cheel Bhaji)". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  26. ^ The Himalayan grain chenopods. I. Distribution and ethnobotany
  27. ^ Bathua ka Raita | Haryana bathua recipe | Indian cuisine Archived 2020-11-12 at the Wayback Machine,
  28. ^ "Bathua Saag: benefits and cooking tips". ECS NEPAL. Retrieved 2022-02-12.
  29. ^ Nardi, Isabella (2007). The Theory of Citrasutras in Indian Painting. Routledge. p. 121. ISBN 978-1134165230.
  30. ^ L. D. Kapoor, 1989, CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants, CRC Press, Boston, pp. 113.

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