Goose Foot / Lamb Quarters

DESCRIPTION: Chenopodium is the genus that consists of at least thirty-nine species and another twenty-four variants. These plants are found across the North American continent, ranging from Alaska to Mexico. The Chenopodium species flourish in terrains varying from scrub brush to wetlands. Common names vary depending upon locality, but the more frequent terms are Goose Foot and Lamb Quarters
Domestication of the Chenopodium start in the Late Archaic/Early Formative transition period in the Titicaca Basin area of southern Peru, where the Andean peoples adopted agriculture around 3500bp (Eisentraut 1997). Some North American Indians domesticated forms of Chenopadium (Smith 1985), while simultaneously cultivating other variants of the plant.
Uses of the Chenopodium plants vary greatly around the continent. Many peoples boiled the seeds, formed a pulp and rolled it into balls to eat as dumplings. Flour was also made from the seeds, as they where parched and finely ground, and made into bread. The Havasupai would cook and eat the leaves in the early summer (a good source of vitamins C and A) and the Navajo would make porridge from the seeds. Some Californian variants of the plant had the roots ground up to produce soap. The Hopi used the leaves to pack around yucca fruit when baking them in an earth oven (Moerman). Chenopodium has had many medicinal applications. The Navajo would Finely chop the plant and use on the face and arms to keep flies and mosquitoes from biting, and Chenopodium has been know to be taken as a cold infusion to give protection in warfare. The uses for Chenopodium plants also included; a lotion for head bruises or black eyes, infusion of plant used for lung congestion, and also was taken for worm sickness, pale skin and laziness (Elmore 1944).
Seed description: Normal - 8 ridges, all green with a blotchy surface of cells.
Fire altered - no ridges, rough surface and a darker green. Charred - smooth shinny black surface.
When fire altered, the green outer cells shrivel up and enclose tightly like a skin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Colton, Harold S. (1974) Hopi History And Ethnobotany. IN D. A. Horr (ed.) Hopi Indians. Garland: New York. (300).

Elmore, F. H. (1944) Ethnobotany of the Navajo. Sante Fe, NM.

Heiser,C. Jr. (16thMarch2003)

Moerman, Dan. (18thMarch2003)

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Chenopodium ssp.
This page was authored by Ed Broughton