Chenopods include edibles such as California goosefoot, amaranth, and quinoa.
UPDATE: Until recently, chenopods were considered a distinct plant family. Genetic testing has altered that status forever. Chenopods are now recognized as members of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae).
Many chenopods are considered severe agricultural pests, and the pollen from all of these plants can cause an allergic reaction for some people. Flowers generally bloom from spring through fall, but we can enjoy the benefits provided by some of the more benign varieties without adding invasives into our gardens and landscapes.
The Chenopod tribe
Russian thistle, waterhemp, pigweed, and kochia are all chenopods. Plants in this group can be annuals or perennials. They may be herbs, shrubs, or even trees. And they may grow in an erect or prostrate manner. In other words, chenopods have evolved in many different ways. Scientists are still debating chenopod classification, but we will leave that to them. Collectively, chenopod branches are alternate (which means they take turns up a stem), the leaves have petioles (tiny stems) and are shaped like a goose’s foot; hence the name ’cheno’, which means goose, and ‘pod’ which means foot. Young leaves and stems are often covered with tiny hairs (trichomes) or a white mealy dust, a condition called farinose. Humans have been eating chenopods for over 6,000 years. Below are some of the more common chenopod edibles.
Chenopod pests and diseases
Birds and butterflies enjoy eating the seeds, but these plants continue to survive and thrive, so the damage can’t be all that significant. The same holds true for apple stem grooving virus, tobacco necrosis virus, and the cowbane mosaic virus. They try to slow these plants down, but generally cannot.
Find a sunny spot in your garden or landscape for these colorful edibles!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!