Forage Albuquerque

In season through

Native range:

Chenopodium album
Chenopodium album

Quelites (Spanish, pronounced “keh-LEE-tays”), lambsquarters or wild spinach is a common garden weed with a long history of use in New Mexico.

Leaves can be eaten raw but large quantities are best cooked. Use it how you use spinach: fried with onions and garlic is a popular traditonal method.

Chenopodium album leaves
Chenopodium album leaves

Plants in their leafy, edible phase are most abundant in spring and early summer, but they continue to germinate throughout summer and fall.

In Mexico, the term "quelites" refers to any wild green, including amaranth, verdolagas and more. Here in New Mexico, the word has a more specific meaning, usually referring to the common Chenopodium album. Across the rest of the USA, this plant is most commonly called lambsquarters, and it's found almost everywhere in the world.

Magenta spreen pink quelites
A cultivated European species, Magenta spreen or Chenopodium giganteum

We also have several native species, but the non-native Chenopodium album is by far the most common in disturbed areas.

Wild quelites
One of our native Chenopodium species, in Jemez. This is most likely Chenopodium fremontii.

One of these native species, C. berlandieri, is an ancient food throughout the Americas, independently domesticated by 4000 BC in Eastern North America as well as in Mexico as huauzontle, an important Aztec crop that is still grown today. Quinoa likely originated from the same wild species in the Andes.

A roadrunner in the shade of a quelites patch
A roadrunner in the shade of a Chenopodium album patch