Telling the differerence between quinoa and lambs-quarters

Asked July 4, 2013, 8:59 AM EDT

I planted quinoa (a "brilliant rainbow" variety) and after seeing how similar lambs-quarters looks, I'd like to verify that all my plants are quinoa. I've attached two pictures.

In the first picture (no hand), you can see a small quinoa plant on the left, a large quinoa stalk in the center, and just in front of that stalk is the plant I was thinking was also quinoa. Note the difference in branching between the two plants.

In the second picture(with the hand), I took a close-up of the tops of two plants. The plant on the right seems to be slower to develop the seed head than the one on the left.

Are both of these plants quinoa, or am I allowing a bunch of lambs-quarters to grow amongst quinoa?

Additional info: The plant locations are close to where the seeds were sown, and when the plot was young I did weed out some plants that looked similar but were growing in a curved fashion as opposed to straight up.

Wayne County Michigan fruits and vegetables

5 Responses

The leaves in the photo with the hand are quinoa. The leaves have two almost horizontal points close to the petiole. The rest of the leaf does not protrude as far as the two points at the top.

Lamb's quarters have a coarse, sawtooth edge but not two big horizontal points. That's the photo of the big, scraggly plants.

You may not be aware of it, but lamb's quarters are edible. The leaves can be steamed like spinach. When it is little (under six inches tall) the stem is tender. On the big ones, it is a small tree trunk and not pleasant to eat.

Now for the picky part. You need to use two stakes and a string to lay out rows. When your seeds come up, they will be right below the string. Then mulch both sides of the plants with three inches of straw to keep in moisture, keep soil cooler prevent weeds. Your plants should not have to compete with the happy, hardy natives.

Thanks for the response. Your comment about the "photo of the big, scraggly plants" leaves me a little confused. Are you saying there are lamb's quarters in that pic? At the top of those big stalks are the same "two point" types of leaves (mixed with the seed crown). The leaves are "two points" style toward the top and seem to develop into the multi-edge leaf you can see farther down the stalk as they mature. I'm attaching a picture of the top of that middle stalk so you can see what I mean.

I did know lamb's quarters is edible, and if I found out that some of this was that, I planned on harvesting it out and eating it for the leaves, while ensuring that the quinoa was the only "grain" crop that remained of the two.

Thanks for the tips on staking/stringing. This was my second year growing food, but my first year double-digging sections of the lawn and planting a large variety. We are also composting, but that won't be built up enough until the fall.

It's just the tall plant leaves are not as easy to see. The picture with the hand is really clear. The last picture you sent definitely shows the seedhead of quinoa. Good luck with the garden!

I contacted the seed vendor (Botanical Interests) and they informed me that they do not include any basal branching varieties in their quinoa blend. The conclusion by their horticulturalist is that the branching plants with hardly any seed head development are related/competing chenopods.

The poorly developed seed tops can be seen to either side of a normal quinoa plant. I'm holding the stalk/leaf of one of the non-quinoa plants. As an aside, my plan is to harvest those for their leaves while clearing them out to make more room for the quinoa.

The best idea was when you contacted the seed company. There are very few people growing quinoa so there is not much information available. Good luck.