Goosefoot, more than a weed: a leaf vegetable!

Goosefoot leaves, young ones are purple

Goosefoot is a fast-spreading weed, true, but its leaves make for great greens!

Goosefoot key facts:

Botanical name: Chenopodium
Common name: goosefoot
Family: Amaranthaceae
Type: leaf vegetable

Height: 1½ to 6 feet (0.45 to 2 m)
Planting distance: 16 feet (50 cm)

Exposure: part shade  –  Soil: rich and light, cool, with lots of nitrogen

Planting: mid-spring or early fall  –  Harvest: June to October

Goosefoot is a leaf vegetable that’s similar to spinach. Its leaves have a high protein content, vitamins A and C, and contain many different useful trace elements. You can eat them either cooked or raw: their taste is delicate and much appreciated in gourmet cooking. From a medicinal point of view, goosefoot leafage also has deworming properties.

There are many species of goosefoot, among which you’ll find:

  • Different varieties of goosefoot include Good King HenryGood King Henry goosefoot, a hardy perennial that stays in place for years, and another that’s called tree spinach which is a vigorous and very ornamental annual. These are the two species most grown in vegetable patches.
  • White goosefoot is often categorized as a weed, since it tends to be very invasive.

Goosefoot has long and vigorous ribbed stems on which many pale to deep green leaves appear. Each leaf is shaped like a diamond or of course, goosefoot. They’re serrated around the edges. Young growth on the giant tree spinach are fuschia-pink when they appear.

Sowing goosefoot

Directly in the ground is the way to go to sow goosefoot seeds. Do so either in spring, between April and May, or in fall from September to October. Always sow when the weather isn’t prone to freezing or drought.

Planting goosefoot simply requires shade and moist soilFirst of all, amend the soil with compost and dig furrows about an inch deep (2 cm). Space the furrows by 20 inches (50 cm).

  • Sow the seeds, but not too densely, and cover with a thin layer of soil mix. Press the soil mix down with the back of a rake.
  • Water seedlings with a watering can that has an adapter that flows as a fine drizzle.
  • Soil must stay moist until seeds start sprouting.

Once they’ve germinated, thin the seeds to keep only one plant every 20-24 inches (40 to 50 cm), and keep watering regularly to help the plants develop roots.

Growing and caring for goosefoot

Watering is important: soil must stay consistently moist for goosefootGoosefoot particularly likes nitrogen-rich soil that’s deep and soft, with lots of humus so it stays cool.

  • Shade is best for this plant since it protects it from drought.

Remember to water your goosefoot abundantly during the summertime, especially when the temperature rises, so that the soil stays consistently moist. If not, your goosefoot will very quickly go to seed. To keep the soil cool, spread a layer of dead leaf mulch. This technique will reduce the time spent watering.

  • If you’re growing perennial goosefoot, add compost in fall: rake it into the first two inches of soil (5cm).
  • With proper care, goosefoot can grow quite tallRemember to cut off flower scapes as soon as you notice them to promote leaf growth instead.

>> Watch out for self-sown seeds:

  • Remove them whenever they spread to another spot of the garden, it’s important to keep your goosefoot contained.
  • If you don’t, you’ll be overrun within months!

Diseases and pests

Goosefoot doesn’t get any diseases. Only slugs might be a problem, since they like eating young goosefoot leaves.

Harvesting and keeping goosefoot

Harvest your goosefoot leaves when you need them, anytime from June to October.

  • Eat them right after the harvest (within the day) because they don’t keep at all.
  • However, if you blanch them in boiling salt water, you can freeze them.

Cooking with goosefoot

Spinach is the main inspiration when wondering how to cook goosefootYoung goosefoot leaves are excellent raw in mixed or tossed salads.

Older leaves aren’t as soft. That’s when it’s best to eat them cooked, prepared as you would spinach.

Young goosefoot stems, and also any flower stems you remove, are also edible: prepare them as if they were asparagus.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Lies Van Rompaey, Lou Stejskal, Wendell Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0: Matt Lavin; Pixabay: Bernell MacDonald, Therese-Liise Aasma