The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].
The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plants will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition
Leaves and young shoots - cooked. Used like spinach
. The raw leaves should only be eaten in small quantities, see the notes above on toxicity.
Seed - cooked. The seed is usually dried then ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making bread etc. The seed is small and fiddly, it should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins.
The milky sap has been used to make a gum
Gold/green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant
The root is saponaceous
. The scraped root is mixed with water to produce a detergent foam that can be used for washing the body, clothes etc
A decoction of the whole plant has been used to treat stomach disorders
A decoction of the root has been applied as a poultice on numbed or paralysed limbs
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Put a few seeds into each pot and thin if necessary to the best plant. Germination is normally fast and good. Plant out in late spring, after the last expected frosts.
Division in spring.
Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Chenopodium californicum. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.
We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it could succeed outdoors in many parts of this country. It is likely to require a well-drained soil in a sunny position. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus.
An easily grown plant, succeeding in most soils but disliking shade
. It prefers a moderately fertile soil
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
There are no interactions listed for Chenopodium californicum. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.
Polycultures & Guilds
There are no polycultures listed which include Chenopodium californicum.
This table shows all the data stored for this plant.
Material uses & Functions
Native Climate Zones
Adapted Climate Zones
Native Geographical Range
Root Zone Tendancy
? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
? 2.02.12.22.18.104.22.168.72.8 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
? 3.03.1 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
? 4.04.1 Yanovsky. E. Food Plants of the N. American Indians. Publication no. 237. U.S. Depf of Agriculture. ()
? 5.05.1 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
? 6.06.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
? 7.07.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
? 8.08.1 Balls. E. K. Early Uses of Californian Plants. University of California Press ISBN 0-520-00072-2 (1975-00-00)
? 9.09.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
? 11.011.1 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
? Munz. A California Flora. University of California Press (1959-00-00)
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