Amaranth
Amaranthus hypochondriacus

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.

The young leaves can be cooked like spinach. Rich in vitamins and minerals, they have a mild flavour. Seed is used raw or cooked. They can be used as a cereal substitute or ground into flour. They can also be popped in much the same way as popcorn. The seed can be soaked for 12 hours in warm water and then allowed to sprout for about 11 days. They can then be added to salads. Very small but the seed is easy to harvest and very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus much of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated.

Medicinal Uses

Astringent.

The leaves are mildly astringent, with a little diffusively stimulating power. They have been used in dysentery, diarrhea, menorrhagia, leucorrhea, and sore mouths. The whole plant contains tannin and is astringent. It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea and excessive menstruation. It can be used as a gargle to soothe inflammation of the pharynx and to hasten the healing of ulcerated mouths, whilst it can also be applied externally to treat vaginal discharges, nosebleeds and wounds. The plant can be used fresh or it can also be harvested when coming into flower and dried for later use.

Other Uses

Dye.

Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant. A red dye obtained from the plant (which part of the plant is unknown) is used as a colouring in foods and medicines.

Cultivation

Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sheltered, warm and sunny position. Space plants 30 - 40 cm apart or even more if desired. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 7.5. Often cultivated for its edible leaves and seeds. This is the most robust and highest yielding of the grain amaranths, though it is late maturing and therefore less suitable for areas with short summers. Most if not all members of this genus photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the 'C4 carbon-fixation pathway', this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions.

Propagation

Seed - sow spring in situ. Do Not Sow Too Thick or you will spend hours thinning. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination. Cuttings of growing plants root easily.