Amaranth (LIKE THE WEEDS... Book 1)

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Amaranth, the forgotten food

Spanish conquistadors, who saw no religious parallel with their own communion beliefs, thought eliminating amaranth would stop the sacrifices. The blood ceremonies did stop but for more reasons than the outlawing of amaranth. Amaranth today is enjoyed many ways. In Mexico and India the seeds are popped and mixed with sugar to make a confection. Women performing native dances often wear the red amaranth flower as rouge. In many countries the leaves are used boiled or fried.

In Nepal the seeds are made in to a gruel. Although amaranth seed and flour can be found in health food stores, if you want the greens you have to grow it yourself, or forage for it in season, which fortunately is long. Feral versions are green, sometimes with red stems, spindly and usually no more than two feet, rarely three.

Cultivated versions can be all red, or all green, showy or dull. Grain varieties can be six or seven feet tall. The lens-shaped seeds are tiny — eye of a needle size — and can be gold to black.

Weeds You Can Eat: Wild Amaranth - Gardenista

Plants produce on average 50, seeds each. Amaranth will grow under a variety of conditions and climates. I always have some in my garden every year though I have not intentionally planted it for more than seven years. It has no significant pests per se. Its leave are nutritionally on par with spinach, which is a relative. Also if you avoid spinach for health reasons you should avoid amaranth. It also has calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and E. Another is A. A third is A. The leaves and seeds of all three are edible.

However, with the latter, the Spiny Amaranth, you have to fight the spines for them. But, the Spiny Amaranth has a very positive side. That should make the spiny amaranth disappear as a road side weed. The fourth amaranth was a bit of a mystery for a while. A new bridge was build over the St. Johns River near Sanford and sod brought in for landscaping. Along with the sod came a big amaranth that I took home and transplanted just to see what it would be.

It is native, and huge, 15 feet tall is common. Surely it would have been used if usable. I have read there are no poisonous amaranths but it is curious that such a large and obvious plant has left not usage trail. My friend Andy Firk down in Arcadia, Florida, reports he eats all the time with no problems.

Leave the older, larger leaves to collect energy for the plant. If you want to collect the seeds after they form, take a large, non-porous bag, put it over the top of the plant, gently tip the plant to the side, and shake.

Physiology

The seeds will come loose. What bugs you might get is free protein. As for cooking the leaves, I use them like mustard greens, boiling them for 10 minutes or so and then season with salt, pepper, and butter, or with some olive oil and vinegar. After boiling, the leaves can be added to various dishes that call for spinach. But do know that if amaranth is fertilized heavily or grows in drought conditions it can hold a lot of nitrates.


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If you are going to eat amaranth seeds soak them over night in water to reduce their saponin content. Simmer amaranth in an equal volume of water for minutes. Allow to cool. Place all ingredients except lettuce and olives in a mixing bowl and toss together lightly.

Chill for an hour or more to allow flavors to blend. Wash and dry lettuce leaves and use them to line a salad bowl. Coarse, hairy, stout stems, leaves usually dull green on long stalks, prominent veins, oval to lance shaped, often notched when young; flowers clusters dense, bristly, small and usually green, terminal clusters and out of where leaf meets stem. Found around and in gardens, stops signs, vacant lots, an opportunist.

Will not grow in shade. Found throughout most of of the Americas. Has spread around the world.

If harvested in fertilized area or in drought the amaranth can be high in nitrogen. Seeds eaten raw or ground into flour.

The Perfect Weed, Not!

There are no poisonous amaranths. Herbalists say a decoction of Amaranth has been used for inflammation of the gums and as a wash for external wounds. Also internally as a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery. I grew up in South Africa where the natives would cook the Amaranth leaves as a spinach. They call it Marog.

It was served with a stiff or crumbly maize porridge Putu pap. Moving to the States I noticed these plants in my yard looking like Marog but was too scared to try it. Now I know it is Marog. It brings back many happy memories. Then I got the same taste 2 months ago at friends in Knysna.

To my surprise seeds are actually available here in RSA. As you say the memories a taste can bring back. Hi Patsy, we also have that growing wild here in Auzzie, but guess what, i picked quite a bit, removed all the leaves took approx 1 hour, whew! Reminds me of Durban days. Yes and the African people called it marog. It is very healthy also. Oh you are just a joy to listen to. I have saved your info, and thank goodness it came in handy today, when one of my sisters had a collision with some stinging nettles.

So, I sent her your video link that mentioned baking soda as a help. Green Deane, I am such a glutton for info on weeds and you keep ever giving, with ever good humour. Thank you!! I hear that leftovers should not be cooked again. It would be wonderful to have the resources to study and either confirm or disprove this, but in the meantime, there is no harm in practicing a little appropriate caution.