Before consuming wild plants, contact your doctor to make sure it is safe, and make positive identification in the field using a good source such as Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Michael Moore’s books contain an excellent glossary of medical terms, as well as maps. )
Common Name: Amaranth, Pigweed,
Latin Name: Amaranthus L.
Range: World Wide in some form http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AMARA . (This is usda’s main database for Amaranthus L., as you can see, every state, and most of Canada have Amaranth. I’ll cover some of the +50 species that grow on the North American continent. All are very useful. I’ll go through PFAF website, and finish off with Michael Moore, a website, and Carla Emery on all species. )
Common Name: Slender Amaranth (A. blitum )
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AMBL2 All States east of the Mississippi except Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, W. Virginia, Vermont, Maine, and Mississippi – in states west of the Mississippi the species is found in Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Utah, California, Washington, and Hawaii.
Appearance and Habitat: A cosmopolitan weed growing on waste ground in Temperate and Tropical zones. An annual growing to 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 10-Apr It is in flower in August, and the seeds ripen in September.
Warnings: None on wild plants
Edible Uses: Leaves – raw or cooked as a spinach. The leaves contain about 3.88% protein, 1.1% fat, 9.38% carbohydrate, 3.2% ash, 323mg Ca, 8.3mg Fe, they are very rich in Vitamins A & C, rich in vitamin B1. The leaves are used as a potherb in order to remove poison from the system. Seed – cooked. Used as a cereal substitute in cakes, porridge etc. Very small, about 1.2mm in diameter, but it 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 some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated. An edible dye is obtained from the seed capsules.
Medicinal Uses: A fluid extract of the plant is used as an astringent internally in the treatment of ulcerated mouths and throats, externally as a wash for ulcers and sores. The juice of the roots is used externally to relieve headaches. The plant has a folk reputation for being effective in the treatment of tumours and warts.
Common Name: Red Amaranth, Purple Amaranth (A. cruentus )
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AMCR4 All States east of the Mississippi River excluding Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia; States west of the Mississippi River including: Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.
Appearance and Habitat: Original habitat is obscure, probably tropical America. An annual growing to 2 m (6ft 7in). It is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September.
Warnings: None on wild plants
Edible Uses: Leaves – cooked as a spinach. The mild-flavoured leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. Seed – very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious. They are eaten cooked or ground into a powder and used for making cakes etc. They can also be sprouted and used in salads. 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 some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated. The flowers are used as a food colouring in ceremonial maize bread.
Medicinal Uses: None
Appearance and Habitat: The Amaranthaceae are a family of annual or perennial herbs with small, crowded flowers. There are usually 5 sepals and no petals. Filaments of the stamens are often united into a short tube. Bloom time June through October. (1) Of uncertain origins, it grows wild in cultivated fields and waste places. An annual growing to 2 m (6ft 7in). It is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September. (2)
Warnings: None on wild plants (3)
Edible Uses: Leaves and young seedlings – cooked as a spinach, added to soups etc or eaten raw. The nutritious leaves have a mild flavour. Seed – raw or cooked. Used as a cereal substitute, the seed is usually ground into a flour for use in porridges, bread etc. It is rather small, about 1mm in diameter, but is easy to harvest and very nutritious[K]. 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 some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated.(4)
Medicinal Uses: A tea made from the leaves is astringent. It is used in the treatment of intestinal bleeding, diarrhoea, excessive menstruation etc. (5)
Common Name: Redroot Amaranth, Pigweed, (A. retroflexus)
Appearanceand Habitat: A casual of cultivated land and waste places in Britain and Tropical America. An annual growing to 0.9 m (3ft). It is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October.
Warnings: None on wild plants
Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked as a spinach. A mild flavour, it is often mixed with stronger flavoured leaves. Very rich in iron, it is also a good source of vitamins A and C. Seed – raw or cooked. Ground into a powder and used as a cereal substitute, it can also be sprouted and added to salads. The seed is very small, about 1mm in diameter, but easy to harvest and very nutritious. The flavour is greatly improved by roasting the seed before grinding it. It is often added to maize meal. 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 some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated.
(Moving on to Michael Moore, website for Growing Amaranth As Food Plant, and Carla Emery)
Common Name: Amaranth, Red Cockscomb, Alegria, Pigweed (Amaranthus spp.) (1)
Appearance and Habitat: They are originally of tropical nature, but have spread to all altitudes. They have many dense spikes of flowers and immense numbers of little dark seeds. A common habit upon maturity, they have red stems. In fact the redder the stem, the better the medicinal traits. The leaves are alternate, oblong or long stemmed oval, bright green and from 1 to 4 inches long. Some varieties can reach 6 foot in good soil with lots of sunlight, or growing without much sunlight, to 3 inches with a single tuft of flowers. (2)
Edible Uses: All amaranths grow vigorously are hardy and bug resistant. Seed color red, orange, purple, burgundy, golden; wild amaranth have black seeds. The seed are tiny (3) The seed can be popped into cereal, ground, and baked into breads. The young leaves can be used in a salad while the older leaves can be steamed as a green. Regardless of the amaranth that grows in your area it can be eaten. Compared to other grains amaranth seeds have a much higher content of the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and of the amino acid Lysine. Amaranth seeds are also high in potassium, zinc, Vitamin B and E. The leaves are nutritionally similar to beets, Swiss chard and spinach, but are much superior. For example amaranth leaves contain three times more calcium and three times more niacin (vitamin B3) than spinach leaves. Or twenty times more calcium and seven times more iron than lettuce. (4) The leaves are rather bland when cooked, so think about adding rice vinegar to add flavor. If the seed is not ground (or popped) it passes undigested through the stomach. (5)
Recipe: In a wok or frying pan pop the seeds. Then mix them with honey or molasses and shape into popcorn type balls. You can also use them as a cereal with milk. If the seed is old, it won’t pop. (6)
Medicinal Use: Amaranth is an astringent, but the dried plant works much better. Harvest the plant while still in bloom and allow it to dry out of the sun. Bundle the plants together and place newpaper under them if you are planning on using the seed. About the only use of the fresh plant is as a cooling poultice. A Tablespoon of the chopped leaves can be made into a tea for stomach and intestinal problems and can be drunk every few hours. It is especially good when getting over the flu or gastroenteritis. It also helps with mild diarrhea and hemorrhoid inflammation. A douche made from a handful of leaves in a pint of water will help end vaginal itching and inflammation. (7)
Warnings: It is best to use the plant where it doesn’t pick up nitrogen from artificial fertilizers. ( 8 )
Foot Notes: (1, 2, 5, 7, 8 ) Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, page 24, publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X
Foot Notes: (3, 6) The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, 9th edition, pages 143-44, copyright by Carla Emery 1994, published by Sasquatch Bookswebsites listed and Amaranth
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