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Uses

Toxic parts

No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.

Edible uses

Notes

Leaves - raw or cooked as a spinach or added to soups etc[1][2][3][4][5]. The mild flavoured leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals[183, K].

Seed - cooked[1][2][6][4]. Very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious, individual plants can bear up to 100, 000 seeds[7]. It is eaten cooked or ground into a powder and used in baking[3][5][7]. The seed can also be popped in much the same way as popcorn[8][5]. 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[K]. The seed is very nutritious and contains 13 - 18% of a very high quality protein that is rich in the amino acid lysine[7]. It also contains good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E and the vitamin B complex[7].

A red food colouring called 'betalaina' is obtained from red cultivars[7].

Unknown part

Leaves

Material uses

Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[9].

Unknown part

Dye

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

The plant is astringent, anthelmintic and diuretic[10][11]. It is used in the treatment of stranguary and is applied externally to scrofulous sores[11].

Unknown part

Ecology

Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.

Forage

Nothing listed.

Shelter

Nothing listed.

Propagation

Seed - sow late spring in situ. 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[12]. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination[12]. Cuttings of growing plants root easily[13].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Amaranthus caudatus. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.



Cultivation

Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[7][14]. Grows moderately well in poor soils[14]. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well[K]. Plants are drought resistant though reasonable moisture levels are required for germination and also at pollination[7]. Some forms can tolerate a pH up to 8.5, there are also some that can tolerate mild salinity[7]. It is likely that they will also tolerate acid soils and aluminium toxicity[7].

Plants are not frost-hardy, the most cold tolerant cultivars can tolerate temperatures down to about 4°c[7]. Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity. This species is cultivated for its edible seed and leaves in the Andes and various other parts of S. America[2][3][8]. It probably arose through cultivation from A. quitensis. There are some named varieties[7]. Plants take 4 - 6 months from sowing to harvesting the seed, but up to 10 months in some Andean highland regions[7]. Yields from 1 - 3 tonnes per hectare are common, 5 tonnes has been achieved and research sites have produced the equivalent of 6 tonnes per hectare[7]. The seed is usually harvested just before maturity otherwise some of the seed will be lost during harvesting[7]. Plants usually have downward facing seedheads but varieties have been developed with upward facing heads that can be harvested mechanically[7]. This species is sensitive to day-length most cultivars are short-day and have not done well in northern latitudes, but there are some varieties that flower at day-lengths up to 16 hours[7].

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[7].

Crops

Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Amaranthus caudatus. 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 Amaranthus caudatus.

Descendants

Cultivars

Varieties

None listed.

Subspecies

None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Taxonomy
Binomial name
Amaranthus caudatus
Genus
Amaranthus
Family
Amaranthaceae
Imported References
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Botanic
Propagation
Cultivation
Environment
Cultivation
Uses
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Functions
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Environment
Hardiness Zone
5
Heat Zone
?
Water
moderate
Sun
full sun
Shade
no shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
  • Salinity
  • Drought
Ecosystems
Native Climate Zones
None listed.
Adapted Climate Zones
None listed.
Native Geographical Range
None listed.
Native Environment
None listed.
Ecosystem Niche
None listed.
Root Zone Tendancy
None listed.
Life
Deciduous or Evergreen
?
Herbaceous or Woody
?
Life Cycle
Growth Rate
?
Mature Size
Fertility
Pollinators
Flower Colour
?
Flower Type

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References

  1. ? 1.01.11.2 Sholto-Douglas. J. Alternative Foods. ()
  2. ? 2.02.12.22.3 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
  3. ? 3.03.13.23.3 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
  4. ? 4.04.14.2 Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing (1976-00-00)
  5. ? 5.05.15.25.3 Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications ISBN 0-9628087-0-9 (1990-00-00)
  6. ? 6.06.1 Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. ()
  7. ? 7.007.017.027.037.047.057.067.077.087.097.107.117.127.137.147.157.167.17 Popenoe. H. et al Lost Crops of the Incas National Academy Press ISBN 0-309-04264-X (1990-00-00)
  8. ? 8.08.18.2 Towle. M. A. The Ethno-Botany of Pre-Columbian Peru. ()
  9. ? 9.09.1 Grae. I. Nature's Colors - Dyes from Plants. MacMillan Publishing Co. New York. ISBN 0-02-544950-8 (1974-00-00)
  10. ? 10.010.1 Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
  11. ? 11.011.111.2 Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement). Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi. (1986-00-00)
  12. ? 12.012.1 Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 1. Thompson and Morgan. (1987-00-00)
  13. ? Larkcom J. Oriental Vegetables John Murray ISBN 0-7195-4781-4 (1991-00-00)
  14. ? 14.014.114.2 Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)

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