Seed - cooked. Very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious, individual plants can bear up to 100, 000 seeds. It is eaten cooked or ground into a powder and used in baking. The seed can also be popped in much the same way as popcorn. 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. It also contains good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E and the vitamin B complex.A red food colouring called 'betalaina' is obtained from red cultivars.
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Plants are not frost-hardy, the most cold tolerant cultivars can tolerate temperatures down to about 4°c. 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. It probably arose through cultivation from A. quitensis. There are some named varieties. Plants take 4 - 6 months from sowing to harvesting the seed, but up to 10 months in some Andean highland regions. 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. The seed is usually harvested just before maturity otherwise some of the seed will be lost during harvesting. Plants usually have downward facing seedheads but varieties have been developed with upward facing heads that can be harvested mechanically. 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.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.
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
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Polycultures & Guilds
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