Common Names: Amaranth, Pigweed

Family: Amarathaceae

There are over 60 species of amaranth with its foliage and inflorescence ranging from green to red, purple and gold. Amaranth is native to South America and has been said to be cultivated as a pot herb since 4000 BC. It also has a long tradition of being used in Mexico and areas surrounding the Yucatan Peninsula. Today, amaranth is cooked and combined with sugar or honey to make dulce de alegria, sweet treats, and then formed into the shape of skulls in celebration of Día de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.

Amaranth comes from the Greek word amarantos, which means “one that does not wither”. This is due in large to the fact that the amaranth flower buds remain colorful and vibrant even when they are dried.

Medicinal: Used for astringent and soothing properties. It may also be used externally to control bleeding such as wounds or nosebleeds. Amaranth is taken internally to stop diarrhea. The whole plant is usually harvested when coming into flower, hung and dried for medicinal use.

Culinary: The young leaves can be eaten raw and the mature leaves can be cooked while the older, tougher leaves may be too bitter to eat. The seeds are usually harvested right before it fully matures and is best kept in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-6 months. The seeds may also be heated in oil to pop like.

Constituents: albumin, globulins, lysine, unsaturated fatty acids, linoleic acid, rutin and nicotiflorin, lunasin

Vitamins: C

Minerals: calcium, iron, phosphorous, carotenoids, manganese, magnesium, potassium