Amaranthus

Amaranthus
Enlarge picture
Amaranthus caudatus

Amaranthus caudatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Caryophyllales
Family:Amaranthaceae
Subfamily:Amaranthoideae
Genus:Amaranthus
L.
Species


Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth or pigweed, is a cosmopolitan genus of herbs. Approximately 60 species are presently recognised, with inflorescences and foliage ranging from purple and red to gold. Members of this genus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related genus Celosia.

Although several species are often considered weeds, people around the world value amaranths as leaf vegetables, cereals and ornamentals.

The word comes from the Greek amarantos (Αμάρανθος or Αμάραντος) the "one that does not wither", or the never-fading (flower).

Uses

Grain amaranth

Several species are raised for amaranth grain in Asia and the Americas. Amaranth grain is a crop of moderate importance in the Himalaya. It was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, and it is known as kiwicha in the Andes today. It was also used by the ancient Aztecs, who called it huautli, and other Native America peoples in Mexico to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey or molasses to make a treat called alegría (literally "happiness" in Spanish).

Amaranth was used in several Aztec ceremonies, where images of their gods (notably Huitzilopochtli) were made with amaranth mixed with honey. The images were cut to be eaten by the people. This looked like the Christian communion to the Roman Catholic priests, so the cultivation of the grain was forbidden for centuries.

Because of its importance as a symbol of indigenous culture, and because it is very palatable, easy to cook, and its protein particularly well suited to human nutritional needs, interest in grain amaranth (especially A. cruentus and A. hypochondriacus) was revived in the 1970s. It was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties and is now commercially cultivated. It is a popular snack sold in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, sometimes mixed with chocolate or puffed rice, and its use has spread to Europe and other parts of North America. Amaranth and quinoa are called pseudograins because of their flavor and cooking similarities to grains. These are dicot plant seeds, and both contain exceptionally complete protein for plant sources. Besides protein, amaranth grain provides a good source of dietary fiber and dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and especially manganese.

Vegetables

Amaranth species are cultivated and consumed as a leaf vegetable in many parts of the world. In Indonesia and Malaysia, leaf amaranth is called bayam,while the Tagalogs in the Philippines,call the plant kulitis. In Andhra Pradesh, India this leaf is added in preparation of a popular dal called thotakura pappu. In China the leaves and stems are used as a stir-fry vegetable and called yin choi (苋菜; pinyin: xiàncài; and variations on this transliteration in various dialects). In Congo it is known as lenga lenga or biteku teku.[1]

The leaves are also used in a Caribbean soup called callaloo.

In East Africa Amaranth leaf is known as MCHICHA (Swahili) - a vegetable for all. It is sometimes recommended by some doctors for people having low red blood cell count. In West Africa, Nigeria, it is known as EFO TETE (Yoruba)or AROWO JEJA - We have money left over for fish. It is a very common vegetable, and it goes with all Nigerian carbohydrate dishes.

Dyes

The flowers of the 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth were used by the Hopi Amerindians as the source of a deep red dye. There is also a synthetic dye that has been named "amaranth" for its similarity in color to the natural amaranth pigments known as betalains. This synthetic dye is also known as Red No. 2 in North America and E123 in the European Union.

Ornamentals

The genus also contains several well-known ornamental plants, such as A. caudatus (love-lies-bleeding), a native of India and a vigorous, hardy annual with dark purplish flowers crowded in handsome drooping spikes. Another Indian annual, A. hypochondriacus (prince's feather), has deeply-veined lance-shaped leaves, purple on the under face, and deep crimson flowers densely packed on erect spikes.

Amaranths are recorded as food plants for some Lepidoptera species including the Nutmeg and various case-bearers of the genus Coleophora: C. amaranthella, C. enchorda (feeds exclusively on Amaranthus), C. immortalis (feeds exclusively on Amaranthus), C. lineapulvella and C. versurella (recorded on A. spinosus).

Nutritional value

Amaranth greens, also called Chinese spinach, hinn choy or yin tsoi (Simplified Chinese: 苋菜; Traditional Chinese: 莧菜; Pinyin: xiàncài), callaloo, thotakura (telugu) , tampala, or quelite, are a common leaf vegetable throughout the tropics and in many warm temperate regions. It is very popular in Andhra Pradesh. They are a very good source of vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, and folate, and dietary minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Because of its valuable nutrition, some farmers grow amaranth today. However their moderately high content of oxalic acid inhibits the absorption of calcium and zinc, and also means that they should be avoided or eaten in moderation by people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Reheating cooked amaranth greens is often discouraged, particularly for consumption by small children, as the nitrates in the leaves can be converted to nitrites, similarly to spinach.

Amaranth seeds, like buckwheat and quinoa, contain protein that is unusually complete for plant sources [1]. Most fruits and vegetables do not contain a complete set of amino acids, and thus different sources of protein must be used.

Several studies have shown that like oats, amaranth seed or oil may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters. PMID:15542354, PMID:17313043, PMID:17207282. While the active ingredient in oats appears to be water soluble fiber, amaranth appears to lower cholesterol via its content of plant stanols and squalene.

Amaranth as a weed

Not all amaranth plants are cultivated. Some appear as weeds. A new strain of the Palmer amaranth has appeared which is glyphosate-resistant and as a result cannot be killed by the widely used Roundup herbicide. Also, this hardy plant can survive in tough conditions. This could be of particular concern to cotton farmers using Roundup Ready cotton.[2]

Anecdotal reports indicate that some people are very allergic to amaranth.

Myth, legend and poetry

Amaranth, or Amarant (from the Greek amarantos, unwithering), a name chiefly used in poetry, and applied to Amaranth and other plants which, from not soon fading, typified immortality.

Aesop's Fables (6th century BC) compares the Rose to the Amaranth to illustrate the difference in fleeting and everlasting beauty.

A Rose and an Amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden,
and the Amaranth said to her neighbour,
"How I envy you your beauty and your sweet scent!
No wonder you are such a universal favourite."
But the Rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice,
"Ah, my dear friend, I bloom but for a time:
my petals soon wither and fall, and then I die.
But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut;
for they are everlasting."


Thus, in John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), iii. 353:

"Immortal amarant, a flower which once
In paradise, fast by the tree of life,
Began to bloom; but soon for man's offence
To heaven removed, where first it grew, there grows,
And flowers aloft, shading the fount of life,
And where the river of bliss through midst of heaven
Rolls o'er elysian flowers her amber stream:
With these that never fade the spirits elect
Bind their resplendent locks."


Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in Work without Hope (1825), also references the herb, likely referencing Milton's earlier work. (ll 7-10 excerpted):

Yet well I ken the banks where Amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye Amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!


The original spelling is amarant; the more common spelling amaranth seems to have come from a folk etymology assuming that the final syllable derives from the Greek word anthos ("flower"), common in botanical names.

In ancient Greece the amaranth (also called chrusanthemon and elichrusos) was sacred to Ephesian Artemis. It was supposed to have special healing properties, and as a symbol of immortality was used to decorate images of the gods and tombs. In legend, Amarynthus (a form of Amarantus) was a hunter of Artemis and king of Euboea; in a village of Amarynthus, of which he was the eponymous hero, there was a famous temple of Artemis Amarynthia or Amarysia (Strabo x. 448; Pausan. i. 31, p. 5). It was also widely used by the Chinese for its healing chemicals, curing illnesses such as infections, rashes, and migraines. The "Amarantos" is the name a several-century-old popular Greek folk song:
Look at the amaranth:
on tall mountains it grows,
on the very stones and rocks
and places inaccessible.


More recently, a song by the symphonic metal band Nightwish entitled "Amaranth" was released on their 2007 album Dark Passion Play. In the lyrics, "amaranth" stands for perfection, everlasting beauty and goodness:
Caress the one, the Never-Fading
Rain in your heart - the tears of snow-white sorrow
Caress the one, the hiding Amaranth
In a land of the daybreak

See also

Images




Loves-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

Green Amaranth (A. hybridus)

Seabeach amaranth (A. pumilus), an amaranth on the Federal Threatened species List

Red-root Amaranth (A. retroflexus) - from Thomé, Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus)

Green Amaranth (Amaranthus viridis)

Popping Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.)


Notes

1. ^ Enama, M. (1994). "Culture: The missing nexus in ecological economics perspective". Ecological Economics (10): 93-95. 

Sources

  • Lenz, Botanik der alt. Greich. und Rom. Botany of old. (1859)
  • J. Murr, Die Pflanzenwelt in der griech. Mythol. Plants in Greek Mythology. (1890)

External links

Scientific classification or biological classification is a method by which biologists group and categorize species of organisms. Scientific classification also can be called scientific taxonomy, but should be distinguished from folk taxonomy, which lacks scientific basis.
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Plantae
Haeckel, 1866[1]

Divisions

Green algae
  • Chlorophyta
  • Charophyta
Land plants (embryophytes)
  • Non-vascular land plants (bryophytes)

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Magnoliophyta

Classes

Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Liliopsida - Monocots

The flowering plants or angiosperms are the most widespread group of land plants. The flowering plants and the gymnosperms comprise the two extant groups of seed plants.
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Magnoliopsida

Magnoliopsida is the botanical name for a class of flowering plants. By definition the class will include the family Magnoliaceae, but its can otherwise vary, being more inclusive or less inclusive depending upon the classification system being
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Caryophyllales
Perleb

Families
See text.
Synonyms

Centrospermae

Caryophyllales is an order of flowering plants that includes the cacti, carnations, amaranths, ice plants, and most carnivorous plants.
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Amaranthaceae

Type genus
Amaranthus
L.

Subfamilies

Amaranthoideae
Chenopodioideae
Gomphrenoideae
Salicornioideae
Salsoloideae

The flowering plant family Amaranthaceae
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Amaranthoideae

Genera

Achyranthes
Achyropsis
Aerva
Amaranthus
Arthraerua
Calicorema
Celosia
Centema
Centrostachys
Cyathula

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Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné)

Carl von Linné, Alexander Roslin, 1775. Currently owned by and hanging at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
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Amaranthus acanthochiton
J.D.Sauer

Amaranthus acanthochiton (Greenstrife), is a species of Amaranthus
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Amaranthus albus
L.

Amaranthus albus is a species of flowering plant. It goes by common names such as White pigweed, Prostrate pigweed, Pigweed amaranth.
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Amaranthus arenicola
J

Amaranthus arenicola, or sand amaranth, is found in many states of the continguous U.S. It is found in sandy areas, near riverbeds, lakes, and fields.
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Amaranthus australis
J.D. Sauer

Amaranthus australis is also known as southern amaranth or southern water-hemp.
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Amaranthus bigelovii
U & B

Amaranthus bigelovii is commonly known as Bigelow's amaranth. It is an annual native to New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.

References

Distribution in U.S.
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Amaranthus blitoides
W

Amaranthus blitoides is also known as prostate amaranth, matweed, or mat amaranth. It is a glabrous annual. The plant usually grows up to 0.6 m, though it may grow up to 1 m (3 feet).
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A. blitum

Binomial name
Amaranthus blitum
L.

Amaranthus blitum (syn. Amaranthus lividus) is a species in economically-important plant family Amaranthaceae.
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A. brownii

Binomial name
Amaranthus brownii
?

Amaranthus brownii is a member of the Amaranthaceae family.
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Amaranthus californicus
W

Amaranthus californicus is also known as California amaranth. It is a glabrous annual that is native to most of the western United States and Canada. The plant grows from 0.1-0.5 m tall.
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Amaranthus cannabinus
L

Amaranthus cannabinus is also known as salt marsh water hemp or salt marsh pigweed. It is a herbaceous perrenial found in most of the eastern United States. It grows from 1 to 3 m in height.
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Amaranthus caudatus
L.

Amaranthus caudatus is a species of annual flowering plant. It goes by common names such as Loves-lies-bleeding, Pendant amaranth, Tassel flower, Velvet flower, Foxtail amaranth, and Quilete.
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Amaranthus chihuahuensis
W

Amaranthus chihuahuensis is known as Chihuahuan amaranth. It is not native to the United States. It is found in Oaxaca and Chihuahua in Mexico.
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Amaranthus chlorostachys
Willd.

Amaranthus chlorostachys is a species of flowering plant. It has been suggested that it is a subspecies of Amaranthus hybridus. It is present in Pakistan.
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Amaranthus crassipes
L

Amaranthus crassipes, also known as spreading amaranth, is a glabrous annual plant that is both native and introduced in the United States. In the U.S.
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Amaranthus crispus
A. Braun

Amaranthus crispus is also known as crisp amaranth. It is a herbaceous, sparsely pubescent annual. It can grow up to 0.5 m (1.5 ft) in height.

It flowers in summer to fall.
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A. cruentus

Binomial name
Amaranthus cruentus
L.

Amaranthus cruentus is a common flowering plant species that yields the nutritious staple amaranth grain.
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Amaranthus deflexus
L

Amaranthus deflexus is also known by the common names large-fruit amaranth, low amaranth, and Argentina amaranth, since it is native to South America.
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A. dubius

Binomial name
Amaranthus dubius
Mart. ex Thell.

Amaranthus dubius is belongs to the economically-important plant family Amaranthaceae.
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Amaranthus fimbriatus
(Torr.) Benth. ex S.Watson

Amaranthus fimbriatus is a species of glabrous flowering plant. It is also known by common names such as Fringed Amaranth or Fringed Pigweed.
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Amaranthus floridanus
J

Amaranthus floridanus is a flowering plant that can grow up to 1.5 m in height. It flowers from late spring to fall, and is found in Florida.
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Amaranthus gangeticus
L

Amaranthus gangeticus is also known as elephant-head amaranth. It is an annual flowering plant with deep purple flowers. It can grow from 2-3 feet in height.
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A. graecizans

Binomial name
Amaranthus graecizans
L.

Amaranthus graecizans is an African species in the botanical family Amaranthaceae.
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