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Facts on Amaranth
Amaranthus caudatus (Love-lies-bleeding)
Genus: Amaranthus L.
The amaranths (also called pigweeds) comprise the genus Amaranthus, a widely distributed genus of short-lived herbs, occurring mostly in temperate and tropical regions. Although there remains some confusion over the detailed taxonomy, there are about 60 Amaranthus species. Several of them are cultivated as leaf vegetables, cereals, or ornamental plants.
Members of this genus share many characteristics and uses with members of the closely related genus Celosia.
Cultivation and uses
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 Amerindian 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 alegr? (literally "joy") in Mexican 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 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. cruentis and A. hypochondriaca) was revived in the 1970s. It was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties and is now commercially cultivated. It is a popular snack sold on almost every block of Mexico City, sometimes mixed with chocolate or puffed rice, and its use has spread to Europe and North America. Besides protein, amaranth grain provides a good source of dietary fiber and dietary minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and especially manganese.
Amaranth greens, also called Chinese spinach, hinn choy or yin tsoi (Simplified
Chinese; Hanyu Pinyin: xiancai), callaloo, tampala, or quelite, are a common leaf vegetable throughout the tropics and in many warm temperate regions. 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. However their moderately high content of oxalic acid inhibits the absorption of calcium, and also means that they should be avoided or eaten in moderation by people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis.
The flowers of the Hopi Red Dye amaranth were used by the Hopi Indians as the source of a deep red dye. This dye has been supplanted by a coal tar dye known as Red No. 2 in North America and E123 in the E.E.C., also known as amarynth.
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).
Amaranthus acutilobius (Sharplobe Amaranth)
Amaranthus albus (White Pigweed, Prostrate Pigweed, Pigweed Amaranth)
Amaranthus arenicola (Sandhill Amaranth)
Amaranthus australis (Southern Amaranth)
Amaranthus bigelovii (Bigelow's Amaranth)
Amaranthus blitoides (Mat Amaranth, Prostrate Amaranth, Prostrate Pigweed)
Amaranthus blitum (Purple Amaranth)
Amaranthus brownii (Brown's Amaranth)
Amaranthus californicus (California Amaranth, California Pigweed)
Amaranthus cannabinus (Tidal-marsh Amaranth)
Amaranthus caudatus (Loves-lies-bleeding, Pendant Amaranth, Tassel Flower, Quilete)
Amaranthus chihuahuensis (Chihuahuan Amaranth)
Amaranthus crassipes (Spreading Amaranth)
Amaranthus crispus (Crispleaf Amaranth)
Amaranthus cruentus (Purple Amaranth, Red Amaranth, Mexican Grain Amaranth)
Amaranthus deflexus (Large-fruit Amaranth)
Amaranthus dubius (Spleen Amaranth, Khada Sag)
Amaranthus fimbriatus (Fringed Amaranth, Fringed Pigweed)
Amaranthus floridanus (Florida Amaranth)
Amaranthus greggii (Gregg's Amaranth)
Amaranthus hybridus (Smooth Amaranth, Smooth Pigweed, Red Amaranth)
Amaranthus hypochondriacus (Prince-of-Wales-feather, Princess Feather)
Amaranthus lineatus (Australian Amaranth)
Amaranthus mantegazzianus (Quinoa de Castilla)
Amaranthus muricatus (African Amaranth)
Amaranthus obcordatus (Trans-Pecos Amaranth)
Amaranthus palmeri (Palmer's Amaranth, Palmer Pigweed, Carelessweed)
Amaranthus paniculus (Reuzen Amaranth)
Amaranthus polygonoides (Tropical Amaranth)
Amaranthus powelii (Green Amaranth, Powell Amaranth, Powell Pigweed)
Amaranthus pringlei (Pringle's Amaranth)
Amaranthus pumilus (Seaside Amaranth)
Amaranthus quitensis (Ataco, Sangorache)
Amaranthus retroflexus (Red-root Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Common Amaranth)
Amaranthus rudis (Tall Amaranth, Common Waterhemp)
Amaranthus scleropoides (Bone-bract Amaranth)
Amaranthus spinosus (Spiny Amaranth, Prickly Amaranth, Thorny Amaranth)
Amaranthus thunbergii (Thunberg's Amaranth)
Amaranthus torreyi (Torrey's Amaranth)
Amaranthus tricolor (Joseph's-coat)
Amaranthus tuberculatus (Rough-fruit Amaranth, Tall Waterhemp)
Amaranthus viridis (Slender Amaranth, Green Amaranth)
Amaranthus watsonii (Watson's Amaranth)
Amaranthus wrightii (Wright's Amaranth)