Friday, December 9, 2011

Amaranth, OH Amaranth.....

A. Palmer
 Your grandpa probably called it pigweed but today this noble weed is in the news.  By now everyone here in the south has probably heard about the Palmer Amaranth which is invading the cotton and soy fields in Georgia and the rest of the south.  Why it made the news is sort of fascinating.... it is resistant to Round Up®.  But that doesn't surprise me... plants came before we did (check out the Cretaceous period) and are quite resiliant.  Plants adapt, mutate, and evolve to meet the demands of their environment just like germs, bacteria, fungi and every other living thing.  So why shouldn't they become resistant to Round Up®

This precursor of spinach is a hearty little thing.  It grows just about anywhere the soil has been disturbed.  And, oh wow!  It is edible.  The argument of late is whether the Palmer Amaranth is edible. And the answer to that is...well.... somewhat complex.  I asked a wonderful resource, Green Dean, of what he knew about this situation and, after much asking around, he says that A. Palmer is certainly edible HOWEVER, best not to eat it from the Round Up® treated fields.  The reason is that every edible plant grown for human consumption that is treated with Round Up® has a known "poison span" ( my word) meaning that as long as the product is picked between X and Y it is safe for humans to eat.  However, if a weed has been sitting in the field for Z period of time no one knows what the uptake of the Roundup® is or what the overall effect of treatment is to the growth of the weed.  With amaranth, a known nitrate consolidator, it could be that it takes up too much of this chemical when exposed to Round Up® and thus, could be unsafe for human consumption.  Hence, eat the A. Palmer but don't eat it from fields that have been treated with Round Up® any time soon!  Actually, I think I would apply this rule to any weed you find in a field that has been chemically treated... even your lawn.

Now for the rest of the Amaranth family.  Today, I was shopping at my favorite international market in Marietta, GA.  I always mean to take a piece of paper with me to notate the names of plants which I don't recognize so I'll know whether to buy them the next time I shop.  Well, wonders never cease.  Today I selected the Red Shen Choy as my investigative plant.  And you know what?  It turns out that this is an amaranth.  So is the Callalou (A.Tricolor or A.Gangeticus) the favored vegetable plant of  Jamaica and hin choy, Chinese spinach, bush greens and Indian spinach....  In short, humans have been eating amaranth as far back as Egypt and the pharaoh because it is highly nutritious and delicious to the palate.

A. retroflexus

What's really neat about this discovery is that amaranth grows wild nearly everywhere in the world and it is practically free for the taking because it is a weed.  It is good as a green and it is good for its seeds.  Think of it as one of those wondrous gifts from the gods.  As you look at the picture on the left just think about it.  How many times have you seen this growing in an empty lot?  In the park?  Along a country road?  .  Most amaranths have red stems, the leaves are alternate and there is a lovely seed head at the top of the plant.  For more information check out 

No comments:

Post a Comment