Amaranth, A Weed Here, A Staple Food Everywhere Else

Check Out Our Latest YOUTUBE videos:

Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves and flower seed stalks
Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves and flower seed stalks (Photo By: AnRo0002 / Wikimedia Commons)

Amaranth(Genus: Amaranthus) is a genus of plants native to The Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe.  It is a primary food source in all these places because it can grow in many soil types, and most if not all members of the genus have edible leaves, roots, seeds.  This article focuses on the Amaranth that is native to the Americas, Amaranthus retroflexus. This plant is also called pigweed, red root pigweed, common amaranth, and common tumbleweed.  It is Native to tropical regions of The Americas, but being a self sowing annual which has seeds that can overwinter in cold climates it has naturalized in many other parts of world including the United States.

Edibility and Culinary Use

As mentioned before Amaranth has edible stems, leaves and seeds.  They are prepared in many different ways. Stems can be cut up and cooked as a vegetable, steamed or boiled.  The leaves are eaten worldwide in many ways. Raw, cooked, dried and ground up, soups, stews, and salads.  They taste very good, I like them better than spinach.  They have a mild taste all their own with no bitterness or bad aftertaste.  To mention all the different dishes that are common to use amaranth leaf would take up quite a bit of space but to name a few:  Jamaican Callaloo Soup, Indian Thoran, Chinese Pinyin Stirfry, they were also frequently used by native Americans.  The grains have a long history of being a staple food crop of the Aztecs and Incas, Today it is still cultivated there as well as China, Nepal and some other countries.  Although Amaranthus retroflexus has edible seeds, they are small and difficult to harvest.  Other species are used primarily for seeds namely Amaranthus caudatus.

Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves and flower seed stalks
Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves and flower seed stalks

Health Benefits

Amaranth has many health benefits as an alternative grain, though it is not a true grain it is referred to as a pseudograin.  One major health benefit is that it is gluten free.  It is also rich in protein and the essential amino acid lysine.  The leaves are very nutritious being high in many vitamins and minerals including B Vitamins, Manganese, Vitamin C, and many others.


Amaranth contains oxalic acid which can aggravate some health issues including kidney stones.  It also is best grown without fertilizer, which is one reason why it is such a good crop.  Grown with fertilizer or in high nitrogen soils it can accumulate high amounts of nitrates which can cause a number of health problems.


Amaranth is an ancient Native American food that should be brought back into main stream, and is slowly gaining popularity again in the united states.  It’s easy to grow, harvest and is extremely healthy.  Many cultures around the world have held on to amaranth as an important food.  Amaranthus retroflexus can be identified by its reddish stem base and unique flower and seed stalk.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging

Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves and flower seed stalks
Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth flower seed stalk (Photo By: AnRo0002 / Wikimedia Commons)
Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves
Amaranthus retroflexus, Common Amaranth leaves (Photo By: Szaga / Wikimedia Commons)

Featured Videos -

Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.
Wild Cucumber Plant (Cucumis anguria)
Wild Cucumber, a Hairy and Prickly Gherkin Cucumber
Read more.
Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Juneberry, Tasty and Nutritious Native Fruits
Read more.
Chickweed (Stellaria Media) Whole Plant
Chickweed, a Delicious and Nutritious Weed
Read more.
Field of Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
Ground Ivy, an Aromatic, Evergreen Wild Edible
Read more.
Field of henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
Henbit, The Elegant and Nutritious Wild Edible
Read more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>