Amaranthus viridis: Green Amaranth

Family: Amaranthaceae
Common name: Green amaranth, Slender amaranth, Pigweed, Tropical green amaranth

Green amaranth plants grow in gardens even without sowing any seeds, mainly from bird droppings, cow or goat dung. They are quite underrated as vegetables, but are very nutritious and a good substitute for Spinach which is not very commonly grown in India.

These plants grow to a height of 50-80 cms with a heavily branched, green stem that might have some ridges along the length of it. Leaves are green, ovate, 5-10 cms long, and narrow towards both ends.

Green amaranths are short-lived plants that grow and mature very quickly, producing inflorescences which are dense spikes from which the flowers emerge.

These inflorescences can be seen at the tip of the plant and along the axils, the angle between leaves and stem. Fruit capsules are about 1-2 mm long, initially green, later turning brown. These fruits contain smooth, black and glossy seeds.

The stem, leaves and seeds are used in cooking. Stem and leaves are cooked as green vegetables, mainly in the South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. The stem has a waxy coating which is peeled off, at least partially before cooking, to make it soft.

Stem, leaves and leaf stalks or petioles are partially succulent, containing large quantities of water. Leaves are sauteed or added to other dishes like dal or sambhar.

Since green amaranth plants are fast-growers, they can be harvested 2-3 weeks after sowing seeds. It’s best to cut the plant 3-4 inches above the roots, and use the entire plant, the stem, leaf stalks and leaves.

The plants might produce more branches from where the stem was cut, and you could harvest it again after couple of weeks. But some plants might not grow once they are cut.

In a crop, it’s best to keep 1 or 2 plants aside without harvesting so that they can flowers and produce seeds, which can then be used for the next crop, ensuring a continuous supply of nutritious leafy greens for your kitchen.

Green amaranth contains good amount of proteins, fiber and also calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium and Vitamin A. The seeds contain 14-15% protein and is used in cooking, added to breads and buns.

These plants are used in treatment of inflammation, urinary disorders, dysentery, boils, abcesses, hemorrhoids and eye infections.

Propagation is through seeds.