From Academic Kids

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Amaranthus tricolor

Joseph's-coat (Amaranthus tricolor)
Scientific classification

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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 for their edible greens or seeds, or as ornamental plants.


Food uses

Historically, amaranth seed was one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, and it is known as kiwicha in the Andes today. The seed was used also by the Aztecs (they called it huautli) and other Amerindian peoples in Mexico to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth seeds are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey or molasses to make a treat called alegría in Mexican Spanish.

Amaranth was used in several Aztec ceremonies, where images of their gods (see 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 this seed was forbidden for centuries. Amaranth was recovered in Mexico from wild varieties in the 1970s and now is commerically cultivated. Now it is a very popular snack sold in almost every block of Mexico city, sometimes mixed with chocolate or inflated rice,.

Amaranth greens (called Chinese Spinach, Yin Tsoi in Cantonese, In Tsai in Mandarin), are a common vegetable in East Asia and Southeast Asia. The seeds are a crop of moderate importance in the Himalaya.

Because amaranth seed is very palatable, easy to cook, and its protein particularly well suited to human nutritional needs, interest in this crop (A. Cruentis and A. hypochondriaca) was revived in the 1970s.

Ornamental uses

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Loves-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)

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

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. Thus Milton (Paradise Lost, 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."

It should be noted that the proper spelling of the word is amarant; the more common spelling seems to have come from a hazy notion that the final syllable is the Greek word anthos, "flower," which enters into a vast number of 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).

Species (with their common names)

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Green Amaranth (A. hybridus)
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Seabeach amaranth (A. pumilus), an endangered species of amaranth
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Red-root Amaranth (A. retroflexus) - from Thomé
Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885
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Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus)
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Green Amaranth (Amaranthus viridis)

Other things called Amaranth

  • Globe amaranth belongs to an allied genus, Gomphrena, and is also a native of India. It is an annual about 18 inches (450 mm) high, with solitary round heads of flowers; the heads are violet from the colour of the bracts which surround the small flowers.
  • Amaranth wood or Purpleheart is from the unrelated Peltogyne (Fabaceae). It has a unique dark purplish tone to it and is used decoratively.
  • Amaranth is a dark red to purple dye once used for colouring food but now banned by the FDA.

Amaranth is also the name of the otherworldly pantheon that amuses itself by toying with individuals' luck in Tim Lebbon's novella "The Unfortunate".

In White Wolf Game Studio's Vampire: The Dark Ages books and role-playing games, Amaranth is the medieval name of what then was widely known as Diablerie (consuming the blood and soul of another vampire).


  • 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

Template:Commons Template:Commons Template:Commons Template:Commons

de:Amarant (Lebensmittel) es:Kiwicha eo:Amaranto nutraĵa fr:Amarante it:Amaranto (alimento) nl:Kattenstaart


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