|Joseph’s coat amaranth is ornamental and (technically) edible|
Performers who sing, dance and act are called triple threats
– a good term for amaranth, too. Amaranth’s three-times-great features include:
highly nutritious seeds, tasty young leaves and rather smashing
flowers and foliage. Although, not always in the same plant.
Like trendy quinoa, its kissing cousin, this South/Central American native is an ancient grain. More precisely, it’s a pseudograin,
because although the seed can be used like a cereal, the plant isn’t a
grass. Amaranth seed is high in protein, and the Aztecs prized it
Not every amaranth is so good for you, but many are. It comes
from the great big goosefoot family, along with spinach, beets, chard – and edible weeds pigweed and lamb’s quarters.
Many places on Earth also value amaranth as a veggie, as common names like Chinese spinach suggest. The leaves are usually steamed, and some areas of the Caribbean use them in their local versions of callaloo. In fact, callaloo is another of this plant’s aliases.
Then there’s the pretty part. Amaranthus caudatus
is the unique, tasseled flower we call “love lies bleeding.” Other ornamental
amaranths have upright spikes or green tassels. And, above, are the
gorgeous, multicoloured (and technically edible) leaves of Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta.’
But who could bear to lop them off to cook for dinner?