I finally managed to get hold of not one but two types of edible amaranthus, aka morogo and have started to propagate some cuttings in water. I wildcrafted these from plants *growing outside of my office. The plants are common weeds that tend to come up after rain on disturbed soil. Edible Amaranth is a plant I grew up with and which I associate very closely with my grandmother (whom I owe for my green thumb).
In southern Africa the leafy greens of the edible amaranths are cooked much like spinach and sometimes mixed with peanuts and tomatoes in a sauce. It is delicious and I hope to have grown these plants large enough by mid-summer to make my own. I’ve also learnt that some species are used as dye in North America and the grains are popped and used as a cereal.
Nutritional studies have found that amaranthus greens have far more nutrients than spinach and cabbages.
South Africa’s national Department of Agriculture has a handy brochure on growing amaranthus for food, which you can find here:
Amaranthus production Guide
There are many sub species of the plant and more being developed by growers. The most commonly found wild amaranthus in South Africa is Amaranthus thunbergi which is the indigenous variety I remember from my childhood. It has short, rounded leaves. I also tend to see what I think are Amaranthus viridis & Amaranthus hybridus growing wild a lot in Gauteng.
A popular ornamental & edible type is Amaranthus caudatus aka Love Lies Bleeding which has long, drooping plumes of red flowers that become the seed heads. Amaranthus Spinosus is a spiny type as you can tell by the name, with a thin spine at the base of each leaf. Still edible, but seems hardly worth the trouble.
I am still on the hunt for the exact sub species names of the two that I’ve collected. One is deep red all over (and left a slight pink dye on my fingers and the first water in the cup). The little leaves curve downwards which may help me identify it:
The other is green with red stems, which I suspect could be a type of hybridus. The leaves are green with reddish veins and point upwards in a V shape. This one has come up in my garden from time to time but I’ve never let it grow:
I’m looking forward to seeing how these little plants do in the weeks ahead. I’m growing them indoors for now, on a bright windowsill in clear class containers. These are old baby food jars (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle).
*It is very important to note that amaranths found growing in very poor soil and during droughts can contain a lot of nitrates. Roadside plants may also have a lot of pollutants and even poisons on them applied by municipal / parks authorities. Do not ingest these if you can avoid it. Rather collect seeds or propagate them and consume the fresh leaves that have grown in your care.