Amaranthus spp.


Botanical description: Pigweeds, as many in the genus Amaranthus are commonly known, is a widely dispersed group of plants originating in South and Central America as well as Asia. Now naturalized across North America, many Amaranthus species are found in the urban flora in the diverse habitats of the city. Pigweed can be found in tree pits, pavement seams, parks, parking lots, and along the edges of boardwalks, preferring bare, sunny soil. Plants develop somewhat succulent stems and can be found from 6 inches to 5 feet. Flowers appear in dense terminal and axillary clusters that appear catkin-like. These panicles begin to develop while the plant is quite young and continue through frost—producing an equivalent amount of seed. Amaranthus seed can remain viable for thirty years, accounting for its constant recurrence. The genus was an extremely important component of the Aztec’s diet and important to other aspects of the Aztec culture. It is still eaten today, as tender young spring greens, in Callaloo, a traditional Jamaican dish, and as a snack, when the protein rich seeds are popped like puffed rice.



Place of Origin

South and Central America