Amaranthus tenuifolius is a prostrate or ascending annual plant, much branched from the base, growing around 35cm tall[
The edible leaves and seeds are sometimes gathered from the wild and used locally.
No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.
E. Asia - India, Pakistan.
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Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[
]. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well[
Plants are particularly susceptible to attacks by leaf-chewing insects[
Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity.
Most if not all members of this genus photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the 'C4 carbon-fixation pathway', this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions[
Young leaves - cooked[
]. Used as a spinach.
Seed - cooked. Very small and fiddly, but the seed is very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated[
The seed contains up to 17% oil[
]. This oil is a relatively good source of squalene (2.4 to 8.0%) and is a relatively high value lipid. Squalene is an expensive terpenoid compound, derived primarily from shark and whale liver oils. It has many applications in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, as an ingredient in cosmetics; for skin penetrants; and as lubricants for computer disks, for example[
Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[
Seed - sow late spring in situ. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm[
], but poor germination rates are experienced in cool or cold soils[
]. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination[
Cuttings of growing plants root easily[