Chinese Spinach (Amaranthus tricolor)

Annual
A. gangeticus. L. A. melanocholicus.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Chinese Spinach
Amaranthus tricolor
Amaranthaceae

Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[168].

  • Medicinal Use

    The whole plant is astringent[240]. A decoction of the root is used with Cucurbita moschata to control haemorrhage following abortion[218].

    A decoction of very old plants is taken internally to improve vision and strengthen the liver.

  • Edible Use

    Leaves – raw or cooked. Often used at the young seedling stage[2, 46, 61], they are also cooked as a spinach and have a very mild flavour[183]. An excellent hot weather substitute for spinach[183]. The leaves contain about 3.5% protein, 0.25% fat, 6.6% carbohydrate, 3.1% ash, 24mg iron per 100g, 464mg calcium per 100g, they are rich in vitamin A and have a fair content of vitamins B1 and C[179]. On a zero moisture basis 100g of the leaves contains up to 2441mg calcium, 1008mg phosphorus, 51mg iron, 34mg sodium, 4475mg potassium, 37,623 micrograms beta-carotene equivalent, 0.68mg thiamine, 2.37mg riboflavin, 11.48mg niacin and 730mg ascorbic acid[218].

    The crisp interior of large stems makes a tasty vegetable[183]. It can be eaten raw or cooked as an asparagus substitute[2, 61].

    Seed – cooked[22, 177]. Very small but easy to harvest and 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[K]. The seed contains saponins[218]. If this is the case it is probably best to either soak the seed for at least 12 hours and then rinse thoroughly before cooking or to give the seed a long slow cooking in order to destroy the saponins[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    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.

Cultivation & Habitat

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[133]. A minimum soil temperature of 10¡c is required for germination, germination is better at temperatures above 20¡c[206]. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination[133]. Cuttings of growing plants root easily[206].
Prefers a light well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[200, 206], though it does succeed in heavier soils[206]. Tolerates fairly acid soils[206]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.3 to 7.8. This is basically a tropical plant and so requires a hot sheltered position in temperate climates if it is to do well[206, K]. Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity. A polymorphic species[1], it is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are many named varieties[206]. This species is often cultivated in Asia for its edible leaves and seed[46, 58]. It is a very ornamental plant and is often grown in the flower garden[200]. 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[196].
Tropics

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.