Food, flower, herb or dye. Which am I?
Mar. 8, 2011 11:58 am
Updated: Mar. 16, 2011 6:33 am
That's exactly what I wanted to know when I first spotted this plant in my sister's yard. It was strikingly similar to a houseplant I'd given my Mom on her 70th birthday. The big difference being it was outside and had self sown. Mom's plant would be
a goner if it tried to over winter here and root cuttings propagate it. What did my sister know about her plant? She knew where she bought it and she thought the seller said Native Americans used it as dye. It grew well, self seeded, had a very pretty color,
and a tassel like flower. It got bonus points for easy removal if it grew where she didn't want it. OK. I wanted some but I also wanted to know more about it. So my search began and I thought I would share what I discovered. Why? At this house cooking
and gardening go hand in hand. My gardens provide everything from fresh produce to a wide variety of seasonings for my kitchen to turn into tasty meals. And any plant that can say, "I'm all of the above", I consider a winning garden plant and definitely
Order-Caryophyllales Family-Amaranthaceae Genus-Amaranthus Species-cruenthus X A.powellii Common name-Hopi Red Dye Amaranth
Mom's houseplant. I learned during my search that quite a few members of this family are tropical. Explains why this one doesn't like being outside during Missouri winters!
Family-Amaranthaceae Genus-Iresine Species-herbstii Common name-Gizzard plant or Blood leaf
Yes, the color really does look like that and that is what caught my eye when I bought the Gizzard plant so long ago and again when I saw the amaranth in Sis's yard. Discovering the 2 were in the same family was a search bonus. And yes, it was quite a quest
since I didn't have much to go on but prior to this I'd gone on a similar hunt for another plant so I was prepared. An invasive that someone had introduced to my yard which went on to choke out my hyssop and several varieties of thyme. I'm still waging a
battle against it but I know what it is now! Plus, I've gained a growing interest in botanical classifications of plants because the invasive's common name is used by other plants not in its family. Little did I know when in college I'd be so interested
in botany later. Sure, I've always enjoyed growing things but now I find the twists and turns in their family trees, so to speak, rather fascinating. Did you know a rose is related to the apple tree? They share Division, Class, Order and Family. There's
ever so much I don't know about the levels of plant identification but the cool thing about not knowing it all is knowledge can always be added to! Sometimes it's even fun and you score bonus knowledge! Like I did when I discovered yet another plant in the
Amaranthaceae family. A subfamily-Chenopodioideae. Wait till you see what it is!
Back to my food. flower, herb and dye plant. While the food, flower, and dye uses are pretty easy to show and explain, what about its use as an herb? Yes, it is called an herb. Webster tells me an herb is a seed producing annual, biennial or perennial that
does not develop persistent tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season. It is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory or aromatic qualities. OK. Again I'm not a botanist but I'll accept it as an herb. A very pretty and tasty one!
I've included pictures of my attempts to grow it in a window box so I could harvest leaves for salads. What a colorful way to dress up a salad! In a container with nasturtiams and coleus. I really like the color of this plant. So vibrant in the sun!
Here it is out in the butterfly garden. Did I mention the finches loved the seed heads? Which you can also dry for flower arrangements. The seeds are edible for us too. However, it would take quite a few to consider yourself having had a snack of them.
Just wait till you see its bigger cousin (for lack of better word!).
I reseeded the window box and then got to look at those bright leaves all winter in the sunroom. Rather cheery when the sun would shine between snowstorms.
Since this plant is used to make dye, I thought why not? I'm not at all familiar with making my own dyes from plant products but the attempt was fun. I was hoping to dye cupcakes with it but I don't think I made it strong enough because they were only vaguely
pink. Still tasted good though!
I've included links in case you'd like to read more about this plant and its family. I never would have guessed a plant I found growing in my sister's yard would have so many uses and be good to eat. Not to mention healthful. Compared to some of the cousins
I read about maybe not as high on the nutritional scale but I'd give it bonus points for being easy to grow! You can toss the young leaves in a salad. Wish this had been around when I was trying to get my son to eat salads. I'm pretty sure he would have
liked eating it for its color alone. Its taste I'm not sure how to describe. The only word that comes to mind is clean or fresh. It doesn't remind me of spinach. For my "Birthday brunch" blog, I had it steamed. Worked pretty well and I liked it. It could
have a counterpart in another cuisine but my palate hasn't had the chance to extensively sample other cuisines. I still chuckle when I think of Good EatNZ's attempts at broadening my culinary horizons during our joint blog effort. Speaking of Laurie, I'm
so glad to have made her acquaintance and I truly hope the future gets brighter sooner rather than later for her and all those that have been affected by New Zealand's latest quake. It is truly sad to think how permanent some of the damage to lives and property
has been there.
Finally, what was my bonus plant in the search? Order-Caryophyllales Family-Amaranthaceae Subfamily-Chenopodioideae Genus-Chenopoduim Species-quinoa. Yes, indeed! Quinoa.
Just what little I have read has been very interesting. One site called it a puesdo grain since it is not really a grain but a seed. So far everything I have read rates it high on the nutritional scale. Plus, it is gluten free. After I saw a request on
the buzz about it, I decided to try some myself. It must have been very popular at the store because all the red was gone and there was very little white left. Enough for me to try, though. I know we are supposed to include more veggies and grains in our
diets. The veggies not so much of a problem for me. A variety of grains more so. One of the favorite grains they tell us to add I hate. Yep, I hate oatmeal. I'd rather eat it straight out of the box than cooked. My poor mother would lament my lack of
proper oatmeal for her breakfast when she came to visit. She was just sure sure if I got the right kind I'd learned to love it. Nope. If you are a mushroom hater is there ever going to be a kind of mushroom you like? I rest my case!
I didn't try anything much with the quinoa. Soaked it in chicken broth and heated it to see if I'd like it. I did! I like the consistency and the flavor. So much so, I added the rest to homemade barley and mushroom soup. This will be something I certainly
try again and I look forward to seeing what else I can make out of it.
I hope you enjoyed the blog and I'm going to leave you with a picture that has nothing to do with it. It happened to appear while I was taking pictures of the amaranth. I thought I'd see who knew what it was especially Doug Matthews. Yes, I do know what
it is! LOL!
About Amaranth and Hopi Red Dye.
I saw this request and copied it for myself since I wanted to keep the info about quinoa. I thought anyone else wishing to know more about quinoa might find what these AR members were sharing interesting too.
How plants are classified.
Hopi Red Dye Amaranth