Amaranthus cruentus

Amaranthus cruentus

The Amaranth bloody (Amaranthus cruentus L., 1759) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Amaranthaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view, it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Subregion Tracheobionta, Division Magnoliophyta, Class Rosopsida, Subclass Caryophyllidae, Order Caryophyllales, Family Amaranthaceae and therefore to the Genus Amaranthus and to the species A. cruentus.
The term is basic:
– Amaranthus hybridus subsp. cruentus (L.) Thell .;
The terms are synonymous:
– Amaranthus paniculatus L .;
– Amaranthus patulus Bertol .;
– Amaranthus chlorostachys Willd .;
– Amaranthus hybridus var. sanguineus (L.) Farw .;
– Amaranthus paniculatus var. sanguineus (L.) Moq .;
– Amaranthus sanguineus L .;
– Amaranthus hybridus subsp. cruentus (L.) Thell .;
– Amaranthus hybridus subsp. paniculatus (L.) Hejný in Dostál.

Etymology –
The term Amaranthus comes from the Greek ἀμᾰραντος amárantos which does not wither (from the privative prefix α- a- without and from μᾰραίνω maraíno wither, to fade).
The specific epithet cruentus comes from crúor, blood: dark red in color.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
The bloody amaranth is a plant native to Central America, in correspondence with Mexico, where this species was used as a food source in Central America as early as 4000 BC This species is believed to have originated from Amaranthus hybridus, with which it shares many morphological characteristics.
Its habitat is that of the areas of Central America where it is also cultivated in altitude up to about 2,800 m a.s.l.

Description –
Amaranthus cruentus is an annual herbaceous plant with variable height, depending on the variety, from 0.5 to 2 meters but which can grow even further.
The leaves of different shapes, from oval to lanceolate.
The flowers are gathered in inflorescences, which take the name of paniculi, which can appear erect or hanging, branched, up to 90-100 cm long, with colors ranging from the typical red color (due to the presence of beta-cyanins), to green or yellowish.
Flowering is in the summer.
The fruit is a compressed ovoid pissidium, sharply narrowed at the apex in a short and thin cylindrical beak.
The seeds are compressed, lenticular, with a circular outline, with a maximum diameter of 0.9-1.4 mm, brownish-blackish.

Cultivation –
Bloody amaranth is a plant that, in the areas of origin, can be grown at high altitudes, while in temperate environments it is a typical spring-summer crop that can be inserted in rotations with cereals, legumes and vegetables.
In consideration of the small size of the seed, the preparation of the seed bed assumes particular importance for the success of the crop which for this reason requires quite loose soils and with a pH between 6 and 7.5.
In intensive cultivation, the most used sowing technique is that in rows 50-60 cm apart; you can proceed in a continuous line (10-12 kg / ha of seed) or resort to precision sowing (3-5 kg ​​/ ha) with very variable densities according to the architecture of the variety used; from 20 to 60 plants / m2.
In addition, this plant is grown as an ornamental, appreciated for its feather-like flowering plumes. It is usually grown from seeds as an annual semi-resistant, which is sown under glass in early spring and planted in the summer.
For the details of the cultivation technique, see the following sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
Amaranthus cruentus was a species in use as a food source in North America and Central America as early as 4000 BC.
The seeds are consumed like cereal grains. These are ground to obtain flour, popped like popcorn, cooked in a porridge and turned into a pastry called alegría. The leaves can be cooked like spinach and the seeds can be eaten in the form of sprouts.
In addition, this plant represents an important source of subsistence for African farmers.
In Maharashtra, in the month of Shravan, during the holidays a fried vegetable with freshly grated coconut is served.
The Zuñi, who are an Amerindian population of farmers, use the cobs of the plant, ground to color the ceremonial bread red.
The crushed leaves and flowers are also moistened and rubbed on the cheeks as a red color.

Method of Preparation –
The Amaranthus cruentus plant is used in various uses and preparations.
It is used for the formulation of bars, snacks, muesli, puffed seeds, extrusions and other products such as biscuits and bread. For this latter use, however, and in general for the production of leavened pasta, mixing with cereal flours is necessary which in the case of products for celiacs can be based on corn, sorghum, rice or millet.
Amaranth flour does not contain simple sugars and this, given the high content of amylopectin and complex sugars, allows its use in the diets of obese and diabetics.
From this plant a milk is obtained which, due to its excellent balance of amino acids and the high calcium content, is suitable for the feeding of children, the elderly and lactose intolerant.
The leaves can be cooked like spinach and the seeds can be eaten as soon as they sprout.
Amaranth oil, contained in seeds for an average of 6.0%, with its content of tocopherols, compounds generally indicated as vitamin E, together with squalene, are used in the cosmetic industry especially in the skin care sector and hair.
Another particular use is that of the use of starch characterized by very small granules that can be used as a base for non-allergenic aerosols and also as a substitute for talc in cosmetics.
The leaves of some particularly pigmented varieties can be used for the extraction of a red dye used in the food industry.
The cosmetic and pharmacological sector benefits from amaranth above all by the high content of oil squalene, an average of 4.6% fatty acid.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for information purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, no responsibility is accepted for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.

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