Pig Weeds and Elephant Heads
Despite its beauty and practicality, amaranth is an underestimated plant for gardens.
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The plant is amaranth, commonly called pig weed. The unwanted annual weed species Amarnathus retroflexus afflicts most gardens across America. It's so highly adaptable that if cut to the ground, the plant becomes ground hugging, branching out from the stump in every direction. Let one weed go to seed and they are with you forever.
This tiny, hard gray weed seed seems hardly a crop, but agricultural strains developed in Latin America produce prodigious amounts of it. Unusually high in protein, it is incorporated into a variety of traditional foods including Aztec ceremonial cakes, candy and mole. Fresh seed rolled on a hot comal or frying pan pops just like mini popcorn, producing a delicious and nutritious snack. You can even find pure amaranth seed in natural foods stores.
Despite its beauty and practicality, amaranth is an underestimated plant for gardens. The most robust species is Amaranthus hyprochondriacus, bred to produce vividly colored plants with prodigious seed crops that draw wild birds. The fresh flower heads make fine cut flowers and offer outstanding decorating materials for autumn.