Some amaranths (Amaranthus spp.) are useful for people to eat or to feed to animals. Some are weeds. It’s a huge genus including the purple amaranth (A. cruentus), the prince’s feather (A. hypochondriacus), the redroot pigweed (A. retroflexus) and the careless weed (A. palmeri).
The grain amaranths (which are pseudocereals, not true cereals) had a long history of being people’s staple food in parts of the Andes until Spain colonised there. After that, these crops were driven almost completely from cultivation.
Brian Clark Howard at the National Geographic tells us how amaranth could be the new quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa).
Would an amaranth comeback be a good thing? Only if the people who grow the crop reaped its benefits. Sam Eaton at The World says poor people could be glad of amaranth. As my fellow blogger Noah Zerbe at Global Food Politics explains, some say that the International Year of Quinoa backfired. If there’s an amaranth comeback, I hope the mistakes which may have been made about quinoa won’t be made again.
Meanwhile, John Summerly at Healthy Life tells us that at least one wild amaranth has evolved into a superweed resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (glyphosate). I haven’t yet looked at the original science but if it’s true, farmers are living with Roundup Ready pigweed. Oops.