Monday, November 16, 2015

Wayward Weeds or Red Root Pig Weed by Ann Moore

Amaranths retroflorus photo from
       The term weed is sometimes slang for marijuana but since that chapter is not finished yet, we will just accept Merriam Webster’s definition:  a weed is a plant not valued in the place is is growing and is usually of vigorous growth, especially one that tends to choke out more desirable plants.

This covers lots and lots of plant growth (a lovely little petunia in an onion patch?).  But the one we really should hope to find a good use for soon is Red Root Pigweed, scientific name Amaranths retroflexus.

Amaranth is a lovely nourishing seed that has been around for literally hundreds of years.  There are recipes for all kinds of delicious sounding things made with amaranth seeds.

However, Red Root Pigweed does not quite fit the Amaranth definition. It is more like the  Webster definition.  It has very vigorous growth,usually 2 to 3 feet high but quite often up to almost 10 feet in height.  It germinates rapidly and crowds our other more desirable plants.  It likes temperate weather and can stand drouth conditions.  You can often find it growing along untended roadsides, streams, ditches, and in disturbed areas.  It has been a serious problem in many crops.  It really grows fast when compared to zinnias, marigolds, corn, peas, and etc.
Perhaps one should confine it to a limited space, one plant can produceup to a million seeds, 95% of which will be ready to grow next spring.  Seed studies have shown that its seed can remain viable for up to 40 years.

Red Root Pigweed or Pig weed is thought to have  originated in
North America but has spread to many other countries.  In some it is grown as a food, all parts of the plant are edible.  It gets its name from the fact that pigs really like it.  Early sprouts can be boiled like spinach or eaten raw in salads.  The seeds are ready when they turn dark brown or black and are highly nutritious.  They can be eaten raw (they are quite small), ground into a flour, or cooked as a hot cereal.

So still, although it meets Webster’s definition as a weed, it has 
value.  It is not thought however that you will find it on the menu of many restaurants very soon.