Vernacular names: Prince’s feather, amaranth (En). Amarante, brède malabar (Fr). Amaranto, bredo (Po). Mchicha (Sw).
Amaranthus hypochondriacus is an ornamental plant commonly known as Prince-of-Wales feather or prince's feather. Originally endemic to Mexico, it is called quelite, blero and quintonil in Spanish.
In Africa, like many other species in the family Amaranthaceae, it is valued as source of food.
In temperate regions it is cultivated as a half-hardy annual. Numerous cultivars have been selected, of which 'Green Thumb' and 'Pygmy Torch' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Origin and geographic distribution
Amaranthus hypochondriacus originates from North America, possibly as a hybrid between the north American wild Amaranthus powellii S.Wats. and the cultivated Amaranthus cruentus L. Amaranthus hypochondriacus is now widely cultivated worldwide, in tropical, subtropical and temperate climates, but mainly as a grain and ornamental crop. It is also found in tropical Africa (e.g. Kenya), but its exact distribution is unknown because of confusion with related species.
Amaranthus hypochondriacus leaves are occasionally used as a potherb and the seeds are used as a grain. Its use as a grain crop is most important in Central and South America and in Asia. The seeds are used like maize: popped, roasted or milled. In Mexico the product is known as ‘zoale’ paste and ‘alegría’ cake and confections. In the Himalayas bread made from the seeds is very popular and the popularity of Amaranthus hypochondriacus as a grain crop in India is increasing. In Africa it is experimentally tried as a leafy vegetable. Amaranthus hypochondriacus is also grown as an ornamental.
Amaranth leaves contain per 100 g edible portion: water 84.0 g, energy 176 kJ (42 kcal), protein 4.6 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 8.3 g, fibre 1.8 g, Ca 410 mg, P 103 mg, Fe 8.9 mg, β-carotene 5716 μg, thiamin 0.05 mg, riboflavin 0.42 mg, niacin 1.2 mg, ascorbic acid 64 mg. The composition of the seeds of grain amaranth per 100 g edible portion is: water 12.7 g, energy 1495 kJ (356 kcal), protein 14.0 g, fat 6.0 g, carbohydrate 63.1 g, fibre 9.4 g, Ca 490 mg, P 455 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
In Western countries amaranth seed is recommended as a health food. The protein is characterized by the high lysine content (3.2–18%). The oil has antioxidant properties. The starch consists mainly of amylopectin; the very small starch granules make grain amaranth an attractive raw material for industrial uses. The significant amount of squalene (4–11% of the oil portion) means that grain amaranth may find a market niche for industrial production of products such as lubricants in the computer industry and in cosmetics and health foods.