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Uses for Amaranthus spp. (Waterhemp/Marestail)


Fellow Agronomists,

I was chatting with a corn farmer in Montana looking for advice. He has a rather persistent ‘weed’ issue of Amaranthus species (Waterhemp/Marestail) in his fields.

I went out on a limb and told him he could try to find a market for it. It is edible.

I found the following in a quick search of edible plant databases for all amaranthus species like waterhemp/marestail: Young leaves are very rich in iron, a good source of vitamins A and C. They are eaten raw or cooked as a spinach and have a mild flavor so are often mixed with stronger flavored leaves. Seed – raw or cooked. Ground into a powder and used as a cereal substitute, it can also be sprouted and added to salads. The seed is very small, about 1mm in diameter, but easy to harvest and very nutritious. The flavor is greatly improved by roasting the seed before grinding it. It is often added to cornmeal. The whole plant can also be used as a dye.

Of course he might need to reconsider some of his (now roundup based) pest management strategies if he wants to access the wild foods market.

Might be worth it though.

Here is a poem about one of these ‘weed’ species.

Amaranthus caudatus

by Cory Childs

Why does attention so fondly take hold
whenever new moonflower buds
on lonely land cleared of the last’s marigolds
that long masqueraded as love?

Will arum give way to hydrangea?
Will heartsease yield lavender’s bite?
I cling to mad dreams of hibiscus
conceived in the moonflower’s light.


Author: C. Whitney

I am an Independent consultant working with Organic farmers, wild collectors and conservation oriented communities in SE Asia. - Organic Consultant and Researcher, PhD candidate, Couchsurfing Ambassador, MOFGA Member, IFOAM Member, Organic Group Manager...

4 thoughts on “Uses for Amaranthus spp. (Waterhemp/Marestail)

  1. In the end the farmer opted to use Cobra and Ultra Blazer to get rid of the Amaranth spp., which, incidentally has also damaged the main crop.

    Why not give up on the beans and grow wild amaranth!?

    In southern India some Amaranth spp. are commonly used like spinach and the seeds are made into a fudge with melted palm sugar known as Rajgira.… it is a food plant, not a pest. It looks like it was/is a valuable grain in Mexico, like quinoa
    More recipes:

  2. Just what I was looking for and shares my philosophy that if we let other people tell us what is a weed and what is purposeful , we are falling into a dark well

  3. Thanks so much for the information! The first (10?) searches on this were all about killing it. I was just trying to find a use for it. Looking forward to trying some, want to try sprouting, or micro greening it:)

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