Appearance''Amaranthus cruentus'' is a tall annual herb topped with clusters of dark pink flowers. The plant can grow up to 2 m in height, and blooms in summer to fall. It is believed to have originated from ''Amaranthus hybridus'', with which it shares many morphological features. The plant is usually green in color, but a purple variant was once grown for use in Inca rituals.
NamingIn Mexico, it is called ''huautli'' or ''rajgira''.
UsesThis species was in use as a food source in Central America as early as 4000 BC. The seeds are eaten as a cereal grain. They are black in the wild plant, and white in the domesticated form. They are ground into flour, popped like popcorn, cooked into a porridge, and made into a confectionery called ''alegría''. The leaves can be cooked like spinach, and the seeds can be germinated into nutritious sprouts. While ''A. cruentus'' is no longer a staple food in Central America, it is still grown and sold as a health food.
It is an important crop for subsistence farmers in Africa.
In Maharashtra, during month of ''Shravan'', a stir-fried vegetable with just grated coconut is served during festivals. The stem is used in curry made with ''vaal'' hyacinth bean.
Among the Zuni people, the feathery part of plant ground into a fine meal and used to color ceremonial bread red. The crushed leaves and blossoms are also moistened and rubbed on cheeks as rouge.
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