Monday, April 6, 2015

amaranth???? but Phytolacca octandra

I went to the historic ruins of timber/flour and paper mill at Riverhead. I saw this plant that looks like a giant amaranth. There were giant seeds. I wonder if this is the plant where the seeds are used as a pseudo grain, and not my mum's tiny plant.

My friend Wayne told me this is not amaranth.

This plant is poisonous

Phytolacca octandra is originally from tropical South & Central America. It is a soft-wooded, bushy and leafy perennial shrub that grows up to 2 metres tall or more and has a very deep, pliable taproot. Its stems are hollow and brittle and are softly and woody near base, usually reddish, much branched, with numerous white dots of crystalline calcium oxalate inside.
The leaves are narrow-oval (40-150 x 15-50 mm) and are alternate and light green when young, but occasionally turn reddish in autumn. From November to August dense, erect, cylindrical flower clusters (up to 7 cm long) turning from green to pink are produced along the main stem, followed by succulent, purple-black berries (8 mm in diameter) with dark red juice containing seeds.It grows in heavily disturbed forest and shrubland, short tussock land, bare land, cliffs, coastline inshore and offshore islands, riverbeds and roadsides. In sheltered frost free locations, inkweed may survive for a number of years and reach a diameter of 2-3 metres or more. In heavily frosted areas, inkweed grows as an annual or may become dormant in winter before regrowing from the base in warmer weather. It is common in the Auckland, Taranaki and Wanganui regions in the North Island and Golden Bay, Kaikoura coast and Banks Peninsula in the South Island.Phytolacca octandra contains phytolaccatoxin and phytolaccigenin, which are poisonous to mammals though they seldom graze it. However, the berries are eaten by birds, which are not affected by the toxin because the small seeds with very hard outer shells remain intact in the digestive system and are eliminated whole which aids in the spread of this plant. The seeds are also spread by water movement.

In my Mum's garden, after she weeded the plot, after a few days , these weeds will sprout and she would cook it. Mum called them Horse shit spinach aka MA SEE HIN.

I cooked some and my kids wondered why I am cooking weeds.They pestered me to tell them the name of this vege.  Amaranth leaves are loaded with nutrition. Mum says it is packed with iron.

When ever I see this weed, I think of the last time I gardened with Mum in Australia.

Now, the seeds are used as a grain. Compared to other grains amaranth seeds (below) have a much higher content of the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and the amino acid lysine. Amaranth seeds are also high in potassium, zinc, Vitamin B and E and protein.amaranth seed Amaranth leaves are loaded with nutrition.

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