Amaranthus retroflexus also known as red amaranth, princes feather, and pig weed grows in waste areas through out the U.S. Amaranth is even cultivated in India and the West Indies as a pot herb and for the seeds. It will bloom in early spring until late summer. In my area the monsoon rains bring this plant out.
The very young leaves can be eaten as a salad herb or added to soups and stews for a nutritional boost. The seeds can be extracted and winnowed from the seed pods and ground into a nutritious flour for breads and cakes. A red dye was made by the Indians of the Southwest for dying fabrics. This was a major staple for the Puebloan people as well.
Amaranthus makes a great mild astringent for inflamed mucus membranes. A good strong infusion can be used to treat mild stomach irritation, diarrhea, and will aid with Gastroenteritis, which is commonly referred to as the stomach flu. This is made and drank every few hours.
Amaranthus can be found just about everywhere. This batch I grew in my yard to harvest for a green and use medicinally. One thing I like to do with Amaranth is to take the seeds and grind them in my mortar and pestle. I will then add the ground seeds to any flour for either breads, biscuits, or even fried bread. This adds a very nice flavor to just about any of these recipes. In the past I have added them to soups and stews for an amazing nutritional boost. This will also thicken the mix as well.
Should you choose to grow this plant I have found it is very forgiving. It can go a few days without water and will thrive during the monsoon season. For medicinal uses I have found that the redder the stalk the stronger these properties will be. As the plant matures the stalk will become a darker read. Some of my plants have gotten over 6 feet tall and with regular watering they will continue to grow. The seeds can be collected very easily. Remove the seed cluster from the top of the plant and hang them upside down to dry. Place a white cloth or newspaper underneath to catch the falling seeds. I have gently tapped the drying cluster to loosen these seeds. Once these are harvested they make an excellent flower for baking or can be popped like a popcorn. I have in the past used this as a cereal for breakfast. This can also be sprinkled on a variety of fruits for added nutrition and flavor.
Above is a photo of a seed cluster. This seed cluster is from the Hopi Red Dye Amaranth or Amaranthus cruentus. This plant is called the Hopi Red Dye plant for obvious reasons. The Hopi would use this plant to make a natural red dye for clothing and other textiles.