Amaranthaceae

Alternanthera sissoo - Sissoo spinach, samba lettuce

DESCRIPTION, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Alternathera sissoo.jpg

The plant is reportedly native to the region of Brazil in South America. Although it is referred to scientifically as Alternanthera sissoo hort., there are no known scientific descriptions of its taxonomy.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

The leaves are edible. Preferable the tender young tips are pinched off and eaten either raw or steamed. The leaves are pleasantly crunchy, more so then the temperate climate spinach. When consumed in large quantities it is suggested that they be steamed or boiled, due to the presence of oxalates in the leaf.

Sissoo spinach can be added to quiches, pies, curries, dals, pasta sauces, lasagna or added to dishes and stir-fries late in the cooking process as a spinach substitute and to add a nutty flavour.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

Stem tip cuttings with one or two nodes root easily planted directly in the field.

Sissoo seems to do best in the partial shade, ideally grown in patches guilding larger trees. Having experimented cultivating sissoo in full sun I found that they are remarkably resistant to drought. Although the hue and overall quality of the leaf is diminished in exposed, dry conditions, the plant still seems to grow quickly.

Sissoo is best harvested by picking off new tips, thus the plant can be maintained as a low thick groundcover.

When left unharvested, and in prolonged dry periods, sissoo will flower. To my knowledge I have not yet seen sissoo seed, since the plant can be grown so easily from cuttings I haven’t examined the flowers much.

 

Amaranthus blitum - Purple Amaranth, Guernsey pigweed

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Native to the Mediterranean Basin region, it is naturalized in other parts of the world, including much of eastern North America and Africa.

A. blithum grows in many regions of the world, most notably mediterranean, tropical and subtropical parts of the world. This species is found in central and western parts of Kenya in wet areas, on waste ground and in cultivated land. 

The Greeks call the Amaranthus blitum var. silvestrevlita (Modern Greek: βλίτα), and eat the leaves and the tender shoots cooked in steam or boiled and then served with olive oil, lemon and salt. Similarly, it is also picked as young shoots in Lebanon and cooked in olive oil, onion, chilli, and burghul, seasoned with salt and drizzled with lemon juice before eating with pita bread. It is considered a side dish and particularly popular in the north of Lebanon.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

Leaves and young shoots are used as a vegetable. This is an important leafy vegetable in tropical and subtropical areas of Kenya and a popular species in traditional homegardens and sold in open markets.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

The plant can be propagated easily by broadcast seeding. In favorable conditions it can become naturalized and is most likely considered invasive in some areas. But as a highly nutritious edible leafy green, perhaps that's not such a bad thing. 

Aerva lanata (L.) Schultes

BACKGROUND, ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) -  Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas II].  [1]

Francisco Manuel Blanco (O.S.A.) - Flora de Filipinas [...] Gran edicion [...] [Atlas II].[1]

Widespread in the tropics and subtropics of the world, from West Africa to Egypt and south to South Africa. Widespread in Kenya in open grassland, seasonally waterlogged areas, roadsides, forest edges and rocky areas. 

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

Leaves are eaten as a vegetable in parts of East Africa (Giriama, Duruma, Chonyi).

Medicinally a decoction of the leaves is used for bating babies suffering from Malaria. The whole plant is also used as a chicken feed (Digo) and the white wool from the plant is used for stuffing pillows (Tharaka)

Celosia argenta

Commonly known as the plumed cockscomb or silver cock's comb, Celosia is a tender / herbaceous annual that is grown in gardens throughout the tropical world. It blooms in mid-spring to summer. The plant is propagated by seed, which are extremely small, up to 43,000 seeds per ounce! 

Celosia is considered to be one of the most attractive of all vegetable crops. Few of its millions of admirers know that it is a common item of human diets in West Africa and Southeast Asia. The fresh young leaves, stems, and flower spikes of Celosia argentea var. argentea or "Lagos spinach" are one of the main boiled greens in West Africa, where it is known as soko yòkòtò (Yoruba) or farar áláyyafó (Hausa). 

Productive, drought tolerant and easy to grow, the plant could become a much greater contributor to malnutrition and general human welfare equatorial regions of the world.

Leaves are high in Vitamin A, C, and Calcium. The calcium, however, is not available because its tied up in oxalic acid.

Celosia argenta.jpg