|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: A. patulus Bertol.
Chonyi: chiswenya, English: amaranth, Chinese spinach, spiny amaranth, spleen amaranth Giriama: kiswenya Kamba: w'oa, terere (Mwingi), telele-nene Kambe: chiswenya Keiyo: chepkerte, chepkerta Kikuyu: terere Kipsigis: cheptokdogan Kisii: emboga Luhya (Bukusu): litoto, liola, edodo, tsimboga Luhya (Kisa): tsimboka tsia navanyolo Luhya (Marachi): lidodo Luhya: tsimboga, edodo, litoto (plant) Luhya (Tachoni): litoto Luo: ododo, omboga, alikra Maa: enyaru-olmuaate, enyaru-nanyokie, nanyi, nyani Marakwet: chepkerte, chepkarta Mbeere: terere Meru: terere, rwoga Sanya: kiswenya Somali: dargo sagar, daargo-warabe Swahili: mchicha Taita: chanya (mbale) Teso: eboga
Description: An erect or prostrate branched herb usually 40-80 cm but occasionally attaining the height of a Mandera, especially in cultivation. Stems green or tinted red, ridged. LEAVES: Simple, alternate, green or tinted red with a lamina to 15 cm or more and a long petiole. FLOWERS: Borne in clusters in green, yellow, red or occasionally purple axillary and terminal spikes. FRUITS: Seeds shiny black or cream.
Ecology: Widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of the world and widely distributed in humid to sub-humid areas in Kenya, mainly as a weed of cultivation, in degraded land and built-up areas, along rivers, roadsides and forest edges, 900-2,600 m. Commonest in the middle altitudes and highlands (1,400-2,400 m). Zones I-V.
Uses: FOOD: Leaves and young shoots used as a vegetable (+++). This is the commonest and the most widely used species in the wetter regions. Much of it is picked from the wild or occasionally it is spared when found growing as a weed. In some parts of Kenya, especially in the west, the species is cultivated in small home gardens. The vegetable is very tasty and its large leaves make it a very popular amaranth.
COMMERCIAL: Leaves, and occasionally seeds, sold in Nairobi and some other markets throughout the country.
Season: Rainy season and soon thereafter.
Management: A. hybridus grows easily from the small hard black seeds. Prepare the ground to loosen the soil and to get rid of weeds. The seeds may be sowed by broadcasting or in lines made at 30 cm intervals. As the seeds are tiny, they can be mixed with sand to ensure a more even distribution. Seeds germinate after a few days. Thin out the plants leaving the appropriate distance between neighbouring plants. These will be your first vegetables! Weed as often as necessary. Seed harvesting: At maturity, the flowering head will start losing its natural green colour (or whichever was the original colour). Mature seeds are black, while immature ones are red or pale. Whole heads may be cut, dried in the sun on a polythene sheet and beaten with light sticks to release the seeds. Rubbing between the palms may release more seeds. The seeds and chaff are then winnowed on a tray.
Status: Very common.
Remarks: Two related species are found in Kenya:
· A. hypochondriacus L. (syn. A. patulus Bertol.) has a prominent terminal spike, a more "spiny" look and often has a prostrate habit. It is more common in the higher altitudes.
· A. cruentus L. (syn. A. paniculatus L.) has a more branched flowering head, with a less "spiny" appearance. It is not as common at high altitudes. The red form of this species is also cultivated as an ornamental. These two species are often treated as subspecies of A. hybridus. Ethnobotanical surveys have confirmed that this is one of the introduced amaranth species in Kenya. A. hybridus is of Central American origin.