I mistakenly thought I ran across my arch garden nemesis in the seed rack at the local home and garden store the other day. “Amaranthus”, aka pigweed, touted as an heirloom seed no less. I had to pull out my trusty phone and snap the picture you see below. I know pigweed is an edible weed, but I haven’t yet quite made that transition from compost heap to dinner plate.
An heirloom seed? Really? Initially I could not get a grip on this idea. One pigweed plant in my garden sets 10,000 seeds and their success rate is much better than the vegetables planted. The seeds can germinate as soon as they mature in midsummer and have many generations of pigweed babies each season. The seeds grow well when exposed to light, but can stay viable covered and under the soil for 10 years. Dig in the soil to weed and plant and, presto, more pigweed seeds germinate. It is a lot of work to keep this plant under control.
Of course, Amaranthus caudicus is a lovely ornamental. These old fashioned plants are really quite beautiful, and it is these truly heirloom seeds Burpee packaged. There are several different species of the family “Amaranthus”. My nemesis is Amaranthus retroflexus, very different than the ornamental amarantus and also very different from related grains such as Amaranthus cruentus and Amaranthus hypochondriacus. The latter seeds don’t have the dormancy trait and so do not become weeds. Their ancestors were grown all over the Americas for protein rich grain.
However, the seed packet stayed with me in both iphone and psyche. Hmm, could I turn the tables on this supposedly nutrition rich weed? I mulled it over and pulled a few weeds in the community garden. This time I brought the weeds home.
Kale chips are a favorite treat in our household. Prepared in the dehydrator, they are easy and one doesn’t have to watch so carefully to keep from burning them. I thought I might try Pigweed Chips! I fixed them the same plain way I do Kale chips. There are many recipe variations for Kale chips, but so far we haven’t tired of plain old oil and sea salt. Wash the Pigweed, and pull the young leaves off the stems. Pat dry. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the leaves and massage in well with a little sea salt. Use salt sparingly as the leaves will dry and shrivel much smaller than the original leaf.
In a blind taste test, my husband actually preferred Pigweed chips! Kale is rather bland on its own when dehydrated, but Pigweed has a stronger yet appealing flavor. I think garlic will go well with my next batch. I must say, there is something quite satisfying about eating this particularly prolific weed. If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!
- Eating the Weeds: Red Rooted Pigweed (persephonemagazine.com)
- Ethnic Eats: Amaranthus Amar (myurbanegarden.com)