Growing Amaranth/Mulaikeerai

Two pictures of my baby kutti Amaranths grown from Organic Rajgira seeds

Now, plants hate me because I usually approach them with love and affection but eventually kill them off! It is not neglect, I take care of them, but they still die on me. Whats a girl to do? I have been eyeing the lovely Amaranth recipes Indira has at Mahanandi for a while now. We donot get Amaranth leaves in our local farmers market.So finally I decided to grow these in a pot on my windowsill.

My mother in law sent me a copy of the English edition of the famous Tamil cookbook Samaithu paar, which had an, "Amaranth kootu/ Mulaikeerai recipe"- This is when I realised that Mulaikeerai is an Amaranth. My mom grew up having Molakeerai or Araikeerai Kootu everyday of the week - Both of which turned out to be Amaranths. Yay! Growing Amaranth myself now brought me closer to my moms roots too- an unexpected bonus.

Did you know that amaranth is over 4000 years old? Or that it was found at a Harappan site(Surkotada, Kutch: Gujarat)? I did not!

KT Achaya's Indian Food, a Historical Companion is the first book that my husband H. bought me from the Oxford University Press. It is not a work you read from cover to cover because of its serious academic tone, but whenever I dip into it - I come away with fascinating historical insights into Indian food.

Some other fascinating tidbits about amaranth from this book:
Amaranth is a genus with many different species. The most common amaranth grain variety in India is A. hybridus. It is also called ramdhana, chua, bathua , pungikeerai or thotakura in India. Rajgeera itself comes from the variant A. hybridus subsp. cruentus whose leaves are eaten as chaulai, mathbhaji or pungikeerai.

The third species A. caudatus is an ornamental garden plant also called love lies bleedng, and it was originally brought in from South America. The Picture on the left is of Love lies Bleeding and is from Britannica. I seem to remember this plant lurking in the gardens of my childhood.

Three other Amaranthus species are found in India, with Sanskrit names and probably of Indian origin.
A. Spinosus, in Sanskrit Alpamarisha, in Hindi Kantachaula and in Tamil Mulaikeerai.
A. Tricolor, in Sanskrit Marisha, makanada or tanduliya, Hindi Chaulai and Tamil Araikerai or thandukeerai.
A. Viridis , in Sanskrit tanduliya or vishnaga and in Tamil kuppukeerai or sinnakeerai.

These three are also called Malabar Spinach, Chinese Spinach & Tampala ( Generic Sri Lankan Name)respectively in the Western World.

Amaranths are also very nutritious, more about that in another post. Also Recipes for amaranth coming up in future posts. I cannot wait for my little, kutti plants to grow up - when I can finally try out the Amaranth recipes Indira has!


FH said...

I have seeds too, last year I grew some in pots.I have yet to sow the seeds this year. Your's look healthy and yummy already!:)

bee said...

beautiful pictures. i would love to grow amaranth.

Cham said...

The kutti amaranth looks beautiful...

ms said...

Asha- The plants look so cut at night, they fold their leaves- to cut transpiration water losses i suppose. I dont have the heart to cook them eventually.
Bee & Cham - Thanks!

Beyond Curries said...

Whenever I saw recipes with amaranth, I used to wonder what these where and recently only I googled and came to know that it's araikeerai.

Yours look very good. Can you please tell me what are these seeds and where are they available. I would also love to grow it. Last summer I grew methi and it came very well.

Thank You.

ms said...

Hi madhu, welcome to SF. You can find Amaranth seeds at your local indian store. They are sold as rajgira or rajgeera. Now if you are looking specifically for thotakura, the Andhra variety of Amaranth you can buy the seeds at http://www.seedsofindia.com/shop/?keywords=+amaranth&match_criteria=all&searchCat=All&shop=1&cart=19356. It is an excellent site for Indian seeds that I found at Indira's Mahanandi. Hope this helps!

Meera said...

What a great idea, girl! I am so excited. I am going to grow amaranth now. I think I will find the seeds at Whole Foods. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Those leaves look stunning and look like they are not going to disappoint you this tim :). Amaranth is an all-favourite and it was very interesting to read all the information you have collected and delved into. Look forward to your recipes.

Anonymous said...

these do look lovely, any pointers on how you grew them? Are these regular rajgira grains you sowed in soil?

Beyond Curries said...

Thank you very much MS. I'll surely check it out.

Anonymous said...

what is thebest growing season for amaranthus?