Araceae

Synonym is Celosia argentea L.

Common names are African Spinach, Indian Spinach, Spinach, Amaranth, Bush Greens, Chinese Spinach, Green Leaf, Spinach Greens (Eng.); Amarante (Fr.); Bledo (Sp.); Badi Chauli, Chota Chaulai (Ind.); Kulitis (Philipp.).

A large number of local strains and selections exist.

Center of origin and distribution is India.

Widely grown in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa; Zaire; the West Indies; and Indonesia.

A large, erect herb, 24 m in height. Corm: a modified form of stem, growing immediately below the surface of the soil, black or dark brown in colour. Stems: thickened, up to 3 m or more in height and 20 cm in diameter. Leaves: large, sagittate, up to 1 m in length, without a marginal vein; petiole 1-1.2 m in length. Leaves in line with the main axis of the petiole. Both stems and leaves contain a viscous, milky fluid. Flowers: a spathe, with separate male and female section in spadix. Fruit: a berry, red when ripe.

Tolerant to a wide range of soil conditions, although a high level of organic material in the soil is required for the production of optimum yields, particularly from the green form. Initial applications of essential elements may be followed by supplementary applications of nitrogen. A temperature range of 25-30C is suitable for both forms, both of which appear to respond to fairly stable high temperatures. High levels of rainfall are unlikely to limit growth but irrigation is necessary during dry periods, particularly for the red form which is sensitive to drought conditions. Both forms grow well at low altitudes, where temperature fluctuations are limited. Daylength variation does not appear to affect this crop to any significant extent although high light intensities are required to maintain regular leaf formation and development, and flowers are rarely formed in long days.

Corms or offsetts are usually planted in prepared planting holes or pits and plants are spaced at 1-1.5 m X 1-1.5 m apart. Weeds should be controlled but little routine cultivation appears necessary.

Plants mature in 400-600 days from establishment but may remain in an edible condition for a considerable period. The basal part of the stem, which may grow to 1 m in height and 20 cm in diameter, is the main source of food, although the cormels are sometimes used. Yields of 7-12 t/ha have been reported.

For seed production, plants are established at about 100-120 cm apart each way. Pollination is by insects and the general method of seed production is similar to that of Amaranthus spp. Seeds are produced about 100-120 days from sowing, but total seed yield is normally less than that of most species of Amaranthus. Approximate yields in Nigeria are: green form, 8 kg; red form, 14 kg.

The stem is peeled and used as a cooked vegetable, being added to soups and stews. The corms should be thoroughly cooked before eating. A very easily digested starch or flour can be prepared from the stem. Many forms also have an appreciable content of calcium oxalate but cultivars exist which do not produce oxalates; the leaves and stalks of these cultivars are eaten in India.

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