Amaranthus spinosus


BOTANICAL NAME:- Amaranthus spinosus


SINHALA : Katu tampala 
TAMIL : Mullukkirai 
ENGLISH : Prickly Amaranth


An annual herb, stem 0.3-1.02 m tall, green, stout glabrous and shining, much branched, cylindrical with a pair of very sharp divaricate spines in leaf axils at the base of the bud or branch.

LEAVES:- Simple, alternate, 3-8 cm long, 1.3-4.3 cm broad.

FLOWERS:- Regular, pale green, unisexual, monoecious, very small, numerous, sessile, in dense clusters both axillary and terminal interrupted spikes, male flowers fewer then female. Flowers and fruits from September to December.

FRUIT:- 1.2-1.5 mm long, very thin, circumscissile with persistent perianth segments. Seeds or bicular 1mm diameter, black and polished (Jayaweera, 1981).


Grows as a weed in waste ground throughout India, Sri Lanka and other tropical countries. In Sri Lanka it is very common on waste ground (Jayaweera, 1981).

EDIBLE PARTS : Young leaves.

FOOD USE: The young leaves are often eaten as a pot herb.


Moisture - 85.0 g, 
Energy - 43 Kcal, 
Protein - 3.0 g, 
Fat - 0.3 g, 
Carbohydrate -7.0 g, 
Calcium - 800 mg, 
Phosphorus -50 mg, 
Iron - 22.9 mg, 
Carotene - 3564 meg, Vitamin C - 33. 

Both vegetative and reproductive parts of the plant contain traces of hydrocyanic acid. ^ The fresh tender leaves contain vitamin C and mucilage. The plant is used as a sudorific and febrifuge and is recommended for eruptive fevers. The leaves are considered a good emollient, lactagogue and a specific for colic. Externally, the bruised leaves are applied locally on eczema. The root is considered for gonorrhoea as it is a mild diuretic and demulcent to the urinary tract. In Ghana, an enema prepared from the plant is given for piles (Jayaweera, 1981).


Soil with a high organic content, with adequate mineral reserves are required for optimum yield. Optimum pH range is 5.5-7.5 but some cultivars will tolerate more alkaline conditions. Although it is tolerant to high temperatures, optimum is 23-30°C, lowland areas up to 800m altitude are more suitable for cultivation.


Katu tampala can be grown in home gardens or on small plots using labour-intensive practices. It may be sown direct or transplanted. It requires finely prepared soil so that small seeds can be firmly packed with good soil contact for optimum water absorption.

Spacing /Seed rate - The very small seeds are mixed with dry sand to ensure uniform 
distribution. They are sown broadcast on to prepared beds at a rate of 1.5-2 kg/ha.

Irrigation - Increases yield but uneconomic. It is normally grown as a rainfed crop.

Fertilizer - It responds well to fertilizers with a high Potassium content.

Time to harvest - First harvest may be taken at 2 weeks, but true harvesting starts 30-50 days from sowing, when plants are 15-20 cm high.

Harvesting- Either whole plant is uprooted when it is about 20 cm high, in 3-4 weeks after transplanting, or established plants are cut above the bottom two leaves, which encourages growth of side shoots.

Yield - Entire plant harvested- 20-25 t/ha; shoots only (successional harvesting)- 30-60 t/ha.


In wet places the green harvest can be stored for 2-4 days.