Amaranthus paniculatus

BOTANICAL NAME:- Amaranthus paniculatus

Syn : A. speciousus, A. caudatus


SINHALA: Rana- tampala.
TAMIL: Nut Keerai
ENGLISH : Inca Wheat, Quinoa, Grain Amaranth   


A tall annual, 1.2-1.8 m high with stout, grooved and striate, glabrous, or slightly pubescent stems.
LEAVES:- Simple, alternate, 5-15 cm long, 2.5-7.5 cm broad, elliptic lancelot, acute or acuminate, base cuneate, nerves slender, numerous, prominent beneath.

FLOWERS:- Small, unisexual, monoecious or polygamous, numerous in dense, thyroid, gold coloured or red spikes, the central spikes the longest.

FRUIT:- Capsule 3 mm long ovoid, narrowed at the tip, seeds 1.2- 1.5 mm long, 1 mm broad subglobose, white, red or black (Jayaweera, 1981).


Centre of origin is the Indian region of South America. It was the staple of Incas and cultivation was prohibited by Spaniards in the 16th century. Grows as an escape or cultivated in Peru, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Tropical Asia, Africa and Philippine Islands (Tindall, 1993). In the dry zone of Sri Lanka it is cultivated as a chena crop.

EDIBLE PARTS : Seeds and tender leaves. 

FOOD USE: The seed and tender leaves are eaten in Iran and Iraq. Certain hill tribes in India and Africa use the grain as a staple food. Seeds are ground into flour and Roti is prepared from it. Pop seeds are mixed with honey and given to children. Tender leaves are eaten as a green vegetable and may be added to soup.


Moisture - 78.6 g, Energy - 67 kcal, Protein - 5.9 g, Fat 1.0 g, Carbohydrates 8.6 g, Calcium -530 mg, Phosphorus - 60 mg, Iron - 18.4 mg, Carotin - 14.90 meg, Thiamine - 0.01 mg, Riboflavin - 0.24 meg, Niacin - 1.1 meg, Vitamin C -81 mg. (Perera et al., 1979).
The seed contains carbohydrate and protein. The plant is used as a diuretic for strangury. It is given for scrofula and applied topically to scrofulous sores. It is also said to be useful for piles and purifies blood. The extract of the leaves relieves pains and congestion in the chest (Jayaweera, 1981).


Soil with a high organic content, with adequate mineral reserves is 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 800 m altitude are more suitable for cultivation.


Rana 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 - (Green harvest) 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. Seeds can be kept well. Moisture content of seeds should be 8-11 % for longer storage.