By Amanda Stone
You may know it as that pretty ornamental flower in your garden, but did you know that celosia could also be a delicious snack? This beautiful plant with flame-like flowers is actually a common and important food in parts of tropical Africa, its original home.
Because of its flavor and nutritional value, celosia is widely consumed in several parts of Africa. It is an especially important food in Nigeria, Benin and Congo because of its affinity for hot and humid climates, and it is also commonly eaten in Indonesia and India. The leaves, young stems, and flowers a can be made into soups and stews, served as a nutty-flavored side dish with meat or fish or with a cereal-based main course such as maize porridge. Celosia has a pleasant, mild flavor, and lacks the bitterness of other leafy vegetables.
Celosia grow easily, require little care, and often reseed themselves making them high yielding, cheap and simple to grow. Having proven widely tolerant to both tropical and dry conditions and usually unaffected by pests, diseases, or soil type, this crop is among the most flexible greens for harsh growing conditions.
In addition to their nutritional and aesthetic value, Celosia may also help repress striga, a parasitic weed which devastates other crops such as sorghum, millet and maize. Though the research on this trait is still far from clear, farmers call it “striga chaser”.
With the potential to increase food security, Celosia is valuable in more ways than one. When cultivated near homes, the colorful flowers will brighten villages and local cooks can also pluck off some leaves each day to add to dinner or for a snack.
Amanda Stone is Nourishing the Planet’s Communications Assistant.