Ron Cao, a federal agriculture department researcher working on the campus of the University of Guelph, is studying pigweed as a potential crop and food for Ontario.
|Amaranth, known to Ontario farmers as Pigweed|
Cao is assessing how the environment and genetics affect the nutritional and antioxidant values of amaranth (pigweed) and quinoa.
It’s part of a project being led by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
``If we can produce quinoa and amaranth in Ontario, it can give local farmers lucrative new crops to grow and give consumers a healthy local product to buy,'' Cao said recently by way of a news release.
He first studied the nutritional value of green and purple amaranth leaves, which are used as a vegetable in many cultures.
He found the more highly-pigmented purple leaves had more antioxidants than the green ones. Similar results have been found with quinoa leaves.
Quinoa has a complete essential amino acid profile and has many nutritional benefits.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared this year the International Year of Quinoa.
Cao's research will continue for the next two years at the Guelph Food Research Centre, one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's network of 18 research centres.
Amaranth has been highly beneficial to communities in Uganda, Africa, where farmers began growing it as a way to improve nutrition and health.
George Lubberts, who grew up in the Drayton area and is a crop consultant now in Alberta, helped a Canadian church organization – World Renew – to work with the farmers in Uganda to learn how to grow the crop.