Edible Gardening: Amaranth

Amaranth provides one of the most complete sources of protein available in a grain. This drought-resistant plant prolific, producing up to 10,000 seed in a single flowerhead.

Combine amaranth with sunflowers for an impressive late season display. The seeheads of both will be ready for the harvesting at about the same time.
FIME_Nature_Amaranth_Harvest
Source: Pima County

Features: Busing upright annual – red, purple, burgundy, gold or green plum-like flower clusters. Edible young growth and seeds.

Height: 1.2 – 2.7 meters

Spread: 30 – 90 Centimeters (11 – 36 inches)

Getting Started

Amaranth sprouts quickly when sown directly in the garden. Scatter seeds or plan in rows once all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed – mid-May to early June for most Canadian Gardens.

Growing Conditions

Amaranth grows best in full sun. It adapts to most soil conditions, but it prefers a fertile soil. Spread a layer of compost on the soil before you plant to keep weeds down and to improve the soil. Although it is drought tolerant, this plant grows best if the soil is kept fairly moist while it germinates. 

Harvest Time

The seed usually ripen and fall about the time of the first autumn frost. Several harvesting methods can be used over a drop cloth, large bowl or bucket, shake or rub the seedleads between your hands – wear gloves, because the seedhead be be quite coarse. The seed and plant bits are easy to separate because the plant bits are lighter and rise to the surface if you run your hand through the collected seeds and carefully blow a fan over them. The seeds are quite light, too, so the breeze should not be too strong. Leave the seeds to dry in a warm place before storing them in an airtight container. 

FIME_Nature_Amaranth_Cooking
Source: Today

Tips

This plant is very tall and makes a good screen plant. It resembles giant celosia when in bloom and is indeed related to that popular annual. The flowers can be use in fresh and dried arrangements, but cutting the flowers will reduce your yield.

Young leaves can be steamed and eaten like spinach. The grains can be added to soups and stews, cooked as a hot cereal or side dish, or ground into flour and used in pancakes, muffins and breads. They can even be popped, like corn, for snacking.

Pest Control

Young plants look very similar to red-rooted pigweed, making weeing challenging. If red-rooted pigweed is common in your garden, start your amaranth plants in peat pots, then transplant them directly into the garden to make weed identification easier.

Recommendations

A. Hypochondriacus (Amaranth or Grain Amaranth) is a tall annual plant that bears large plume-like clusters of red, purple, gold or green flowers. It grows 1.2 – 2.7 meters tall and spreads up to 90cm. Several cultivars are available, including Burgundy, with purple red leaves and large burgundy plumes; Golden Giant, with bright yellow stems and flowers that mature to deep gold; and Mercado, with dense, less plume-like, bright green flowerheads.

References: “The Canadian Edible Garden (Vegetable, Herbs, Fruits and Seeds)” by: Alison Beck. Pp. 52-55.

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