Enjoy a multi-faceted crop full of nutrition when you grow edible amaranth in your garden…
Amaranth used to be a common crop in many gardens, providing both nutritious leaves and edible seeds that could be used as a staple grain. These days, amaranth is mostly grown as an ornamental plant due to its stunning colors and visual appeal. However, its beauty doesn’t detract from the its value as an edible crop, and in recent years, there has been a resurgence of gardeners growing edible amaranth for home consumption. Part of this renewed interest in edible amaranth is due to recent increase in self-sufficiency and the value of growing your own food, while others celebrate amaranth due to its high nutrient content, as it is sometimes known as a “superfood.”
You can eat both the seeds and the leaves from any edible amaranth plant, though larger plants will tend to provide a larger crop of seeds. The seeds are tiny, similar to millet or quinoa, and you can cook them as a porridge or use as an alternative to rice. The leaves are similar to spinach both in flavor and nutrition, and they don’t get bitter in hot weather as many other leafy greens do, but they generally taste better and are more tender when small.
If you want to eat both the leaves and the seeds, you may want to grow a couple of different varieties of amaranth – a larger one for seeds, and a smaller one for the greens. They come in a wide range of sizes, foliage and flower colors, so they will look beautiful in your garden while also providing a valuable food source!
Here are a few tips for growing organic edible amaranth in your garden – from TheSpruce.com:
Unlike other leafy green vegetables, amaranth is fairly happy in the heat. In fact, it is native to the southern US and Mexico, so you have a lot of leeway for a warm spring and even summer! It’s also pretty drought tolerant, though it will do better with some moist, well-drained soil.
For best results, especially if you want to stagger plantings, start amaranth indoors first. If you sow seeds directly outdoors, wait until a week or two after the last frost to allow the soil to warm up. Same with transplanting–these are warm weather plants and frost won’t do you any favors.
While amaranth is tall, they aren’t necessarily wide or bushy. So you can get away with growing them 10-18” apart. The closer you can get them, the better they look once full grown.
The best part about amaranth in a busy garden is that it’s a plant family all its own. Rotate it around to those frustrating places where you have planted just about everything in the last couple of years. You’ll get a fresh look and the soil will get a break.
As far as growing amaranth goes–that’s about all you need to know! They are incredibly easygoing plants and still provide an amazing return in the form of stunning colors and unique flowering structures.
Harvesting and Using Amaranth
Regardless of your cultivar, amaranth leaves can be harvested at any point. Small leaves are tender and nicer, but the larger leaves have a full flavor as well. Large growth and heat won’t make amaranth bitter like other leafy greens.
Trim leaves off to harvest, and leave the crown and some leaves around the top to continue growing. If you’d like, you can cut the whole plant down once it is a foot or so tall. It’s possible that it will reshoot for another harvest, though you do risk introducing pests to the open stem.
To harvest grains, let amaranth go all the way to flower. You want that for your edible landscape anyway. Keep an eye on them as the flowers bloom and then begin to die back. Before they all brown, cut them off and bag them. In the bags, they’ll dry. Shake the bag once they are dry, or knock the seeds loose over a cloth. Rinse or blow away the dried seed “chaff” and enjoy your grain harvest!