Amaranth: Care, Growing Guide, & Facts
Amaranth Plant Description
The Amaranthus genus is complex, with at least 75 annual and perennial species that merge and hybridise easily. Most horticulturalists are familiar with amaranths as attractive plants, and many are unaware that they are also food plants with grain-like seeds and edible leaves.
In fact, this was previously the main reason why amaranth was so popular in cottage gardens. The usage of amaranth as an attractive plant is a relatively new trend in history.
After the gorgeous red blossoms fade, edible amaranth is cultivated for the numerous small seeds that dangle in tassels from the plant’s top. The bulk seed is used as a thickener in soups and stews or as a “grain” in porridges.
The seeds have a somewhat nutty taste and are incredibly healthy and protein-rich. The leaves of amaranth may also be eaten as a leafy vegetable; they have a similar flavour to spinach and can be used in the same way as many other leafy vegetables, notably in mixed-green salads.
If you want to eat amaranth, look for kinds that are promoted as edible. Amaranths, especially love-lies-bleeding and ordinary roadside weedy varieties, are nearly all edible. Those offered as edible types, on the other hand, are chosen for their high seed yield and extremely pleasant leaves.
Amaranth is a North American and Central American native that is normally started from seed after the final frost in the spring. If you want an early harvest, you may start the seeds indoors as much as eight weeks ahead of time.
It will take around 12 weeks for the plants to reach full maturity if you wish to harvest them for seeds. Within a few weeks of planting outside, the leaves can be collected.
How To Care Amaranth?
Amaranth grows well in most well-drained soils, but you should find a location with enough drainage and air circulation. It’s a good idea to stagger planting every two to three weeks to guarantee ongoing output, starting a week or two after your region’s last frost date.
Although amaranth plants are tall, they aren’t particularly broad or bushy, so you may space them 10 to 18 inches apart.
When they’re completely developed, the closer you can get them, the nicer they’ll appear. At the same time, they require sufficient room to allow for adequate air circulation.
How To Grow Amaranth?
In the northern portion of its habitat, amaranth thrives in full sun, but in hotter southern areas, it might benefit from some afternoon shade. Aim for at least six hours of sunshine every day for your plant.
Amaranth blooms well in normal soils and may even thrive in bad conditions. Only deep clay combinations are thought to be inappropriate for amaranth, while excessively rich soils may prevent blooming and seed production.
Water requirements for amaranth plants are typical, requiring no more than 1 inch per week. If you overwater your plants, you risk developing root rot or fungal illnesses.
iv. Temperature and Humidity
Amaranth, unlike some other leafy green crops, thrives in hot weather. Although many species are native to the southern United States and Mexico, you can count on them to thrive even when the weather is exceptionally hot.
There is no need to feed amaranth any more. Excess nitrogen can actually make the plants leggy and less suitable for harvesting.
Varieties of Amaranth
Amaranth varieties range in size from 8-foot-tall giants to 1- to 2-foot-tall plants best suited to leaf harvesting. If you wish to develop amaranth grain, you need to grow bigger plants that are particularly grown for their seeds. Among the most popular kinds are:
1. Amaranthus tricolour (red-leaf amaranth): This variety has very healthy leaves that taste like somewhat sour spinach. Notable cultivars of this plant include ‘Molten Fire’ and ‘Joseph’s Coat.’
2. ‘Burgundy’ (A. hypochondriacus): This cultivar has stunning purple foliage, scarlet blooms, and white seeds.
3. A heritage species, ‘Hopi Red Dye’ (A. cruentus), provides excellent protein-rich black seeds.
How To Propagate Amaranth?
Amaranth plants rapidly self-seed in the garden due to their abundant seeds. The volunteers can be trimmed out to approximately 10 to 18 inches apart when they grow in the spring, or dug up and transplanted somewhere.
Some of the seeds can also be collected in the fall and replanted the following spring. However, if the original plants were hybrids, the volunteer seedlings may not “come true” and may not appear like the parent plant.
How To Grow Amaranth From Seed?
When sowing amaranth seeds outdoors, space them 4 inches apart and lightly cover them with dirt. It usually takes seven to fourteen days for seeds to germinate. Thin the seedlings out to a spacing of 10 to 18 inches as they sprout.
If you’re starting seeds indoors, use a standard seed-starting mix and make sure the seedlings are hardened off before transferring them outside. Before you can effectively put the seedlings outside, the average outside temperature must reach around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Every amaranth variety may be harvested for both the leaves and the grains, but if you want to grow an edible plant, pick one that is specialised for that purpose. Some amaranth varieties are grown for their gorgeous, delicious leaves, while others are produced for seed output.
Amaranth leaves may be collected at any time, regardless of cultivar. The smaller leaves are tenderer, while the bigger leaves have a more robust flavour. Because of its large size and heat, amaranth leaves will not turn bitter like other leafy greens, allowing you to pick them at any time during the season.
Make sure to keep the crown of the plant, as well as some leaves surrounding the top, intact while harvesting the plant’s leaves so that it may continue to grow. Alternatively, when the plant is between 1 and 2 feet tall, you can cut it completely off at ground level.
It may resprout for the next harvest, but you run the danger of introducing bugs to the exposed stem. Allow the plant to blossom completely before harvesting the amaranth grains.
Keep an eye on them as they blossom and die back. Cut the blooms off before they turn brown and store them in plastic bags to dry. Once the seeds are dry, shake the bag or knock them free over a towel.
Remove the “chaff” of dried seed and enjoy your grain harvest. Amaranth is particularly tasty when combined with other grains such as millet and quinoa in a porridge.
Common Pests and Diseases in Amaranth
Most of those pests and illnesses that harm other crops can also harm amaranth. Aphids and weevils are frequent pests; insecticidal soaps can help with the former, and floating row coverings can help with the latter.
Eschew using commercial pesticides that come with a “wait to harvest” or other sort of consumption warning. Many of these pesticides are broad-spectrum, meant to kill a variety of insects and may contain substances that aren’t intended for human consumption.
Root rot may also be an issue in damp, compacted soil or during periods of frequent and abundant rainfall. If root rot develops, the plant must be removed. Managing well-draining soil and avoiding overwatering the plant are your greatest defences against the problem.