Growing and Saving the Seed Of Amaranth
Amaranth is native to Central and South America. It is easy to grow and produces delicious greens and grain.
Amaranth was a staple crop of the Aztecs, who cultivated it for food and considered it a sacred, ceremonial crop. Conquistadors attempting to dismantle Aztec culture banned the cultivation of amaranth, threatening serious punishment to those who broke the rules. Amaranth continued to grow wild, however, and eventually resurfaced as a protein-rich grain.
Young leaves make an excellent spinach substitute; picking individual leaves allows the plant to continue growing.
The high-protein seeds can be harvested and saved for later use.
- Amaranth is a warm-weather crop that needs soil temperatures of 65-75 F to germinate.
- Surface sow seeds directly in the garden and cover with a very fine layer of soil.
- Seeds germinate in 3-4 days.
- Thin seedlings to 18 inches apart.
- Amaranth grows best in moist, well-drained soil, but it will tolerate poor soil quality and drought.
- Amaranth thrives in full sun and will grow to be 5 to 8 feet tall in ideal conditions.
- Can be planted in rows or used as a natural trellis for beans or used in place of corn in a Three Sisters garden.
- Harvest when you can gently shake seeds from the flower stalk.
- Keep up with weeding around young seedlings. Once plants become well established, they will be able to outcompete weeds.
- Flea beetles can be a nuisance to amaranth when seedlings are young and tender; try covering seedlings with floating row cover until plants have reached 2 feet tall and can better handle insect damage.
- For extreme flea beetle infestations, apply diatomaceous earth or kaolin.
- When plants have matured, cut down the entire flower stalk, place in a large bag and shake vigorously to remove seeds.
- Alternatively, place a colander on top of a bowl and massage the flower heads until the seeds drop. Winnow by gently shaking the seeds and blowing lightly on them to remove the plant pieces from the seeds.
- Amaranth is wind pollinated, so different varieties should be planted 1,000 feet away from each other to prevent cross pollination.
- Also, keep away related plants such as celosia, cockscomb, lambsquarter and pigweed to avoid cross pollination.
- Amaranth seeds remain viable 5 to 7 years after harvest.