Growing and Saving the Seed of Chinese Multicolor Spinach
Latin name Amaranthus tricolor, it is a heat- and drought-tolerant green in spectacular splashes of color! This leafy “spinach” amaranth is popular in Asia, eaten raw, stir fried, or steamed and is known as bireum In Korea and as xian cai in China. This is by far the most tender and sweetest amaranth for edible greens, making for vibrant and delicious salad. The young leaves are a perfect spinach substitute; the intricately colored leaves are juicy and succulent. This is the go-to “green” for midsummer when all others have bolted, and can be harvested just 30-40 days from sowing.
Recent research has shown that amaranth in Asia is identical to that of amaranth in the Americas, and has been proven to have existed in Asia for millennia. The presence of amaranth in Asia is considered a living piece of evidence that pre-Columbian transatlantic trade indeed happened..
- A warm-weather crop, it needs soil temperatures between 65-90 F degrees 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 6 inches apart.
- Plants/foliage grow 1-2 feet tall, and taller when flowering.
- Requires full sun, tolerates heat and drought but does best with average moisture and fertility.
- 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 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 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.