Amaranth is a spontaneous plant, little known as a vegetable, which is sometimes found in borders as a pest and not everyone knows that it can be grown as a vegetable. In botany, it is called Amaranth and is part of the Amarantaceae family.
It is in fact a culture that deserves more attention, because it is really interesting for the garden. In addition to being a very simple plant to grow, which adapts to all types of soil and has few enemies, it has a double nutritional function: it feeds on both leaves and seeds.
The seed is eaten as if it were a cereal, a valid alternative for celiacs to cereals containing gluten, while the leaves are eaten cooked like herbs, beets or spinach.
Plant amaranth in the garden
Harvesting and using amaranth
The properties of amaranth
Plant native to Central America, widespread throughout the world, amaranth adapts to all soils, preferring those rich in organic matter, and likes warm temperatures. It is a plant that can reach 80 centimeters or even a meter in height, it has a primary root system, leaves of 5/20 centimeters which, as has already been said, are edible. In the central part, the amaranth develops a main inflorescence from which the flowers develop, small capsules that enclose the seeds. There are several varieties of amaranth, there are more than 60, more or less suitable for cultivation.
Amaranth seed in the garden
Amaranth seeds are very vital, they remain active even 10 years in the soil, one plant can produce even a million of them, that’s why they are typical of grass. Therefore, one can guess that it is not difficult to grow this vegetable in a cultivated garden.
Site selection and preparation . It prefers fertile soils, rich in organic matter, indeed it is often found infesting fertilized flowerbeds. Land preparation requires deep digging and organic fertilization.
Planting period. It is sown in April in the south of Italy, in May in the north because it fears the cold, it can be planted directly or in the ground. Sowing in the nursery makes it possible to start the crop a month earlier.
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How to sow amaranth. The seed is placed a little less than 1 centimeter deep. You can put 2-3 amaranth seeds together, thin out later when the seedlings put the first two true leaves, and you can select the most vigorous one. After placing the seed, cover it with fine soil and moisten it.
Sixth of the installation. The plants should be 15/20 cm apart if you want to consume the leaf, increasing the distance if you want to grow plants from seed, in fact in the latter case you have to let the plant grow longer.
Where to find amaranth seeds. Since it is not a very common crop, it is not easy to find seeds, but they can be found on the Internet.
Pigweed grows quickly and has no major weed problems, making it very easy to grow in the garden. Irrigation is only necessary in very dry periods because it is a drought-resistant plant. Weekly irrigation may be sufficient to ensure adequate growth even in hot weather.
Fertilization is sufficient by preparing the soil, at the rate of about 3-4 kg of manure or fertilizer per square meter. Do not overdo the nitrogen because amaranth, like spinach, can accumulate nitrates in the leaves, which become toxic when eaten.
Amaranth is a very hardy plant, it is not for nothing that it is better known as a grass than as a garden plant, so it does not have many enemies and does not require pest control treatments. You may suffer from aphids, in case this pest occurs, you can read the article on how to defend plants against aphids, to understand how to deal with the infestation with natural methods.
Collecting and using the hammer
Sheets. Amaranth grown to consume the leaves is harvested when the plant is young and tender, only the useful leaves can be removed or the whole plant can be harvested. Leaves are produced from the end of June until the first cold spells. The leaves are eaten cooked in the same way as other leafy vegetables, such as beets and spinach.
Seeds. The seeds ripen between August and October, they are harvested when they are easy to separate between the fingers. They are used like cereals: amaranth can be used in flour, to make bread, in soups, they can also be puffed. Boiled, the seeds form a jelly like those of tapioca. However, growing seeds in the garden does not produce much, although many seeds are small.
The properties of amaranth
Many seeds are rich in protein and fiber, in amaranth we also find a good presence of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Compared to cereals, amaranth has a high nutritional value as a food and the seeds, being gluten-free, are suitable for celiacs. All these properties make amaranth a vegetable but very interesting to cultivate, so it is worth discovering this still little known culture.