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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a general name given to a large and very diverse group of plants. Some varieties, such as Love Lies Bleeding, have been developed as ornamentals. Others have been bred for use as a food crop. The young stalks, the leaves and the seeds are all useful and nutritious.

Amaranth plants are vigorous, fast growing, and are bothered by few insect pests or diseases. It is important in some areas to plant amaranth in neat rows or some recognizable pattern, as there are some common weeds that resemble young amaranth plants. Given full sun and well drained soil, the plants will achieve a large size quite quickly. The leaves will be harvestable quite early, but reach full size in about six to eight weeks. The seed heads will have formed a few weeks after that.

The challenge with this crop is not so much the successful growing of it, but the harvesting and utilizing of it. Of the edible varieties, some are preferred for the use of the leaves for greens, and other varieties are primarily grown for the seeds. The leaves and seeds of all these varieties are equally edible.

The leaves, especially the new leaves of young plants, can be picked a few at a time and included in salads. Amaranth has a mild flavor and a lower oxalic acid content than spinach. Amaranth can also be cooked, as with spinach.

The seeds of the mature plants do not all mature at once, and present something of a challenge to capture in time. The seeds that fall in the garden can come back as bothersome weeds in future seasons, which is an added incentive to capture as many of them as possible. When the first seeds are brown and mature (or when you notice that some seeds have begun to fall off), either cover the top of the plant tightly with a paper bag or cut the plant off and bring the upper portion indoors to hang upside down, again with a paper bag tightly covering the seed heads to capture the seed as it comes loose from the plant. It is best to take the works indoors if rain is expected.

The effort involved in harvesting the seed is well worthwhile in terms of nutrition. Amaranth seed is extremely high in protein, and has an amino acid content that complements wheat or corn. When combined with these other grains, amaranth seed (or ground amaranth flour) makes a complete protein of the same quality as meat, thus it is a particularly useful crop to vegetarians.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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