Growing amaranth from store bought seeds is a fun project for kids and adults alike.
Although amaranth does quite well growing from seed, it is often easier to grow from a few large plants transplanted into the garden. In either case it needs to be grown in full sun and regular water.
Amaranth prefers a light soil that drains well. Loosen the ground where you will plant your seeds to give them a good start.
Although amaranth is drought tolerant, it benefits from being watered once a week.
Using a garden hose spray nozzle works fine as long as you don’t stand over the plants all day watering them carefully to the point of saturation.
This highly nutritious plant has tender leaves that can be easily damaged by too much water.
Amaranth also benefits from some fertilizer, especially if you are growing it in containers. A balanced liquid fertilizer applied every two weeks works well for amaranth plants.
Amaranth is easy to harvest for seeds, just let the flower stalk grow to full height and dry out.
The tiny flowers at the top of the stalk will dry into perfect little black seeds that can be harvested by gently shaking them onto a tarp.
Amaranth leaves are also edible but they should not make up more than half of your harvest.
If you want to grow amaranth for its greens, like many leafy vegetables the plants need to be harvested often. The leaves taste best when they are young and tender.
Amaranth is also great for decoration in the flower garden or growing in patio pots.
They can even grow indoors without much trouble, just remember to move them outdoors when the temperatures start to warm up.
What is amaranth?
Amaranth is a genus of more than 60 species of grains that have been grown for approximately 8,000 years.
These grains were once a dietary staple in the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations.
Amaranth is a pseudocereal, which means it isn’t technically a cereal grain like wheat or oats but shares many of the same nutrients and is used in comparable ways.
Its earthy, nutty flavor complements a wide range of dishes well. This nutritious grain is gluten-free and high in protein, fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants in addition to being naturally gluten-free.
Amaranth can be used to make bread, breakfast cereal – like hot amaranth porridge – or even pasta. You can also add amaranth to salads and soups.
There are over 100 species of amaranths worldwide; the most common one that is grown for food is Amaranthus hypochondriacus… or what we really commonly call, “prince’s feather.”
How do I start growing amaranth?
Begin by collecting some amaranth seeds from your local health food store.
Then there are two ways for growing them at home: in seed starting trays filled with soil or directly into the garden bed.
Just prepare your dirt, then drop about 6-8 seeds into one square foot of land.
Cover the seeds lightly with soil and keep moist until they sprout – which should take about two weeks.
As soon as the amaranth plant begins to grow, thin out the weaker ones until you are left with one strong seedling.
Harvest seeds when they come in and dry them for storage.
What does amaranth need to grow?
Amaranth requires lots of warmth and a warm soil to grow.
It should be planted in very rich, light and sandy soil.
If you live in a cooler climate or have a shorter growing season, just plant amaranth seeds indoors from the beginning of April to July.
Give your amaranth 8-10 hours of sunlight per day and keep it moist throughout its entire growth cycle, since it doesn’t do well with dryness.
You may even need to water your plants two or three times a day – if so, don’t let them sit in water for long periods of time because the plant may rot.
Alternatively, grow amaranth as a summer annual where summers are very hot and dry . It needs full sun so choose a spot where the plants will get the most sun possible.
Amaranth doesn’t like cold snaps; if you live in a climate with this type of weather, plant amaranth where it can be protected from wind and frost.
Where can I get amaranth seeds from?
Amaranth seeds are sold at health food stores.
But if you can’t find them there, you could also pick up some amaranth seeds online.
There are many different varieties of this grain so have fun playing around with the different species to find out which ones work best for your climate.
You’ll find a large selection of different amaranth seeds on Amazon here.
Should I soak amaranth seeds before planting?
Amaranth seeds take about two weeks to germinate.
And as soon as they start sprouting, you’ll need to place the seedlings outdoors in full sunlight.
Once the plants are five inches high, thin them out so there is just one healthy plant per square foot of land.
After a couple weeks, the amaranth will really start to take off and produce a tall stalk with small green leaves.
The amaranth plant is ready for harvesting about two or three months after it first sprouts. After that, all you need to do is collect the seeds from the flower head and prepare them for storage.
Can I grow amaranth in pots?
You can grow amaranth in a pot, but it requires a very large pot that provides lots of space for the roots to spread out.
When growing amaranth in pots, be sure not to overwater them because they don’t like wet feet.
Also, the soil should drain well and you need to avoid getting water on the leaves because it can cause mold or fungus to form.
When do I harvest amaranth seeds?
You’ll know that your amaranth is ready for harvesting when you see a plume of small flower heads at its top.
Usually the size of the plant overall will indicate if it’s close enough to harvest.
Once the plant has reached its full height – usually about six feet tall – it’s ready to be harvested.
Harvesting amaranth seeds is easy: just place a few sturdy objects under the seed head and cut it open with shears or pruning clippers.
When you do this, the flower head will spill out hundreds of tiny black seeds.
You can then collect these seeds by hand, rake them into a pile or tip the seed head over into a large bag.
Be sure to have some way to separate your amaranth seeds from any chaff that may be mixed in with them.
What does amaranth look like?
Amaranth plants are tall, with thick green stems.
They grow between 6 and 30 feet tall depending on the species of amaranth you’re growing.
The leaves are dark green and waxy in appearance, which protect them from the blazing sun in their native environment.
As far as flowers, they are small and grow in clusters at the top of the plant.
Amaranth plants only produce male or female flowers so you will need to have both if you want to produce seeds.
When is amaranth harvest time?
Amaranth plants are ready for harvesting three months after planting seeds.
To harvest, simply collect the seed heads and place them upside down in a paper bag.
Let them dry for three days then remove the seeds from their casing with your hands.
After doing this, you can choose to eat the amaranth plant as a starchy vegetable or let it die and compost it.
When you’ve finished growing your amaranth crop, you can try planting some more seeds to get a continuous harvest out of the same plant.
What is raw amaranth like?
Once harvested, raw amaranth looks like brown rice and has a taste similar to quinoa.
If you enjoy grains in salads, pastas and cereals, amaranth is a versatile and healthy addition to your diet.
Amaranth can be cooked like rice or quinoa, and then used as the basis for many different dishes – it’s that nutritious.
You can also sprout amaranth seeds and eat them in salads since they are full of protein and vitamin C.
You can even eat raw amaranth shoots.
Amaranth is a versatile grain that can be cooked and eaten plain or used in a variety of dishes including stews, soups, salads and even breakfast cereals.
It’s easy to grow amaranth at home with just a little bit of know-how – so give it a try.