Amaranth is a group of more than 60 different species of plants, which belong to the Amaranthaceae family. These plants are known for their highly nutritious seeds, which are rich in protein, fiber, and various minerals and vitamins. Amaranth is native to Mexico and Central America, but it has been cultivated in other parts of the world for thousands of years.
Here are 5 steps to grow Amaranth:
1. Choose the right variety
There are many different varieties of amaranth, each with its own unique characteristics. Some varieties are better suited for certain climates or growing conditions than others. Some are ornamental and pretty and do not produce desirable good tasting seeds to consume. Some plants are small, others are very large. Depending on your application, that will decide which variety to go with.
2. Prepare the soil
Amaranth prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acid pH. Anything around 6-6.5 is ideal, but neutral pH soil won't harm much at all. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, amend it with organic matter to improve its structure. Amaranth is a grain, and is prone to blowing over like all grains are. Try to ensure good deep soil for the roots to anchor the plant in well.
Amaranth seeds should be planted directly in the ground and should NOT be transplanted. Amaranth will grow far better with minimal disturbance to the roots. Plant the seeds 1/4 inch deep and spaced 2-3 inches apart. Depending on variety, some can be much closer together, but generally plants will get quite large, and plants may need to be thinned to be 6-8 inches apart.
Amaranth is a grain, this means it loves lots of Nitrogen. Much like corn, amaranth enjoys a well balanced fertilizer, but with a high priority on Nitrogen. The more you give it, the better it produces.
Amaranth does not require nearly as much water as you would think. The native Americans and Aztec Indians grew Amaranth in arid and dry desert regions. Yes, it still needs water, however it can be left dry far longer than most crops in your garden. I typically water our amaranth about once every 1-2 weeks as needed.
6. Harvest and store
Amaranth is ready to harvest when the leaves and stalks turn yellow. Cut the plants at the base, and hang them upside down to dry. Once dry, the seeds can be threshed and stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Try this recipe for popped amaranth! It's like popcorn, but itty bitty!
Popped amaranth is a delicious and nutritious snack that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a topping for various dishes.
- 1 cup of amaranth seeds
- 1 teaspoon of oil (optional)
- Salt to taste (optional)
Heat a skillet or pot over medium heat. If using oil, add it to the skillet.
Once the skillet is hot, add the amaranth seeds to the skillet.
Use a lid to cover the skillet and shake it gently to distribute the seeds evenly.
As the seeds begin to pop, you'll hear a crackling sound. Keep shaking the skillet occasionally to prevent the seeds from burning.
Once the popping slows down, remove the skillet from the heat and pour the popped amaranth into a bowl.
Add salt to taste, if desired.
Serve the popped amaranth as a snack or use it as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, granola, or salad.
In Mexico they make a deliscious candy with popped amaranth called Alegria, which means happiness in Spanish! They are made into blocks with sweet honey, think of it as a rice krispies but much healthier and then topped with dried fruits and nuts!