The Long Island Seed Project


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Amaranth Seed Production

Amaranth Seed Production

We maintain a nice blend of amaranth types that is always a pleasure to grow for their attractive and long lasting display of color through most of the summer but they are also useful as a grain and potherb.   Every once in a while a new variant appears as a result of crossing but many of these do not cross because there are three or four species here.  We grow black seeded and blonde seeded kinds.

Amaranth leaves are cooked up as a potherb in Asia and Africa.  In the caribbean they are added to soups.  The seeds though, were a staple "grain" of the Incas, the Aztecs and other pre-Columbian cultures.  It is the seed that is highly palatable raw, cooked or popped.  The seeds simply mixed with honey and various plant saps, were eaten by the indigenous people of Mexico and South America in large amounts in the form of amaranth drinks and cakes.  So important to the pre Columbian cultures was amaranth that it's use became woven into their religious beliefs and ceremonies.

The Rodale Institute did considerable work selecting amaranth species as a potential crop for U.S farmers in the 1970's and that interest continues.  There is considerable interest in amaranth today as a grain since it contains protein that is unusually complete for a plant.  It is also easily digested and may be of benefit as a food that promotes cardiovascular health since it has been found to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol.  It is also a good source of dietary minerals and fiber.  Amaranth seeds are tiny and are black or blonde.  The blonde or white seeded kinds are usually the ones used cooked into porriage, popped or ground into flour.  The black seeded kinds are grittier and earthy and we have been told, richer in important oils.
Amaranth is sown after frost.  The small seeds go far.  The soil should be loose and rich.  Full sun and a weed free environment is important.  Seeds will germinate when soil temperature is 60°F.   We use a sprinkler to keep the soil moist until germination is established in just a few days.  Once the seedlings are established they become quite resiliant and competitive with weeds and also drought tolerant.  The amaranth sets flower heads early and they continue to grow and produce more flowers until frost.  One must be careful to harvest the seeds before they shatter or fall to the ground.  We begin checking the plants for seed ripeness toward the end of September or when we see the first birds attracted to the crop.  A shake of the inflorescence will tell you whether you should begin to harvest the seed.  Hybridization is well known but amaranth usually maintains it's integrity as a species.  Cut seed-heads when seeds are full and mature, lay on tarp in protected, dry area and allow to dry and then rub seed out, screen and winnow out the chaff for clean seed (careful, the seed is small and light and can be blown away easily).  Some folks cut the seed heads after frost and hang them upside down in paper bags allowing them to dry and shed their seed.

Amaranth Spinach aka tampala, hon-toi-moi, chinese spinach (Usually A. tricolor, A. lividus, A. gangeticus, A. creuntus and hybrids)

Amaranth Spinach
Better than pigweed (which is also an amaranth). Vegetable amaranths are grown in the Orient and also tropical Africa and the Caribbean especially for the production of leaves that can be harvested and prepared like spinach (steamed and stir-fried).  There is some variation in leaf color, greens and reds mostly and perhaps subtle flavor variations.  This group have smooth leaves and will produce succulent growth for repeated cuttings.  These are all black seeded types.

Amaranth Grain (A. hypochondriacus, A. cruentus, A. edulis , A. caudatus and hybrids)
The principle grain crop of the ancient Aztecs, it has outstanding nutritional qualities.  There are white and black seeded types.  These will all produce great quantities of grain given good growing conditions.  Some gardeners will grow these as a background plant in flower beds because of the beauty of their large and sometimes colorful inflorescence.  We enjoy the ornamental value as well as the edible quality as we work with this group. There any many species sometimes difficult to tell apart and many ancient cultivars still being grown.


Last Modified:  Nov, 2007