Friday, February 18, 2011

How to Grow and Harvest Amaranth

Amaranth is a healthy vegetable that can be grown for it's leaves or seeds (grain). I have grown it for both purposes. When growing Amaranth for leafy greens, direct sow seeds 4-6 inches apart in a moderately sunny area. When the plant starts getting leafy you can pinch off about 8 leaves at a time when they get to be about 7 inches long. Then you will be able to make one or two more harvests over the next couple weeks.

If you are growing Amaranth for grain harvest the plants need more space. The will thrive in a full sun area. The plants pictured here were grown in full sun facing south. Ideally the seeds can be direct sown in rich soil with 12 inch spacing. These plants were so tall, almost 7 feet and fell over under their own weight. Supports can be helpful.

Whether you are growing Amaranth for seed or leaves, it can be helpful to plant Amaranth on the outskirts of your garden. Amaranth is quite attractive to pests. These outlying plants can provide food for pests making less pressure on your cultivated vegetables. Usually there will be some bugs eating the leaves of your older Amaranth plants if you are growing them for seed. Usually this doesn't not significantly impact seed production. You can however use a diluted spray neem oil and castile soap in water to deter pests.

After your Amaranth turns red with flowers you can start checking to see if the seed is ready for harvest. Rub a bit of the red flowering area between your fingers. If you hear a popping noise when you do this all over the flowering tops, then they are ready for grain harvest. Cut the tops one a dry sunny day and rub the seed and chaff out onto a clean sheet. Remove large pieces of stem and leaf. The next step is winnowing and should be done when there is a nice breeze. Winnowing separates the seeds from the chaft. All you have to do is gently take handfuls of the seed and chaff mixture and drop it from a height over the sheet while the wind is blowing. In the end you will be left with your Amaranth grains like these.

Visit my Etsy shop if you would like to pick up some Amaranth Seeds today.
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