Grain amaranth is prized for its highly nutritious, golden seeds. High in protein and well-balanced in amino acids, amaranth has become popular in recent years as a flour. It is also popped and flaked and used like other cereal grains like wheat and oats. Grain amaranth is part of a large genus of plants that includes popular ornamental amaranth, such as love-lies-bleeding with its ropelike strands of flowers and Joseph’s coat with its technicolor foliage. Grain amaranth is less showy, but its culinary uses give it garden accolades. Harvest young leaves for use in salads a month or so after seeding.
Harvest leaves 30-50 days after seeding. Remove individual leaves as needed, or cut the entire plant back to 8 inches from the ground to encourage tender new growth to develop. Harvest seeds for grain 100-110 days after seeding. Bend mature seed heads over a large bowl or bucket, and shake them to catch the many tiny black seeds. You can get a head start on the season by starting seedlings indoors four weeks before the last frost.
Using Colorful Amaranth
Plant amaranth in rows in the vegetable garden for easy harvest. Growing 4 to 8 feet tall, it is best planted where it will not shade nearby plants. Amaranth also grows well alongside perennials in the garden where it contributes impressive height and unusual flowers. Create a bird-friendly planting by combining it with sunflowers, coneflowers, and elderberry. Each of these easy-to-grow plants unfurls a bird buffet while providing a valuable habitat.
How to Grow Amaranth
Amaranth grows best in full sun and well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Average garden soil will yield plants that are 4 to 6 feet tall while humus-rich garden soil will produce 8-foot-tall plants. Amaranth is easy to grow from seed. It can be sown directly in the garden but benefits from an early start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost in Zones 6 and below. Sow seeds in soilless planting media and water them gently until they emerge. Place the seedlings in a bright, sunny window or use grow lights to provide consistent bright light.
Transplant seedlings outdoors when all chance of frost has passed. Plant seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart and water them during periods of drought. Weed around amaranth regularly to prevent competition for water and nutrients from nearby plants. Amaranth does not require fertilization during the growing season.
Harvest leaves 30 to 50 days after seeding. Remove individual leaves as needed, or cut the entire plant back to 8 inches from the ground to encourage tender new growth to develop. Harvest seeds for grain 100 to 110 days after seeding. Bend mature seed heads over a large bowl or bucket and shake them to catch the many tiny black seeds.