Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)
Ancient Mystery Grain
Amaranth was a staple of the Aztecs and Incas, however, upon Spanish occupation the production of amaranth was banned due to its association with indigenous rituals.
Amaranthus is Latin for unfading; everlasting, probably due to the long lasting flower heads. The Amaranthus genus is comprised of about 60 species among them crop plants and aggressive weeds. They have, like corn, what is called C4 photosynthesis making this crop suitable for hot humid climates. Several species are raised for grain in Asia and the Americas. Amaranth is not considered a true grain since its a dicot rather than a monocot. One plant can produce as many as 50,000 seeds, which range in color from white to orange to black across the genus. White seeded types are much better for popping and consumption than the black seeded types, which are typically ornamentals. The plants are adapted to marginal soil and resist drought (when maturing), heat and pests. The grains have about 90% digestibility, 30% higher protein value than cereals and near-balanced essential amino acids. Try the grains popped or grind into flour and make chapatis or add to wheat flour for a complete protein source.
The primary grain species are A. hypochondriacus, A. cruentus and A. caudatus. They rarely cross but some have been documented as A. hydridus. These are all wind pollinated producing male and female flowers on the same plant, so a recommended isolation distance is two miles. However we let a number of different lines cross freely to produce our grain amaranth bulk.
Harvest seed heads once mature and hang to dry. Seed may shatter out so place a tarp below. Once matured thresh, winnow chaff and collect seed; wear gloves and a dust mask;)
Can direct seed in May where seasons are warm and long however here we have to transplant in June and hope that the plants mature before our first frost around labor day.