Hello everybody! At the request of one of our readers, today we are going to explain in detail how to grow amaranth. But first of all, the first thing to do is to explain what amaranth is.
What is amaranth?
Amaranth is a plant belonging to the Amaranthaceae family and the genus Amarhantus. It is a genus of plants widely distributed in most temperate and tropical regions. Several of them are cultivated as vegetables, grains or ornamental plants. Amaranth grain is considered a pseudocereal, as it has properties similar to those of cereals, but taxonomically it is not.
Amaranth is an annual crop plant that can reach 0.5 to 3 metres in height; it has broad, abundant, brightly coloured leaves, spikes and purple, orange, red and golden flowers.
Properties and benefits of amaranth
Amaranth is undoubtedly one of the richest and most nutritious foods. It is currently one of the favourite products of sportsmen and women, because it is easy to transport and contains a lot of protein. Some of its properties are:
Rich in minerals and vitamin C
It contains lysine (essential amino acid, that is to say, it needs to be ingested because our organism cannot manufacture it by itself), which helps memory, intelligence and high learning.
Low in fat.
Healthy source of carbohydrates. Provides energy and serves as a dietary fibre and laxative. It is 100% digestive.
Protein. It is a natural source of these nutrients and is on a par with the properties of milk and has twice as much protein as rice.
- It contributes to the prevention of colon cancer and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In addition, by consuming natural amaranth you fight osteoporosis and anaemia.
Amaranth species or varieties
There are three species of amaranth that produce seeds and are the most popular:
- Amaranthus caudatus: Cultivated in the Andes region and marketed as an ornamental plant, mainly in Europe and North America.
- Amaranthus cruentus: It is native to Mexico and Central America, where it is cultivated mainly for grain. It is also consumed as a vegetable.
Amaranthus hipochondriacus: Native to central Mexico, cultivated for grain.
How to grow Amaranth
With approximately 1 kilogram of seed, 3 hectares can be sown, i.e. 333 g/ha. For more humble dimensions and thinking in number of seeds, we would need about 55 seeds/m2.
The depth of sowing is extremely important, the best results are obtained when sowing 1 to 2 cm from the soil surface. If the depth is greater than this, you will have problems and the emergence will be very irregular. In addition, the soil or substrate must be moist at this time.
In Mexico, where amaranth cultivation is more common, there are two modalities: direct sowing in soil and sowing in seedbeds and subsequent transplanting.
In the first case, sowing can be done in two ways:
- Sowing in furrows: the furrows are 5 cm deep and 60-70 cm apart. The seeds are deposited in a continuous stream in and along the furrow.
- Sowing by blows: Seeds are sown in groups 20 cm apart, and 10-20 seeds can be deposited in each group.
In the case of seedbeds, the seeds are sown in the seedbed, where they are kept until they reach a height of 15-20 cm. They are then transplanted into the final soil, where furrows are previously opened at a distance of 70-100 cm from each other and at a depth of 30 cm. Approximately 3-6 seedlings are placed every 60 cm in the furrows, then covered with soil and compacted around them.
The total amount of water required by amaranth throughout its life cycle is only 60% of the water required by wheat or barley, therefore seed amaranth is an ideal crop for dry regions. It withstands low and irregular rainfall, it needs moisture only at the time of sowing until the sprouts appear, although with irrigation throughout the cycle, yields are improved.
In mid to late summer the colourful spikes appear, if you rub them and the seeds fall off it is time to stop watering to start harvesting.
Amaranth cultivation is highly efficient as it can thrive in adverse agro-climatic conditions: drought, high temperatures or saline soils. Its vegetative cycle has an average of 180 days, from germination until the seed reaches maturity.
It is important to keep the plant in a light place. Pests do not usually attack it. In fact, the plant generates enzymes that naturally fight phytophagous insects, and when attacked, it moves the sugars away from the source of the damage, so they are left without food. In addition, the incidence of pests and diseases can be reduced by crop rotation.
After crop establishment, the most important thing is the control of adventitious weeds. To achieve this, two weeding operations are necessary, the first when the plant is 10-20 cm high, and the second at 40-50 cm in height.
It is important to note that special care should be taken with weeds in the early stages of growth, as amaranth grows very slowly during the first month. After that, it is not so necessary, as the plant is big enough to compete with adventitious weeds, and sometimes the second weeding can even be omitted.
Crop association with amaranth
Amaranth production systems have been developed in association with maize and beans, mainly because of their agronomic conditions.
Harvesting must be carried out when the plants are yellowish brown in colour. In any case, they present some dehiscence at the base of the panicles and the grains become floury in appearance when they have reached harvest maturity.
After stopping irrigation, allow 3 days to pass and harvest them. The traditional way of harvesting amaranth grain consists of cutting the panicles, drying them for two or three days in the sun on a blanket or cement surface, and then threshing them, beating them with sticks or trampling them with animals; the seed is cleaned by venting.
Storage of amaranth
The most advisable humidity for storing the seed is 10 to 12 percent, which is achieved by drying it in the sun for two to three days, as mentioned above.
Grain stored free of pests and diseases retains its nutritional potential for 5 to 7 years if kept in a dry, cool and ventilated place.
One problem that can arise is the inhalation of direct amaranth dust from handling amaranth, which should be minimised by the use of masks, to avoid repeated exposure that can lead to respiratory problems.
As you have seen, amaranth is a crop that can bring a lot to your garden, to your garden and to your health. Why not give it a try?
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
Please if you have any questions leave them on the article and i will get back to you personally.