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Amaranth

Written by Gerard on February 1st, 2019.      0 comments

Amaranth Red Which Amaranth is the best one to eat?

In recent times Amaranth or Amaranthus has received much media attention as a "New Age Superfood" because of the high protein content of its seed, its many vitamins and minerals and gluten-free status.
In fact, it has been one of the most important edible plants for the indigenous people of Asia, Africa
and both North and South America for thousands of years!

 

So many to choose from....

Amaranths are a widely diverse plant genus with over 70 named species - some cultivated as a cut flower, some for their nutritious leaves and stems and others for their high protein seeds. Unfortunately as with any family there are a few that blot the copybook and fall into the noxious weed category due to their ability to go forth and multiply far too easily - Amaranthus blitoides is the culprit here.

Amaranthus blitoides


The pretty ones....

Over the years, Kings Seeds has offered a number of selections of Amaranthus as a flowering plant with their colourful seed heads and flower bracts - Loves Lies Bleeding (Red & Green Tails), Green and Red Spike, Illumination, Perfecta and Autumn Palette to name just a few. These go by the botanical names of A.caudatus, A.cruentus or A.gangeticus. Unfortunately, due to the declining popularity of these varieties for the home garden, they are no longer available. They are, however, a beautiful addition to your garden should you be able to lay your hands on them.

 

Pretty Amaranth


The grainy types....

Along with its closely related cousin Quinoa, and also Chia, Amaranth (also A.caudatus, A.cruentus) is regarded as a psuedocereal because of its similarities to cereal in flavour and in cooking (cereals come from the grass family – maize, wheat, rye etc). The Aztec people of Mexico relied heavily on Amaranth seed for up to 80% of their energy consumption, baking many cakes and flat breads, combining it with other grains and cereals for their main dish and also using it in drinks and dessert. These varieties have suffered the same fate as the flower types and are no longer on offer.


Grainy Amaranths

 

So you come to the leafy types....

The growing popularity of Asian cuisine in New Zealand means you’re more likely to use Amaranth leaves and stems (A.tricolor) instead of flowers and seeds.  They're great in many stir fry dishes, curries, soups or as a boiled green where its otherwise neutral taste, absorbs the flavours and spices its cooked with while maintaining its texture. It's also popular in many other cuisine styles. A popular Greek dish called Vleeta is boiled Amaranth leaf tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, usually served alongside fried fish.
In Brazil, where Amaranth grows prolifically, it's frequently cooked with rice and beans as a staple food - filling but bland until you spice it up that is.


Leafy Amaranth

 

Growing it....

Amaranth is an easy plant to grow if sown during the warmer months of late spring through to late summer. Being a tiny seed it only needs a light covering of seed mix and germinates evenly in 7 to 10 days.
If you’ve managed to track some down and are growing it as a cut flower or back of the border plant, transplant it at the second leaf stage to 30cm apart remembering that some varieties can eventually grow up to 2 metres tall.

The edible leaf varieties are usually harvested at a baby leaf stage so are directly sown more closely 5 to 10cm apart and ideally cut when a rosette of 4 to 6 leaves are showing their mature characteristics.

Growing Amaranth for harvesting the edible seeds (and yes, you can do this with the leafy types) requires careful sowing to ensure even plant spacing of 20cm but be prepared for some heavy duty weed control if you want just Amaranth seed and nothing else!  You may not get as much seed as the grainy types would give you but the seed will still number in the thousands not the hundreds.
 

If you haven't tried it before, give Amaranth a go! Definitely worth the effort!

 

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