How to Grow Amaranth: The Amazing Heat-Tolerant Green

Ah, summer. The time of year when temperatures rise, days lengthen, and all your leafy greens suddenly bolt and become bitter.

That is, all except for one: amaranth.

What Is Amaranth?

Grown and revered by the Aztecs about 8,000 years ago, amaranth isn’t exactly new. But until around 1970, the modern world largely regarded it as a weed. Today, however, the ancient crop is celebrated as a superfood, offering calcium, manganese, vitamins A, C, and K, and other key nutrients.

Perhaps best known for its quinoa-esque grains, amaranth also produces edible leaves. And unlike most greens, it happily grows in hot, humid conditions.

Amaranth comes in an array of colors and develops striking plume-like flowers that either fountain upward or cascade down, depending on the variety. This showy appearance makes the crop an excellent option for edible landscapes.

Though it’s regaining popularity, amaranth remains among the more unique plants you can grow in your Tower Garden. Read on to learn how.

Growing Amaranth Greens

Since amaranth is a warm season crop, you should wait until after your final frost to plant it outside.

Start by planting about six seeds per rockwool cube. Provided temperatures are around 70˚F, amaranth seeds usually germinate within a week. As soon as they do, give them lots of light to prevent weak, leggy growth.

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Once your seedlings are about three inches tall and have roots protruding from the rockwool cube, they’re ready to transplant. Keep in mind that amaranth will be most productive in full sun (i.e., at least six hours of direct sunlight).

Certain varieties of amaranth can grow up to eight feet tall. But those bred specifically for leaf production usually reach only one or two feet when mature. Regardless, be sure to consider your variety’s predicted size when selecting a planting location.

Amaranth is a low maintenance crop. Once established, it requires very little attention and naturally resists most pests and diseases. But as a precaution, we recommend following these pest prevention best practices.

Harvesting and Eating Amaranth

Amaranth grains are usually ready to harvest within three months of planting. But you can start picking the leaves long before that.

Simply cut the bottommost, older leaves first, taking care to not damage the stems of the inner leaves. If you allow at least 2/3 of the foliage to remain, the plant will produce additional yields — as frequent, moderate harvesting encourages new growth.

Amaranth makes for a passable spinach substitute. Try adding young, tender leaves to salads and sandwiches, or incorporate mature leaves in cooked dishes — such as stir-fries and soups.

To harvest amaranth grains, allow the plant to go to seed. As the flowers begin to brown and die back, cut and bag them. After the seeds dry inside the bag, shake it to separate them from the flowers.

Then, simply rinse away the seed chaff and enjoy the high-protein grain as you would quinoa or millet. (For example, you can ground it into flour for bread or pasta, cook it like rice, or even pop it like popcorn.)

Over to You

We hope you enjoy growing and eating your own amaranth! If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you below.

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