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Weird crops: Amaranth

By Penny Stine

Last year, I grew an ornamental variety of amaranth because the seeds were ridiculously cheap from Park Seeds and the description of the plant sounded intriguing. I had no idea what it looked like, wasn't familiar with the flower, and was pleasantly surprised when these grew in my garden.

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the season last year, I began researching amaranth and discovered that not only is it cool-looking it’s also edible. The seeds of certain varieties (the non-ornamental ones) can be eaten like a grain, kind of like quinoa. The tender, young leaves are also edible and can be used raw or cooked. The nutrition content is off the charts.

 

I collected seeds at the end of last season and planted it in a couple places in my garden. I'm pretty sure this is the maroon ornamental variety that I planted way too close to the tomato.

 

 

 

 

It also planted itself in the area where I threw all my compost last November. I  purchased a second type of amaranth that was supposed to have a bright orange flower and produce better seeds for cooking, which I also planted in random places throughout the garden. I think the amaranth in this photo is a combination of the maroon ornamental variety and the orange giant grain variety, but I'm not sure. 

 

Since my spinach went to seed a month ago, my Swiss chard isn’t producing much and I’m roasting all the kale leaves I can pick, I decided to try the amaranth leaves while they were still small.


I don’t know if I’d like a salad with nothing but amaranth leaves, but they’ve been a great (and colorful) addition to other mixed greens. Likewise, I’ve added chopped amaranth leaves in rice, egg and pasta dishes where I’d normally put spinach. It’s actually pretty good.

Amaranth is related to pigweed, so if you plant it, pay attention to where you put it so you don’t accidentally pull it, thinking it’s a weed.
 

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