I grew amaranth this year for the first time and I was very pleased with the results. Before planting, I read about how nutritious amaranth is not only in its protein content but in the amount of calcium that the leaves contain.
Amaranth is a warm season crop that requires full sun.
Germination occurs when soil temperatures are between 65° and 75°F. For us here in the Los Angeles county area this means starting seeds early fall and harvesting as I did in February. Another crop can be sown in February and harvested in the beginning of summer.
I grew Amarantus Retroflexus, which has green foliage and green seed heads. Other varieties have more dramatic leaf color and brilliant burgundy and red seed heads.
I was amazed at how many plants I was able to grow in a 4 x 4 raised bed. I sewed 20 seeds, (October 2015) covered them lightly with loose soil and kept them moist. They germinated in 10 to 12 days and grew very quickly. In about 75 days (mid December)the plants had grown over 5 feet tall and definitely needed support although the stems were quite thick. Throughout this time, I harvested the young leafy greens for smoothies and salads making sure to leave plenty of leaves on the plant to keep it healthy. By mid February, the plants and seed heads had begun to turn brown. I waited for a sunny dry day to cut them at the base and let them dry a bit before harvesting the seed.
To harvest the seed, I laid a towel down and with gloved hands rub the seed heads over the towel. I shook the towel a bit and removed most of the big seed head pieces with my hands. Amaranth has no hull, so I just blew off any bits of debris as I shook the towel.
I did this several times, then placed all the seeds in a bowl and continued shaking and blowing.
My yield was about 1/2 a cup. Not much, but don't forget I harvested leafy greens all winter and in a 4x4 bed! Finally, I sprinkled the remaining debris and seeds over a freshly prepared raised bed, this time I will grow triple the amount!
If you are in the Los Angeles area, try growing some now as a backdrop to your summer crop or in a pot in a sunny location.