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Amaranth for leafy greens

Mayo Indian
amaranthTwo readers left comments last week on old posts about amaranth we grew for grain a few years ago, which reminded me I wanted to share my experience with growing amaranth for greens.  Generally, you'll choose either a greens or a grain variety when you plant (although, presumably, both are multi-purpose to a certain extent).  Our first experiment, when growing grain amaranth, was with Manna de Montana, which I had trouble getting to germinate but which then grew into huge plants and produced lots of seeds.  (We didn't even sample the leaves because I didn't know they were edible at the time.)  Joe (a reader) kindly sent us some seeds for Mayo Indian amaranth this year, mentioning that he likes the variety for greens, so we decided to give it a shot.

I planted the amaranth late (in mid-July), but it still jumped right up and grew like crazy.  The plants have a reddish tinge to the leaves and produce red seed heads so pretty that my mom put some in a vase as an ornamental after coming to visit.  I wasn't as keen on the taste, though.  The leaves were edible, but when raw they had a mucilaginous texture like sassafras leaves (interesting in small amounts, but you wouldn't want to eat a lot of them), and cooked the flavor didn't stand up to that of our summer favorite, Swiss chard.

On the other hand, after a search of the internet, I discovered that Mayo Indian amaranth is usually grown for the grain, so I guess I've yet to try a true greens amaranth.  Anyone have a favorite variety to recommend?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm growing Montana popping amaranth for the first time (first time for amaranth at all). The flowers are just now forming, although I don't feel like I planted it that late (middle of June I think),so who knows if I'll actually get any seeds to try, so I'll be sure to sample some leaves and let you know.
Comment by Julie Mason Wed Sep 11 07:53:12 2013

That has been our experience as well, you might try Orach for a summer green go along with chard. It's my summer spinach substitute because it loves the heat, and it is beautiful to boot. We love this plant!

Comment by Nita Wed Sep 11 08:59:30 2013
I'm glad to see you got the seed ok. What a pleasant suprise to check in this morning to see a familiar plant and find out I was able to contribute to your awesome homestead! :) I am stuck on the Mayo Indian because it is so beautiful. I would grow it as an ornamental even if it wasn't edible, though it helps that it self seeds and comes back on it's own every year. Looking forward to hearing about more palatable varieties.
Comment by Joe Theisen Wed Sep 11 10:19:37 2013
I have some red leaf amaranth seeds from Lal Teer, but am waiting until early next summer to try them; given they were bred for warm Bangladesh climate.
Comment by Charity Wed Sep 11 13:36:03 2013
I've been growing an amaranth I got from Fedco about 6 years ago - Hopi Red Dye. I grew it for grain but actually now use it for greens as I'm not wild about the grain and it is SO MUCH work to separate it from the chaff. THe greens taste remarkably like spinach although they are red and since I have no luck growing spinach here, I am very happy for the amaranth greens. They are ok raw when small but mostly I eat them cooked. It has reseeded and I never plant it, just eat where it comes up.
Comment by Anonymous Wed Sep 11 21:11:55 2013

The ones that I think produce the best greens are the wild varieties. Basically the ones that get plain, boring green flower spikes. I found one years ago at a house I was renting, it has large fat rounded leaves. Ive carried the seeds with me ever since. They taste just like young chard to me.

Comment by T Wed Sep 11 23:33:06 2013

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