Grow Amaranth Plants for Grain

Grow amaranth plants for grain and make protein-rich bread from this high protein, high yield plant.

| May/June 1978

Grow amaranth plants for grain, this edible plant is not only colorful but its grain is nutritious.

Grow Amaranth Plants for Grain

Make protein-rich bread from homegrown amaranth, the "weed" that can yield a cup of grain from a single plant.

One of the most interesting "new" summer cereals that any farmer or gardener has experimented with recently comes from a gigantic Technicolor "weed" called grain amaranth. Although it has been cultivated for centuries by the Indios of Mexico, amaranth remained largely unknown in this country until a few years ago. Yet this fascinating plant (a member of the same family as the tumbleweed and the lovelies-bleeding) produces as high a yield — acre for acre — as a well-favored wheatfield, bears grain with a protein content of 18% (double corn's 9% ), can thrive and produce a crop on soil too dry for corn to even grow on, is so hardy it requires little care, and is seldom bothered by insects.

Our homestead is in southern New Mexico, and I've always considered corn to be my standard summer grain. When Organic Gardening and Farming began to take a strong interest in Amaranthus hypochondriacus a couple of years ago, however, my curiosity was aroused. I've been experimenting with amaranth ever since . . . sometimes with surprising results.

At first I was skeptical about the whole idea: "I'm perfectly satisfied with corn," I thought, "so why do I need amaranth?" But by the time my first crop of the new grain had reached maturity, 1 was already beginning to appreciate a couple of its most important advantages: [1] Amaranth will bear seeds no matter how dry the season (the drier the weather, the smaller the yield, of course) . . . whereas corn must have a certain minimum amount of water before it will produce ears. [2] While corn attracts borers and ear worms like a magnet, amaranth just doesn't seem to interest insects at all. (For these two reasons alone, amaranth may turn into a valuable supplemental grain crop in many parts of the country.)

If my experiences are an indication, you shouldn't have any trouble growing a test patch of this amazing new plant. Be warned, however, that mature amaranth stands six to nine feet tall . . . so sow it on the north end of your garden where it won't shade out smaller crops. And, since the nine-foot giants can be blown down by a strong wind, try to locate them next to a fence that will support their stems.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!