Our first entry for our Garden series is: Amaranth. Most Americans are familiar with the weed form of Amaranth, generally called “Pigweed.” Due to this close relationship, early stages of the useful sort often closely resemble pigweed– until our pseudo-grain shoots up and shows its true nature. Amaranth gets its name from the Greek Amarantos, meaning “not withering”. For this reason, fable and literature refer to Amaranth as being an immortal beauty, a flower envied by the rose, and gowing along the banks of the rivers of heaven. Likewise, it became a symbol of immortality, believed to have special healing powers.
Amaranth is grown for leaves and seeds. As such, it’s not a grain like wheat or corn (grains being, properly, grasses), but the seeds harvested from these marvelous plants are used in much the same way as wheat and corn– ground into flour and used to make breads, breakfast cereals, and snacks. Wikipedia has a rather good summary of the different types of Amarath.
Amaranth is a tropical plant, enjoying warm days and plenty of sunlight. What makes it espeecially good for cultivation is its drought resistance, ease of harvest, and the high protein (among other nutrients) content of the seeds.
Plant your Amaranth seeds after all danger of frost has passed, where they will recieve full sunlight and good drainage. Many varieties grow taller than six feet, so make sure they’re not shading anything that needs light. After about three months, seeds will begin to ripen– to test, take the heads between your hands and rub briskly– if the seeds fall out easily, they’re ready to go. The plant will continue to flower until the first killing frost. For more details, go here.
Recipies for Tabouli, pudding and stir fry are here.
Nuworld has a ton of Amaranth recipies (breads, soups, desserts, etc) here.
Note that many of these recipies are gluten-free and vegetarian in nature. While neither of these thigns concern me, they may you, in which case Amaranth is a handy thing to be familiar with, and nothing’s better than home-grown!
Edited to add: Found new resource, so I’d like to add: According to Hasler in Alchemy Journal, Amaranth is generally associated with Saturn. Makes sence to me, considering its association with longevity, immortality and eternity.