Amaranth are common in the Americas, Africa and Asia but among the many different types of Amaranth there are usually only three which are used as food for their nutritional value, the others are sometimes considered as flowers whilst others are considered to be weeds.
Although they had rarely been used as a food source elsewhere in the world some indigenous groups throughout Latin America have been harvesting Amaranth as food for centuries.
Perennial plants, the seeds of the different types of Amaranth (sometimes referred to as pigweeds) are easy to grow which makes the edible species an ideal food crop but also means many of the non-edible ones can be considered invasive when not actually planted for their flowers. One particularly invasive species of Amaranth is the Palmer’s Amaranth which has developed a resistance to commonly used insecticides, making them a pest in the United States for Soybean and cotton farmers.
In recent years all types of microgreens have started to become popular outside of restaurant kitchens, where they had for years only been used as garnish or vinaigrette, and this is due to people realizing their nutritional value. Although they may not yet be readily seen on market stalls or in supermarkets, this is often due to the fact that they need to be really fresh in order to be fully nutritious. This has prompted many households to grow their own or even start a microgreens business, growing assorted microgreens for sale to the local community.
Amaranth Microgreens may not be as well-known as some of the other types but they are among the most nutritious, something the Aztecs of old would vouch for. Due to them being soft and not crispy like other microgreens and due to their bright coloring, Amaranth Microgreens are now however just starting to once again rise in popularity.
Growing microgreens yourself, either inside your home or outside of it is neither difficult nor expensive but as there are over 100 different types of microgreen seeds available to grow, you must ensure you use the correct planting and growing instructions for each different type.
Amaranth Microgreens Quick Info
Although there are over 70 different species of Amaranth worldwide, it is believed that they originated in South America. Amaranth which has 30% more protein than Rice, in different forms, are known to have made up 80% of a typical Aztec meal.
The most common Amaranth for growing microgreens is the Red Garnet Amaranth but all Amaranth are colorful and so Amaranth Microgreens can add color, as well as nutrition to many meals.
The Benefits of Amaranth Microgreens
As with many vegetables, microgreens are the most nutritious form and Amaranth microgreens, although not yet too well known, are no exception.
Amaranth is itself very nutritious and is considered as a new superfood. The nutritious properties of Amaranth include:
Amaranth Seeds and Leaves – These are high in calcium, thiamine, manganese, niacin, potassium, iron, copper and zinc.
Seeds – Contain the potential to relieve hypertension and cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.
Leaves – Gluten free, Amaranth leaves are a great source of protein, fiber and also Folate along with vitamins A and C.
Specific medicinal benefits which have been associated with Red Garnet Amaranth Microgreens are:
• Easy to digest
• Aids in maintaining weight loss
• Eyesight improvement
• Helps prevent hair loss and greying
• Helps to reduce risk of osteoporosis
• Aids in the fight against cancer
Different Methods of Growing Amaranth Microgreens
Although there are two main methods of growing Amaranth Microgreens, which is in soil or on growing pads, there are several types of growing pad which can be used to grow the seeds such as Jute, Fiber or Jute Fiber Pads. Whilst pads are becoming more popular with many microgreen growers there are advantages and disadvantages to both when it comes to growing Amaranth Microgreens:
Pads can be ordered and then delivered to your home.
Empty pads take up little space
Fewer seeds germinate
Microgreens take longer to become ready to harvest
Leaves generally smaller due to the lack of nutrients which are found in soil
Grown in Soil
Trips to the store to buy bags of soil
Require storage space for surplus soil
Denser growth in growing area
Better quality microgreens
Overall the growing of Amaranth Microgreens in soil can be more productive and produce a better, more nutritious and therefore more profitable result. However, the increasing popularity of growing pads is due to them being a cleaner and easier option.
Materials Required for Growing Amaranth Microgreens
It is usual to grow microgreens in trays 20” by 10” although any size tray will work provided they have holes in the bottom. It is possible to buy these specialized trays although some people often use adapted take-out food trays.
You will need sufficient potting soil to lay a bed in the trays.
You will of course need Amaranth Seeds but as these seeds are exceptionally small, as many as 38,000 seeds per ounce (1,300 per gram), you will also need some type of shaker in order to spread the seeds evenly.
A spray gun to water the soil as adding water direct may wash away the tiny seeds.
Dark removable covers for the trays. The seeds do not need to be covered in soil but must be kept in the dark until they germinate.
A heating mat may be required in colder conditions as Amaranth needs temperatures of 72 degrees minimum in order to grow at its best.
A grow light is perhaps optional if insufficient natural sunlight is available. This is considered optional as there is still discussion if Amaranth needs a great deal of light however, it is generally accepted that the more light the plants receive, the more colorful they become.
Planting Amaranth Microgreens
Choosing the correct potting soil is important but also a matter of personal preference. Perhaps one of the better soils is a mix of 50% soil and 50% coconut coir although some growers prefer to add clay which helps to keep the seeds moist but does not drown them. Most people also prefer to place their growing trays inside a water tray. A water tray is similar to a growing tray but does not have holes in the bottom. Using a water tray beneath the growing tray will mean that water is retained and therefore allow the soil and roots to draw extra water as required.
As Amaranth Microgreens grow longer roots than many other microgreens, instead of a bed of soil 1”– 2” deep, Amaranth seeds need to be placed on a bed of 3”– 4”.
Once the trays and soil are ready, use your shaker to scatter the seeds evenly across the soil in the trays. Sprinkle the tray’s contents with water but take care not to over water as Amaranth Microgreens can be susceptible to mold if too wet.
A cover should now be placed over the tray as no light is needed in order for the seeds to germinate, which should take about 2 days. Adding a couple of holes in the side of the tray may help as although it will not place direct light on the seeds, a slightly lighter environment may help deter mold.
Growing Amaranth Microgreens
By the end of the second day the seeds should have germinated and small stems should be visible however they can now be watered and then be covered for one more day.
By the end of the third or fourth day the stems should have grown to about ½” in length and this is the time to remove the tray’s cover, allowing the stems to draw energy from the light.
At this time, although the plants may look just a little pinkish or even white, the light will soon make them show their true color.
Now the plants will still need water as well as light in order to flourish. It is best however to try and keep the stems and leaves as dry as possible and so this is where a water tray is often preferred. Ensuring ample water is in the water tray will allow the plants to draw water via their roots rather than the soil being sprinkled with water which will also dampen both leaves and stems.
After a total of 9 to 14 days the Amaranth microgreens should have grown to about 3” in height which is when they are ready to harvest.
Harvesting Amaranth Microgreens
To harvest these microgreens you will only need a clean pair of scissors. Lean the tray at about a 45 degree angle over a cutting board and then cut the stems just above the soil level. As any microgreens are best when fresh, if you are not going to use them all, only cut what you need for that day and then place the tray, with the remaining microgreens, back in the light until you are ready to harvest them.
If the remainder of the Amaranth Microgreens in the tray start to grow too leggy then harvest them and place them in a zip-lock bag you have made slits in but do not wash the microgreens before placing them in the bag.
It is recommended that you always wash and dry Amaranth microgreens prior to using them but do not do this too early as they may still attract mold.
1. Other microgreens may grow well on growing mats but due to the extra-long roots of Amaranth Microgreens, the mats are too thin causing many of the microgreens not to flourish.
2. It is said that Amaranth Microgreens do not need any light in order to grow but whilst this may be true, without light the microgreens will not be as colorful and will be more susceptible to mold.
3. A water tray beneath the growing tray is always beneficial due to Amaranth Microgreens growing best when absorbing moisture through their roots, plus stopping the possibility of mold setting in due to the stem and leaves becoming wet.
Hopefully these instructions are easy to follow but if you have any problems or questions you can ask the people at the Todd’s Seeds website where you can also buy your seeds at wholesale prices if necessary.
How to Enjoy Amaranth Microgreens
Unlike many other microgreens, Amaranth Microgreens have a soft texture and so do not provide the crunch in sandwiches which other microgreens are known for however, they are tasty with a sweet, earthy flavor which will certainly be distinctive in any meal they are used in. Because of their soft texture Amaranth Microgreens are often used in salads or with eggs where they make both a tasty and colorful change from the usual.
Due to their unique color, Amaranth Microgreens are popular with chefs in order to add a different, perhaps exotic look to their recipes, either as part of the recipe or just as garnish.
Since the days of the Aztecs, Amaranth has widely been overlooked as a source of nutritious food but whilst it still may not again ever reach its past popularity, it is now starting to be seen as more than just a colorful weed or flower.
In these days of excessive fast foods and obesity, many families are looking for nutritious meals they can make at home and over 100 types of microgreens, which can be added to those meals, are starting to become popular for their nutritional properties. Microgreens, like vegetables, can be diverse in taste and texture but whilst most are ideal in giving a sandwich a healthy crunch, Amaranth Microgreens, though soft in texture, can offer just as much nutrient value to salads and other dishes.
Many microgreens are planted and grow in the same manner and so the seeds are often sold in mixed packages but whilst Amaranth Microgreens may require a slightly different technique and so the seeds are sold separately, they are just as easy and fast to grow as other varieties of microgreens.
Todd’s Seeds has all you need to grow your own microgreens and can also provide added information on growing each type of Microgreens including Amaranth Microgreens.