There certainly have been a lot of gardening posts lately, and with good reason! Of course growing your own food has multiple benefits. But besides the obvious, gardening teaches us what really goes into making our food. We see how a tiny seed can grow into a giant, thriving, fruiting plant, and we see how much water, nutrients, and sunlight are required to support it.
When we cook and consume food we’ve grown, we have a greater appreciation for that food. It’s not just our imagination: homegrown food tastes better. Why? Because it’s fresher, it’s not covered in pesticides, and it hasn’t been sitting around on a truck or in a store, waiting to be purchased.
Growing our own food also makes us makes us more aware of waste. I generally feel a lot worse about letting something I’ve grown from seed spoil. Like I failed it. But letting any food spoil is wasteful and should be avoided at all costs.
So what is amaranth, and why is it so useful in the garden?
Amaranth is a beautiful, edible, lettuce that that has bright, vibrant flowers and leaves that range in colors from green, to purple, to red, and taste similar to spinach.
Both the leave and seeds are edible. Amaranth grains, are highly nutritious.
According to nutriondata.com, Amaranth grain contains protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains the following nutrients:
- Calories: 251
- Protein: 9.3 grams
- Carbs: 46 grams
- Fat: 5.2 grams
- Manganese: 105% RDI
- Magnesium: 40% RDI
- Phosphorus: 36% RDI
- Iron: 29% RDI
- Selenium: 19% RDI
- Copper: 18% RDI
RDI = Recommended Daily Intake. Also called Recommended Dietary Intake.
Amaranth Leaves are also super nutrient-rich. Interestingly, boiling/steaming the leaves versus eating them raw will give you different nutritional content:
1 cup of boiled/steamed amaranth leaves provides:
- Vitamin C 90% RDI
- Vitamin A 73% RDI
Manganese 57% RDI
and trace amounts of Vitamin K.
Whereas 1 cup of raw amaranth leaves provides:
- Vitamin C 20% RDI
- Vitamin A 16% RDI
Manganese 12% RDI
but a whopping 399% (319 mcg) of Vitamin K!
So depending on your dietary needs, you might want to consider altering your cooking style! This is surprisingly true for many types of food!
Why Grow Amaranth?
In addition to all the reasons listed above, growing your own amaranth is easy, cost effective, and very beneficial to your garden!
Here are some of amaranth’s best friends:
Cucumbers with Amaranth
Use the amaranth to support growing pickling (smaller) cucumber vines.
Runner Beans with Amaranth
Once the amaranth is established, runner beans can grow up and by supported by the amaranth plant. Beans are nitrogen fixers which enhances the soil for the amaranth. Symbiosis ❤
Tomatoes with Amaranth
Growing tomatoes alongside amaranth will protect the tomatoes from harmful pests as amaranth can host beneficial predatory beetles which will deter pests away from your tomatoes.
Potatoes with Amaranth
Growing amaranth around your potatoes can increase the potato yield and deters harmful pests.
Peppers with Amaranth
Similar to the tomato and other members of the nightshade family, peppers also seem to thrive by amaranth. The beneficial beetles found amongst the amaranth plants keep pests away from your peppers – including bell and chili peppers.
Peas with Amaranth
Just like beans, pea plants are nitrogen fixers and amaranth loves it.
Egg Plants (Aubergines) with Amaranth
(Also nightshade family) Eggplants benefit from the pest protection offered by the beetles that thrive in amaranth.
Sweetcorn with Amaranth
Amaranth leaves offer shade for sweetcorn roots and keeping the soil from drying out too quickly.