Hardiness: USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F) USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F) USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F) USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F) USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F) USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Other details: May be a noxious weed or invasive This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
On Dec 28, 2012, SilkKnoll from Tuskegee, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:
Southern amaranth is native here. It sometimes wanders into my vegetable garden, but it's easy to pull, and, after its long tap root brings up nutrients from far deeper than vegetables would ever reach, the plant makes excellent compost. Before the stalk dries, it's easy to chop up with a machete or cut up with loppers. Then it can be worked back into the soil on the spot.
The leaves make good, spinach-like pot greens, and the seeds can be collected to make sprouts. The tender, young greens are good in salads or on sandwiches. Even for cooking, it's best to harvest young, I find. I grow other varieties for cooking, but they all are the most tender and the easiest to harvest when they are about a foot tall.
Amaranth was among the first cultivated plants in the pre-columbian Americas. A horticulturist friend who spent time with forest-dwelling tribes in Central America, thought the greens that they ate almost daily looked the same as our local wild amaranth.
There are varieties that were developed explicitly to be grown as greens, like "Garnet."
For the seeds, I grow a tall, dark red variety that most resembles "Hopi Red Dye" Amaranth, imo. It's also called Prince's Feather. It quickly grows as high as 12 feet, under good circumstances, with a huge plume at the top. I harvest the plume when the tiny bracts start to turn brown. At that point, if they aren't harvested, they will drop millions of seeds (literally). I sometimes put a bag over the plume before cutting it, in order to keep as many of the seeds as possible before I start jostling it.
Then, I either hang the heads upside down over a sheet to catch the seeds, or I spread them on a sheet on hot, sunny days. It's easy to fold the whole mass up to bring it inside before the dew falls. It's important to dry it before it starts to mold.
When it's dry, I pull the stems through my fingers to let the seeds and chaff fall into a container. I rub the seeds between my hands to separate the seeds from the chaff. Then I use a hairdryer on the cool setting to blow almost all the chaff out of a deep bucket, leaving gleaming, black seeds smaller than a pinhead in surprising quantities.
The seeds were the first New World (pre-columbian) bread grain. Tribute was paid to Montezuma in Amaranth seeds.
I often add the seeds to cornbread, like poppy seeds. I've succeeded in sprouting them for use on sandwiches or in salads.
Oh, I almost forgot -- I space red Amaranth about four feet apart throughout my gardens -- both vegetable and flower gardens -- to decoy insects away from the other plants because bugs almost always prefer Amaranth. When used this way, it's called a "trap crop."
Red forms of Amaranth were also used to make a magenta colored dye.
I hope this answers some of the questions about the uses for Amaranth.
On Aug 14, 2012, markkromer from Apopka, FL wrote:
This plant is HUGE and loves damp, rich soil. The stem is usually hollow. The plant is so tall it stands out amongst all other plants and may be mistaken for a small tree. I have not found anything useful about it, though.
On Mar 27, 2011, Campfiredan from Alachua, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:
This grows wild in my area around Gainesville Fl. Does anyone know if it is edible (seeds or leaves) or have any information indicating it was used as food for Native Americans? A good reference document listing it as edible or used as food would be helpful.
On Jan 11, 2005, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:
Herbaceous, short-lived perennial with a stout stem that grows to about 1 foot tall. The leaves are alternate on long red or green petioles. The leaves are 4 to 12 inches lone and 2 to 4 inches wide. They’re widest at the base and taper to a point. The plant blooms small yellow flowers along branched, terminal or axillary stalks all year.
Its natural habitat is brackish and freshwater marshes from Florida to Louisiana, Mexico and the West Indies
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Tuskegee, Alabama Alachua, Florida Paradise Heights, Florida Carrollton, Georgia Trout, Louisiana Ewing, New Jersey Austin, Texas