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Montana Popping amaranth is a very productive, four to six-foot-tall variety with bright green leaves and dense, vibrant green flower heads. The young leaves are edible, and can provide you with fresh, home-grown greens in the heat of summer when most salad greens have bolted and turned bitter. Once the plants mature, the seeds are a beautiful golden-orange color and serve as a gluten-free grain. They can be used in flours and breakfast cereals or for popping like popcorn - or, leave them on the plant in fall to support your local wild birds!
Direct-sow these seeds in spring after the danger of frost has passed, in a location with full sun. If you live in an area with a short season, you may also start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. Grain will begin to mature about 100 days after seeding. 1 gram packet contains approximately 1,140 seeds.
SMALL FARM GROWN by Against the Grain Farm, Zionville, NC
|Avg. seeds/ packet
|After last frost
|Direct Seed Spacing
|Soil Temp. Range
|Days to Sprout
|Days to Harvest
It’s best to direct-seed amaranth outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep, and about 3-4 inches apart. The seeds should germinate in 10-14 days in soil that is around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them to 6 inches apart if growing only for greens, and 12-18 inches apart in rows at least 20 inches apart if growing for grain. It takes about 30 days to harvest amaranth as baby greens, and around 100 days to harvest grain, depending on the variety. In places with a short growing season, amaranth can also be started indoors about four weeks before the last frost and transplanted when the weather warms up.
Amaranth needs full sun, and well-draining soil with a pH between 6 and 7. The soil in which you grow your amaranth should not contain too much clay. Moderate nitrogen levels are best, since extremely rich soil will actually reduce a plant’s number of flowers.
The leaves of amaranth are edible, and make a delicious salad green during hot weather. If you’re growing just for the greens, you can cut whole plants as they reach about 12 inches in height. They will usually sprout again for a second cutting. If you’re growing amaranth for the grain, the seeds will be ready to harvest in late summer or early fall. Watch for the leaves beginning to yellow, and birds starting to get interested in the plants. Seed heads will ripen from bottom to top. Once most of the seeds are ripe and dry, harvest grain by cutting off the whole seed heads and shaking them inside a large paper bag or clean trash can. Then winnow away any chaff using a box fan or a gentle breeze. Be sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them in an airtight container.
Amaranth, Amaranthus spp.
Pollination: wind. Life Cycle: annual. Isolation Distance: 1 mile.
The many varieties of amaranth are wind-pollinated, and will cross readily unless isolated by at least a mile. Collect seed from the strongest, most true-to-type plants. The seed heads mature from bottom to top, and the foliage will lighten or yellow when most seeds are mature. Harvest by cutting the entire seed heads off, and shaking them upside down inside a paper bag or clean trash can. If further threshing is needed, wear gloves and crush the dry seed heads with your hands. Clean by winnowing. Place clean, dry seeds in an air-tight container and store in a cool, dry location.