Amaranth is a little-grown nutritional powerhouse with a wide variety of species. There are both ornamental and edible varieties. It’s a beautiful addition to unused garden space or flower bed. Due to amaranth’s abundant seed production, plants in the Amaranthaceae family tend to naturalize and are common weeds of both gardens and crops. Because this maligned family gets labeled “weed”, gardeners are, unfortunately, unaware of this magnificent food crop. All parts of amaranths are edible (seeds, stems, seeds), however there is oxalic acid in this plant, comparable to spinach, so some moderation is a good idea. To collect amaranth seeds, simply rub the mature seed heads over a bowl – easy.
Pigweed and Lambs Quarters
Pigweed, and another similar plant, Lambs Quarters, were incredible pests when I first started my wildflower bed. These weeds are found EVERYWHERE where there is disturbed ground, gardens, roadsides, fields, etc. They are significant crop weeds. Leaves are tender and slightly bitter when young. Both plants can be used similar to and taste somewhat like spinach. If you allow these to grow in your garden, top plants before they seed or you might have some angry neighbors.
This smaller heirloom variety of amaranth has bright-red, berry-like seeds that look like strawberries. The “berries” do not have significant flavor and taste is similar to the rest of the plant. The leaves are tender and edible. This plant makes a beautiful and unique addition to both a garden and a salad.
Love Lies Bleeding
This amaranth has a colorful appearance, and is easily the most beautiful plant in a garden. Plant is more ornamental than edible, but seeds can be collected and used. If you’ve never tried popped amaranth before, now’s the time.
This variety has red, purple, or burgundy leaves and seed heads. Many cultivars are available. Also makes a lovely addition to a salad. Seeding is good in these varieties as well.
Quinoa has more protein than other grains, making it the ultimate diet food. Quinoa is easy to grow in zone 5 and other cooler areas. It is an annual, and grows and seeds with little attention. Why wouldn’t you plant some. Quinoa has ornamental value as well like the rest of the amaranth family.