Vegetable fields


AMARANTH, Amaranthus species

Amaranthus sp. is a member of the Amaranthacea family

Other names are Callalou (Jamaica), Bitekuteku (Congo), and Amarante (France)

Origin and Botany

Amaranths originated in Western Central and South America. The amaranth plants are better known for the grain producing species. Nevertheless, there are cultivars grown for leaves. Leafy vegetables amaranths are plants of African, Southeast Asian, and Central American origin. Leafy vegetable amaranth species include Amaranthus tricolor, A. lividus, A. dubius, A. gangeticus, A. blitum, and A. hybridus. A caudatus is the most important grain species, but can also be eaten as a leafy vegetable when harvested as young seedlings.

Market and Uses

Leafy vegetable amaranths are usually sold in international and/or specialty food stores in the U.S. Though imported from Asia, Africa, and Central America, vegetable amaranths are currently grown in the U.S. At the University of Maryland Central Maryland Research and Education Center (CMREC), Upper Marlboro facility, scientists have reported yields of 5,000 lbs per acre.

Amaranth leaves are a good source of protein, pro-vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. They are usually fried or cooked with tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, and served as a condiment with meat or fish. Young amaranth leaves are served raw in a salad dish.

 Edible Amaranth, Ethnic Produce Research Project at CMREC, Upper Marlboro, University of Maryland.


The amaranth plants grow on a wide range of soils. Slightly acid sandy loams combined with a good drainage are preferred. Root systems are generally sparse. Like any tropical crops, amaranths are frost sensitive and require warm weather. They are, however, drought tolerant.

Most leafy vegetable amaranths measure about 1-4 feet tall and produce numerous small flowers on terminal and axillary spikes. Although individual seed are very small, amaranth plants produce abundant edible seed, which have high protein and oil content. The grain amaranths are more productive seed producers than vegetable amaranths.

Disease concerns include leaf spot, and white rust caused by Pythium, and Cercospora. In addition, chewing insects and nematodes cause damage to amaranth plants.

Propagation and Plant Spacing

Vegetable amaranths are usually seed propagated. However, a common practice is to thinly sow or broadcast seed and about 30 days later, thinned and surplus seedlings are used for transplants. Periodic applications of fertilizer are recommended to encourage vegetative growth and high yields.

Harvest and Postharvest

Vegetable amaranths are pulled with roots when they are 1 month old and thereafter. Another method consists of partial leaf removal intended to allow for re-growth of plants for successive harvesting.

Frequent harvesting, every 7-10 days, tends to delay flowering and encourages new shoot and leaf growth. Postharvest life of amaranth vegetables is relatively short because of rapid wilting of the tender foliage.

Specialty Produce Seed Sources

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

1 Foss Hill Road, RR 1, Box 2530

Albion, ME 04910-9731

(207) 437-4395 Fax (800) 437-4290

Info: (207) 437-4357

A variety of ethnic/specialty vegetables and herbs.

Nichols Garden Nursery

1190 North Pacific Highway

Albany, OR 97321-4580

(541) 928-9280 Fax (541) 967-8406

Broad selection of ethnic/specialty herbs and vegetables.

Rubatzky, V. and M. Yamaguchi. World Vegetables: Principles, Production, and Nutritive Values, Second Edition.1997, New York.

Note: Ethnic vegetable project was funded by Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland

and Maryland Department of Agriculture

S.Tubene, D. Myers, and C.Pergerson

University of Maryland Cooperative Extension

For additional information, please contact your local county office.

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