WHO’S THE STAR OF MY VEGETABLE GARDEN JUST NOW? Definitely Amaranthus hypochondriacus. I planted this ‘Golden Giant’ as an experiment back in June. So far, it has not disappointed. Not only has the plant achieved a height of nearly 9 feet in just 8 weeks’ time, it is flowering right on cue, too. Pictures of the plant’s progression from seed to skyscraper, and why its golden-orange plumes (above) are so vital to any subsistence garden:
I created a special little annex off the Kitchen Garden for my crop of Golden Giant. Weeds were cleared, but the soil received no amendments whatsoever. The seeds, which were planted on June first, germinated within 5 days. In the photo above, taken on June 12, they’d achieved only 3 inches in height.
July 4. The seedlings, now 12 inches tall, were thinned out to make two rows. Although the transplants wilted at first, I sprinkled them twice daily with water, and they quickly recovered. A thick mulch of salt-hay substitute was laid down at this time, and surplus potatoes were added behind the amaranth.
July 18. The plants have really gained stature now, as warm weather finally settles in. Amaranth is a heat lover. Based on the height of the 4-foot tall fence, I’d say the plants above are 6 feet tall.
Talk about flower power! In late September, the giant plumes turn into giant seed heads. These seeds, once harvested and winnowed, are used exactly like grain. Except amaranth, which is gluten-free, has more protein, vitamins and minerals than most other grains. It also has twice the calcium of milk. I intend to boil the seeds for a highly-nutritious breakfast cereal. Seeds can also be popped like popcorn, or milled for flour.
My advice? Consider growing amaranth in your garden next year. Just think of the food you’ll get: up to one pound of grain per plant. You can even grow your crop in tight quarters, for although Golden Giant is tall, it isn’t fat. I spaced mine just 12 inches apart. Full sun and weekly watering are its only cultural requests.
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