52 Weeks Fresh: Quinoa and Amaranth (Hard to Pronounce, Fun to Grow)

By: Michael Blakeney

My garden isn’t just for greens. A few years ago, when I was trying to figure out how it could yield more flavors, I started rummaging through my kitchen shelves and two boxes stood out: quinoa and amaranth. So I decided to grow them alongside my usual garden vegetables to make more-interesting salads.

A few years on with amaranth (quinoa is a newer addition), both are outstanding. They’re attractive as well as useful, both for the grainlike fruit and for the leaves.

And they are a gift that keeps on giving — young leaves from quinoa and amaranth are highly nutritious and a fun addition to summer and fall salads. They also make great focal points in flower bouquets, and a good addition to winter bird food.

If you’re wondering how many to plant, 12 amaranth plants will yield plenty of leaves for eating as well as flowers for cutting and bird food. The plants branch out quite a bit and produce nicely. I have about 25 quinoa plants in the garden this season and am hoping for ample salad leaves and a few summer sides. The plants are small now and some new seeds just went in, but we’ll follow them as the season moves along.

No shrinking violets, quinoa and amaranth both grow to over six feet tall, making them ideal for those with minimal ground space. In the shaded middle ground space beneath them, try growing more-delicate summer lettuce.

PRODUCE REPORT: Tomato plants should be getting stronger with the June heat. Place stakes next to the plants now before the roots expand too much. Add some new basil plants or seeds periodically to keep flavors going until the first frost. And sow more lettuce seeds every few weeks!

EAT WITH THE SEASON: Don’t forget to eat your peas. Fresh peas freeze so well, you can shell them now and freeze them (without washing) for a Thanksgiving recipe!

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