Amaranth (aka duck potato, swan potato, katniss)
Origin: central Latin America and the Himalayas
Plant: Sept – Jan
Harvest: as required
Amaranth is a seed – not a grain – that self-seeds readily. It is an upright, moderately tall, broad leafed, annual plant. There are a number of different species of amaranth and a huge number of varieties within those species.
Amaranth comes in all sizes, shapes and colours. The leaves can be round or lance shaped, 5cm to more than 15cm long, light green, dark green, reddish or variegated. Seeds may be white, yellow, pink or black. This is an attractive garden show-piece and its colourful tassels come in burgundy, red, yellow, gold and purple.
Amaranth is related to the common weed, pigweed, and is rich in lysine, calcium, iron and carotene. Harvest leaf amaranth as required and definitely before it flowers (the buds are edible though). Pick young leaves for salads and stir fries. Older leaves need to be cooked first to remove the oxalic acid. Amaranth leaves can be used in exactly the same way as spinach. Young stems can also be used as well. The grains can be ground in a mill to make amaranth flour and then mixed with water to a dough-like consistency – the dough is then flattened and toasted to make a flatbread or pita bread.