Amaranth, as mentioned in one of the first posts of this blog (read post), together with Quinoa represents one of the superfoods that are enjoying success worldwide. Amaranth is also a plant capable of adapting to different environments, in fact, in recent decades, it has begun to be cultivated in many areas of the planet, from Asia to South America via Europe.
Amaranth, like Quinoa, is an annual herbaceous plant with surprising and unique nutritional characteristics. About 60 species are known, many of which are wild weeds (in Europe Amaranthus retroflexus is common in vineyards or along country roadsides), while others are used for human consumption, as a vegetable (leaves) but, above all, to produce grain. There are many species that have edible leaves and a pleasant flavour, which, when picked young, can be used like spinach. There are essentially 3 grain species: Amaranthus caudatus, Amaranthus hypochondriacus and Amaranthus cruentus.
In Italy, although Amaranth is now commercially and medically “suffocated” by Quinoa, great progress is being made from an agronomic point of view. In Tuscany, after years of experimentation conducted by the University of Florence, field trials have also given good production results. Personally, I believe that in the short-term, Amaranth, which however has some complexities, could represent, even more than Quinoa, a good productive alternative. Unlike Quinoa, Amaranth is also free of saponins, making it an easier and less expensive transformation process.
Our experience with Amaranth has led us to try different varieties of Amaranthus cruentus. We believe that a varietal improvement is needed, which should be focused on the reduction of the vegetative cycle and on the resistance to low temperatures in the early phenological phases. Producing Amaranth with the organic method is extremely complex as the plant tends to grow very slowly in the first phase, with the risk of being suffocated by weeds. After the 6/8 leaf stage, growth is much faster.