Long is the tradition that considers amaranth a sacred plant. The name amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos and that is "that does not fade". Hence the meaning attributed to it by the Greeks of plant of friendship, of mutual esteem and more generally of all true feelings which should never change with the passage of time, as they are eternal and unique. In Greek mythology it is said that the Goddesses loved to be celebrated with garlands of amaranth; in this context, amaranth was therefore used to obtain protection and benevolence. The Romans attributed the power to keep amaranth away from envy and misfortune. In the period 600-800 the amaranth was used to decorate clothes and clothes, as it was thought to be able to give physical well-being.
Amaranth is an interesting plant in many respects. In fact it has undoubted decorative qualities thanks to its inflorescences and its brightly colored leaves. It is, however, held in high regard also for its seeds, edible and usable in many ways. They are very valuable for their protein and mineral salt content and are also increasingly sought after in our country.
Amaranth is an annual herbaceous plant with very variable height. The species cultivated for ornamental purposes rarely exceed the meter, those used for the production of seeds can instead reach even 3 meters. The leaves differ greatly depending on the species and can be from oval to lanceolate. The inflorescences, produced in summer, are panniculus and of great dimensions (they can exceed even 1 meter of length). In Italy they are generally dark red, but there are also varieties that have green, yellow or mixed colors. The seeds, white, yellow or black, are very small (less than 1 mm in diameter) and light. Their shape is reminiscent of lentils, but with the edge more crushed.
AMARANTO IN BRIEF
Fam. Amarantaceae, gen amaranthus
|Type of plant||Annual herb with deciduous leaves|
|Height width||Up to three meters / up to 80 cm|
|utilization||Vase, border, flower beds|
|ground||Clayey, calcareous, rich|
Etymology and language of flowers
The name amaranth comes from the Greek and means "immortal" or "that does not fade". The flower is in fact very durable both on the plant and when it is cut. Precisely for this reason it is an excellent subject to use for dry compositions.
From this its characteristic also derives its meaning in the language of the flowers: it is given when it wishes a lasting love and imperishable fidelity.
History of amaranth
Amaranth is native to Central America. It was one of the most ancient domesticated plants in man since his seeds were found in tombs dating back more than 4000 years.
It was held in very high esteem by all the pre-Columbian civilizations that had sensed its great nutritional potential. The culmination of its cultivation came with the Mayan, Aztec and Inca civilizations. It was also considered a curative food and used in various religious rites.
They were given invigorating, aphrodisiac and even esoteric virtues. Consequently it became a sacred and precious plant, to be offered to the gods, during celebrations and inside the tombs. On special occasions (and still today), amaranth was ground or toasted and then mixed with American agave honey. The resulting pasta was used to make small animal figures, warriors or gods. At the end of the ceremony the figures were cut and eaten by the people who took part in it.
From the discovery of America to today
The arrival of the Spaniards coincided with the condemnation of this cultivation and all related uses. Its use in fact appeared too tied to pagan rituals and it was decided to suffocate it. Even today, little is used in Central American cuisine, although it is an integral part of many traditional dishes.
In Europe it reached around 1700 and was for a long time used only for ornamental purposes (and also in this case those who wanted to put it in the garden were hindered because of the injury).
In the '70s some American universities analyzed the seeds and enhanced the nutritional qualities of the product. From that moment the cultivation became more interesting, also thanks to the adaptability of the plant to different soil and climate situations.
Amaranth loves rich and fresh substrates, preferably neutral or sub-alkaline, with a good amount of calcium. It is always important to incorporate abundant mature, flour or pellet manure. This, in addition to enriching the soil with nutrients, will improve the texture and vitality.
To achieve vigorous growth and an abundant production of inflorescences it is essential to place amaranth in a sunny position, where it receives direct sunlight for at least five hours a day. Because the plant does not suffer damage it is also extremely important to insert it where it is very sheltered from the winds. As an adult, both stems and flowers can make it very vulnerable to gusts.
Amaranth grows equally well in pots, provided it is medium to large in size. The ideal substrate in this case is a mixture of equal parts of soil for flowering plants and rich clayey soil. However, always incorporate a few handful of slow release fertilizer, with good amounts of potassium.
In flowerbeds and borders it is an excellent summer companion for cosmetics, dahlias, lavatera and ajuga reptans.
Sowing takes place in the North between April and May, in the South it can instead proceed already at the end of March, that is when the frosts are unlikely.
It is possible to proceed using alveolar trays with rather large jars (inserting three seeds for each one) or directly at home in rows or spread. The minimum temperatures for germination are around 15 ° C.
The seeds (which we can recover ourselves) remain vital for at least three years.
Once the germination has taken place we transfer to the house (in the case of the use of trays) or we proceed with the thinning. We leave only the most vigorous plants respecting a distance of 50-80 cm from each other.
In order to grow luxuriantly, amaranth needs frequent irrigation and a soil capable of keeping itself fresh for a long time. It is therefore important to intervene often, preventing the area near the foot from drying out completely.
The administrations will have to be even more frequent for the subjects in pots, above all during the periods of strong heat. In that case it may be useful to use the saucer.
Amaranth reaches remarkable heights. It is therefore important to help stabilize it by equipping it with guardians.
To stimulate the production of floral panels it is good to remove as soon as possible the withered ones. This will also help us to prevent the plant from becoming invasive.
A further aid to prolong the flowering season comes from the fortnightly administration of fertilizer for flowering plants. For individuals in pots, liquid products are ideal, while those in the open ground are more suitable for slow-release granular ones.
Pests and diseases
It is a resistant plant but can become a victim of aphids, snails and slugs.
Amaranthus caudatus (foxtail)
Generally red, but there are cultivars with yellow and green flowers
Foliage with red ribs.
Small flowers in decombe decks.
Beautiful foliage, from green to red to bright yellow
Amaranthus hypochondriacus (panicolato)
Up to 1.50 m
Edible leaves and seeds.