Amaranth – Green Callaloo
Amaranth comes in many forms and colors but nearly all are edible. Leaves can be harvested when young and tender and used as salad greens, or they can be grown a bit longer and used as a substitute for spinach. Yes, we can have greens all summer here in SW Florida!
Seeds can be harvested and used as a grain, leaves are a salad or a “mess of greens” cooked with the usual bacon or salt pork in the South.
To grow your Callaloo (amaranth) plant, space the plants about a foot apart. No need to separate the small plants in the pot unless you just want to spread them out. Keep well-watered until they are established. Then, they can handle a bit of drought but they do much better with regular watering. Here in SW Florida, they should be pretty carefree once the rainy season starts.
Start harvesting young leaves as soon as the plant is about 8 inches tall. Always pick off the tender top of the plant. This will make it branch out more and thus give you even more “tender tops”! Callaloo can grow to 6 or 7 feet tall, so harvest frequently.
Callaloo is ready to harvest in just 30 to 40 days from seed!
Callaloo seeds are teeny tiny and they will self-seed profusely. That’s okay if you want lots of callaloo but remember that it’s a tropical, Caribbean plant and can spread madly. If you don’t want it all through the garden (and nearby areas), clip off the flowers before they set seed. If it forms seed, you can still clip it off before it ripens. Birds and chickens love the seed heads.
For cooking as “greens”, remove the thick stems and use only the tender leaves. The stems can be peeled and cooked as an asparagus substitute.
For use as a salad green, start picking the leaves as soon as they reach a useable size, about like baby spinach.
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