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Annuals, Vegetables

Coarse, sometimes weedy plants native to many regions of the world; ornamental kinds are grown for their brightly colored foliage or flowers. Sow seeds in place in early summer—soil temperature must be above 70°F (21°C) for germination. Or start indoors for planting out after frost danger is past in zones where the growing season is short.

If picked when young and tender, the leaves and stems of many species can be used like spinach, taking its place in hot weather. Some species have seeds that look like sesame seeds, have a high protein content, and can be used as grain.

Amaranthus caudatus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)
Amaranthus caudatus (photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters)

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Amaranthus caudatus

A sturdy, branching plant 3–8 ft. high and 1 1/2–3 ft. wide. The light green leaves can reach 10 in. long and 4 in. wide. Their color makes a nice contrast to the red flowers in drooping, tassel-like clusters to 2 ft. long. More of a curiosity than a pretty plant, but it does produce grain.

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