I have read a lot of posts about both species in a lot of different threads, but I have not yet found that anyone has asked this same question before: for leaf production, why would someone chose LQ over amaranth or vice versa? I have found some LQ seed, which I planned to grow as a full or partial substitute for growing spinach. I also am thinking about growing some amaranth for seed as used like a grain. But then I read a warning that when growing the two together they can cross-pollinate. So now I am thinking: why not just grow more amaranth, harvest both leaves and seeds from that, and skip the LQ? My question is sparked by the assumption that, since one of the advantages of both is that they tend to self-seed prolifically, cross-pollination is something I would wish to avoid. And I'm not considering the seed yield, which I am assuming will be superior from grain-type amaranth, in this debate; only leaf crop desirability.
Does anyone have any theories, opinions, or first hand experiences to offer?
To inform the discussion, I will list here everything I know about the two species, so please also chime in to point out if anything I think I already know is inaccurate or over-generalized:
> Both are tall, weedy, self-seeding annuals.
> Spinach, amaranth, and LQ (and quinoa, too, which I'd love to grow but which is best suited for colder climates than mine) are all in the same family.
> Being weedier (i.e. more vigorous, robust, and pest tolerant) and more heat tolerant are common reasons sited for LQ's preferability vs spinach, which reasoning I would assume goes just the same for amaranth.
> Being weedier (i.e. closer to a wild plant) would I think make both species more likely to be more nutritious than spinach.
> Many people think the taste of LQ leaves is superior to cultivated spinach (a possible + for LQ in my debate).
> I don't know that anyone has ever said that the taste of amaranth leaf is superior to spinach (?), but I do know that it is a very important leaf crop around the world. In my old northern VA community garden, some Bangladeshi (or somewhere like that) gardeners a few plots down grew tons and tons of absolutely gorgeous deep scarlet-purple plants as a leaf crop, and I think I remember that they grew it well into the summer, which gets hot and humid in northern VA. They made good money selling it to the local Asian community, who were used to cooking it but could not find it in American markets. Although I didn't know it at the time, what they were growing was amaranth.
> Since at least some common cultivars of grain amaranth do grow in beautiful and distinct red and purple colors, I would probably grow these because 1) why not?! and 2) it will make the young seedlings easy to identify and not accidentally weed them out. So far as I know, LQ is basically green, so I would not have this choice (a possible + for amaranth in my debate).
> There are both vegetable-type and grain-type cultivars of amaranth, the former often being shorter and the latter often being taller. I would be growing the more common grain-type cultivars, as I've said.
> So far as I know, both species have comparable tolerance for soil type, climate, pests, diseases, etc.
I don't have a whole lot to contribute except that I wouldn't worry about them crossing. we had plenty of both in our pumpkin and corn fields, and I never saw any hybrids between the two.
my only other contribution is that neither leaf tastes great fresh and they're tough, but maybe that's my own too civilized diet speaking. I do like them fried in red oil the way a friend from Cameroon makes them, though. very good like that. may ruin them as health food, though.
we grow both because they flower at different time for us. LQ is in mid summer, while the amaranth is late summer.
i also prefer the LQ leaves to the amaranth, but young amaranth greens are delicious.
most of the people who make these assumptions about them crossing are only because they can, they take little effort into knowing if they actually will. and most of the time those people are missing out on a lot more than they have.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
@Tel & Jordan - Very interesting. You know, I actually spoke to a third person the other day who also responded with "cross-pollination? Really?" If they do flower for me at different times, as they do for Jordan (where, exactly?), then there might indeed be a good argument for growing both. As for being palatable, I can only repeat what I've read from others, which is that only the youngest leaves early in the season are usually eaten raw. Otherwise, I think most growers assume that they will be cooked, right?
Because they are not in the same genus, it is unlikely they will hybridize. I've not been able to grow Lamb's quarters or any Chenopodium successfully though Amaranth has done well for me both as "pigweed" and Golden Giant grain amaranth. If I could grow both I would for diversity's sake.
I've seen them both in flower at once. pretty frequently, actually. acres and acres of both. some six feet high. I didn't see any hybrids. I didn't inspect every square foot, so that doesn't mean that there weren't any, but if they were there, there weren't a lot of them.
hybrids across genus aren't unheard of, but Ludi's right that they aren't common. Shipova pear is one.
@Kari - Just out of curiosity, where are growing quinoa this year? I would like to grow it very much but, as I currently understand it, even the lowland varieties require continuously cooler weather than I can provide in the summertime...
I have wild varieties of both as weeds. I'm not a big cooked greens eater and am not fond of either one raw. that said they are excellent chickenfeed so unless they are really in my way I don't pull them out, but cut them and let them regrow.
Lambs quarters tend to be a late winter / early spring weed while the amaranth tends to be a summer/fall plant, mostly growing after we get some summer rain or it will pop up earlier in areas I water.
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