Also known as Amaranthus cruentus or "edible red leaf amaranth," callaloo grows as an annual in the U.S. and is harvested for its leaves and seeds. This heat-loving plant grows from seeds sown in sunny, well-drained soil during the early spring, soon after the final frost of winter. The deep-green, edible foliage of the plant gives way to showy, red blooms that look magnificent adorning a flowerbed. The edible parts of the plant are low in saturated fats and contain beneficial nutrients such as protein, lysine and fibre.
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Things you need
- Soil test kit
- Lime or peat moss
- Garden hose
- Paper towel
- Paper bag
Prepare your soil for spring planting of the callaloo seeds. Break up the soil to a 12-inch depth using a pitchfork. Test the pH of the soil using a soil testing kit. Callaloo seeds prefer to grow in soil that has a pH between 6.5 and 7.5.
Amend the soil if necessary before sowing your seeds. Add lime to soil with a pH below 6.5 and peat moss to soil with a pH above 7.5. Refer to the required amendment's packaging label for allocation amounts and application requirements.
Sow the callaloo seeds when the outdoor temperatures hold steady at 65 degree Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the seeds over the soil by holding them in the palm of your hand and fanning them out in front of you. Rake the soil lightly afterward to cover the seeds with approximately ½ inch of soil.
Dampen the soil with water from a garden hose. A light misting is all that is necessary. Keep the soil moist throughout the germination process, which will take about 10 to 14 days.
Continue to maintain moist soil as the callaloo seedlings grow. Once the callaloo seedlings begin to develop their second set of leaves, water to plants more deeply, keeping the soil moist to a 1 inch depth at all times.
Spread a 3-inch layer of bark mulch around the callaloo plants to deter weeds. Mulching will also improve drainage. Harvest the leaves as you need them for your recipes by plucking them off of the plants using your fingertips.
Harvest callaloo seeds when the flowers begin to dry up. You will know it is time for seed harvesting when you notice the head of the flower bursting open, exposing the seeds. Snip the flowers off their main stems and shake the seeds out onto a paper towel. Store the seeds in a paper bag in a cool, dry area.
Tips and warnings
- If you prefer, you can place the whole flower top in the paper bag for storage. This way you will know you have not missed any seeds.
- Callaloo plants will die back naturally during the fall.
- Do not oversaturate the soil during seed germination. Over soaked soil will cause the seeds to rot before they have an opportunity to germinate. It is also important not to overwater maturing plants. Press a finger into the soil before each watering. If the soil feels moist to a 1-inch depth, skip the scheduled watering and check back in a few days.
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