Amaranth

I’ve been growing amaranth for some years now. I got the original seeds from Edens. They listed 2 types (they still do), grain amaranth & leaf amaranth.

I wanted to grow as many different foods as I could, not just the standard well-known ones, since it seemed that the way to resilience and food security was through diversity—many species all providing some sort of yield instead of just a few. So I ordered both types of amaranth seed.

The plants are hardy summer annuals forming a single tall stem with side leaves and topped by a feathery flower plume. If the top growth is pruned or broken off the stem will branch and produce flower spikes at the end of each branch. Its aim is to produce seeds—thousands millions of  them.

The stems are usually robust enough (I’ve had them a couple of cm in diameter), to grow climbing beans on. Just poke in a few bean seeds around the base of the stem. An example of the permaculture technique of plant stacking.

Grain amaranth has cream flower spikes; leaf amaranth has vibrant purple flower spikes and purple young leaves to match. They look very striking finely chopped in a salad or used as a garnish on soup. Grain amaranth seeds are cream; leaf amaranth seeds are shiny black.

In both species, the leaves and the seeds can be used. Amaranth flour can be bought in health food shops (and, now I think,  the supermarket). It has a nutty flavour and can be substituted for 20% of the normal wheat flour in a batch of bread. It’s protein is about 6% higher than that of wheat flour. I regularly use it in bread. You can also buy popped amaranth as a breakfast cereal. I haven’t tried it.

The leaves of both species can be used in salads, stir fries, soups and casseroles and are rich in minerals and vitamins.

Here are the 2 species growing together:

And a close-up of the flower spike of leaf amaranth:

Since both types are annuals, and hence aren’t available over winter, I’ve been drying the leaves of leaf amaranth to use in soups and casseroles. I don’t dry them in the dehydrator or put them in the sun, but just spread them out on a screen in the living room where they will dry in 2 or 3 days. I used to cut them up finely to dry, but now I’m drying them whole to retain vitamins. Now I have the Thermomix it’s so easy to just chop up dried herbs as I want them. Here are some semi-dried leaves, some freshly-picked ones and the tiny seeds of leaf amaranth:

A close-up of the tiny seeds (about the same size as poppyseeds):

To collect seed, inspect the flower spike regularly and when you see the seeds beginning to fall, cut off the whole head and put it somewhere to fully dry out and the seeds will be released. I get a lot of seeds, but never enough to grind into flour, so I just put them into bread as they are. I haven’t tried popping them yet.

Amaranth self sows everywhere. Once you’ve grown it you’ll always have it. A bonus for me—the rabbits don’t touch it!

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4 Responses to “Amaranth”

  1. The F. Relic Says:

    Sounds interesting, will have to see if the M. Relic will agree to put some in! He doesn’t like new things and usually just leaves what he is not familiar with – no extra water or food for it (unless it’s next to something he values!) and he doesn’t pick it. Ahhh men…where we would we be without them? Less white hair for starters!! 🙂

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  2. foodnstuff Says:

    Hi F. Relic,

    If you like I’ll save you some seed and you can toss it into the flower garden somewhere and look after it yourself. No need to involve the M. Relic at all. He might even say it’s pretty!

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  3. The F. Relic Says:

    Great idea F’nS! Thank you – will take up your offer next time I’m down your way. 🙂

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  4. Chris Says:

    It’s great to read about how amaranth actually works in someone else’s garden. I was thinking of growing it to sprout – it if will sprout? Apparently the goodies are magnified when a seed/grain is sprouted in water. Apparently it’s great candy for chickens, and great for human health.

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