Archive for the ‘Amaranth’ Category

Autumn photos

April 8, 2013

‘Twas a chilly autumn morning and the camera and I went for a walk.

This is wormwood planted outside the chook run. I love the silvery, ferny foliage. Such a contrast to the usual greens. I have more plants in other parts of the garden. When I prune them back I put it through the mulcher and spread it in the Girl’s nestbox. It’s supposed to deter insects. It certainly has a very medicinal smell:

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A wicking box with a newly-planted pepino. Those seedlings all around it are amaranth (there’s a single bok choy there, too). Normally the amaranth self-seeds in the food forest. When it’s finished flowering (and I’ve collected as much seed as I can), I mulch it up and add it to the compost. Seedlings come up in everything that gets topped up with compost. I’ll probably pick some of these and dry them for winter use. At the moment I’m using them as a garnish on soups, in omelets and with other steamed greens:

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I have a tub on the deck with one strawberry in it. It’s been flowering for ages and producing delicious fruit. I used to rant about those huge supermarket strawberries and say they weren’t normal and now this plant is producing fruits equally as huge. I think it likes the chook poo compost I put on it. I’ve put a wire cage around the tub. Birds don’t come onto the deck very often, but bright red treats like this will bring them from miles around:

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The bags of cow poo I was given recently have finally all made it into one of the compost bins. I’ll add worms from the worm farm and let them go through it and make it more friable:

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Now that we’ve had rain, the oca has really kicked on:

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This is mizuna. The chooks love it and there’s generally enough left for me, too. Pretty foliage:

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Broccoli and kale in a wicking box:

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More kale and senposai in a wicking tub:

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This is chicory. I grow it for greens for the Girls. I don’t eat it because I usually have plenty of other greens:

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Not the most elegant parsnips in the world, but the best I’ve grown so far:

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Amaranth

January 30, 2012

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!

Aw…gee!

January 23, 2012

When I’m home I usually know when one of the Girls is on the nest. As soon as she leaves, I go and grab the egg. This particular day I was out most of the day. I came home and checked the nest:

A real ‘aw…gee’ moment!

And here they are. My best picture of them so far. They love sitting on their pile of logs. Cheeky on the left (small comb & wattles), Lady in the middle (medium comb & wattles), Molly on the right (large comb & wattles):

Cheeky has become the boss chook. She will gently nudge the others away from the food containers with a tap on their head. If I’m working inside the run or doing something to the coop, she’s always right up front checking out what I’m up to. If I’m putting a treat into their food bowl, she’s grabbing at it while I’m still trying to scrape it in.

She turns egg laying into an Academy Award performance. She’ll sit on the nest for an hour, then get up and leave. I’ll go in and…no egg! Ten minutes later, she’ll be back in there. The grunts and groans would shame a female tennis pro. “Push, Cheeky!”, I’ll yell. “Push!”.

Even without the bonus of eggs and fertiliser, chooks are laugh-a-minute.

Okay, some non-chook stuff.

This is amaranth:

It self-seeds everywhere now. It can get to 2 meters tall, with huge, terminal purple flower spikes. There’s a flower spike just forming on the plant at left. I use the tender tip leaves in salads and stir fries and collect the tiny black seeds. I never have enough to grind into flour, but put them into bread as is. I buy amaranth flour to add to my bread. It has a nutty flavour. I use 1 part amaranth flour to 4 parts wheat flour.

This came up where I’d put the compost from the worm farm:

It looked for all the world like a zucchini, but I didn’t see how it could be, as they get picked and eaten well before the seeds are mature. Finally it flowered and down under all the leaves I found this:

It’s a pumpkin! It looks like one I grew a couple of years ago, called Violina (shaped like a violin).

Not only that, but another plant appeared next to it:

Another pumpkin, a different sort. Gardens never cease to surprise!