Now that my seed has all been dealt with, securely stored away in my seed-room in the bacement. The gardens have been put to bed for the winter, and all the firewood has been chopped and stacked. Finally I can spend time cooking and eating all the new crops I grew this summer. I plan to write a few short posts about each of these crops. The fist of these is amaranth.
In all my years, I have never eaten amaranth, unless I had consumed it unknowingly in some multi-grain bread or cereal. Last night I cooked up some of my own, Indiana grown amaranth, and was amazed at how good it was. I just followed a simple recipe, simmering 1 cup of amaranth grain with 3 cups water for about 20 minutes. I added a pat of butter and a pinch of salt, but it would have also been perfect as a breakfast cereal with a little honey and cream. Amaranth is one of those dual use crops that I am always on the lookout for. Not only does it produce an abundance of nutrient dense grain (actually a pseudo-grain), but the leaves are also edible and very healthy (high in calcium). They are generally cooked and work well in stir fry or soups. The grain is also high in calcium and iron. Amaranth has 13% protein. Unlike most other cereal grains, it contains lysine, making it a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. One other great advantage is amaranth’s ability to help keep you regular (always a good thing), as it is a good source of fiber at 13g per cup.
This summer, I grew a quick maturing variety called Fercita (70-90 days) that has the additional advantage of being much shorter (3′-4′) than traditional varieties which can reach 7′. Amaranth is also drought tolerant once the plants are established. I started my plants indoors and set them into the garden at the end of May, once the ground has warmed up and the temperatures have moderated (amaranth likes warm weather). I planted 18 plants in a 40′ row and yielded 5 lbs of grain. I believe the yield would have been much higher if it had been a little warmer of a summer. Extremely easy to harvest, thresh and clean, with no hulls to remove. One definite trick for growing amaranth in the North, is to cut the nearly mature seed heads and hang them in a dry shaded place for a week or so before removing the seed. You can place a tarp underneath to catch any seed that falls. Threshing can be accomplished by rubbing the seed heads between your hands over a bucket, or by placing them in a sack (I use a pillow case) and beating it with a piece of “doubled-over” rubber hose. I slowly winnow in front of a fan, but be careful that the fan is not to close or you will blow the tiny grains away with the chaff.
I have 1 gram packets (approx. 900 “fresh” seed) available on my website.