Amaranth dreams fulfilled over breakfast

Amaranth bed

I’ve been enjoying amaranth as a cooked cereal for years. The tiny seeds are tasty, pack a complete high protein punch, and are fun to eat. (At our house, meals with amaranth somehow manage to inspire song and dance!) Plus, it’s been in cultivation for more than 8,000 years! So last spring, when we finally had enough space to do so, we decided to try incorporating amaranth into our home garden.

With no experience and few resources on growing grain amaranth on a home scale, we just started trying things. For starters, we planted it in two separate spots: in its own little bed of roughly 10 square feet, and as a fourth sister in our Three Sisters garden. I also covered my bases by starting some seeds indoors and direct seeding the rest. (The direct seeded plants quickly caught up to the transplanted ones.)

Amaranth, the fourth sister

The seed is so incredibly tiny that it was impossible not to plant it too densely. And since I have a compulsive resistance to thinning, the amaranth bed remained overcrowded for the duration of the summer. But it didn’t appear to mind too much. In fact, the amaranth seemed to adapt itself to whatever situation it found itself in. In the Three Sisters garden, where it was planted sparsely, the plants bushed out. In the amaranth bed, where everyone was overcrowded, the plants grew straight and thin and tall. Regardless of its circumstances, the amaranth remained unfazed. (That said, I will certainly thin it much more heavily this year.)

Amaranth harvest

In addition to being easygoing it was also beautiful, making it a favourite in the garden. As the plants developed, I figured out that the seed would eventually form out of the Dr. Seuss-like flowers that were emerging. When the flowers began to dry out, I could run my hand up them, causing seed to fall out gently.

At that point we clipped off the flowers and laid them out on a sheet until we could get around to threshing them. I tried a few hand-threshing techniques until I settled on simply rubbing the flowers against a metal screen and into a big plastic bin. Then I winnowed the seed by pouring it from one plastic bin to another in a relatively gentle breeze (too strong and it would have blown the infinitesimal seed away along with the chaff).

Amaranth ready to cook and eat

And there you have it. From our tiny square footage of amaranth we wound up with a few meals worth, plus enough seed and confidence to expand our production this year. Feeling precious about our limited supply, it took me all these months to work up to eating some. But this morning we finally cooked some up and ate our homegrown amaranth with homemade granola, homemade yogurt, home preserved peaches, and homegrown and home preserved crabapple sauce. Delight!

Some interesting & helpful amaranth information:
Growing Amaranth & Quinoa (Salt Spring Seeds)
Amaranth Grain & Vegetable Types (ECHO)

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