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Amazing Amaranth

 
pollinator
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William Bronson wrote:

Larisa Walk wrote: We dry the seed heads on cloth "hammocks", shelves made from shear curtain-type fabric that lets air circulate but doesn't let the seed through. The hammocks have EMT (electrical metal tubing) on either side to stiffen them and are hung by chains in our sun porch. We use this same setup for drying sorghum and can be used for corn and beans if needed.



Sounds like set up worth copying, any chance you have pictures to share?



There is a picture in our book "Feeding Ourselves - The Four Season Pantry from Plant to Plate" You can get either a hard copy or e-book from us at http://www.geopathfinder.com/Four-Season-Pantry.html
 
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I wouldn't want to keep one plant going too long for leaves--even if they don't bolt they start to get tougher and have more oxalic acid, though not quite as fast. It is easy enough to succession-sow every couple of weeks so you always have fresh ones. The leaf types are the best for this. They germinate well in hot weather, make more leaves and less stalk, and are more tender and tasty. Bountiful Gardens has 2, a red and a green with red veining. I love the flavor.

Its true that if you live in a place where corn grows well, no other grain will yield as well. These other grain crops like amaranth and quinoa are more adapted to the mountains and margins.
 
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Even if you do grow where corn grows well [which seems to be where grain Amaranth thrives best, though it performs better in more marginal areas than corn] or grow in marginal areas where you need to use corn that performs more poorly to get a corn yield, having more options for crop rotation or greater diversity in your polyculture is always an asset.
 
Jamie Chevalier
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I agree, options are great, and the time to get good at them is before you need them. But amaranth won't seem like such a wonder crop if you are already able to be easily grain self-sufficient with corn, and if the amaranth is crawling with bugs--well, let it go. Sorghum might be a better alternative for him than amaranth.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Right, that was in the context of Steve's post. Indeed it seems something about his site definitely does not agree with the amaranth he grew.
 
gardener
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I had a horrible time getting amaranth started last year. I think ants kept carrying off the seeds. Finally I resorted to starting them in seedling pots.

I saved seed from last year and put it in seedling pots yesterday. Just checked on them they've already started sprouting. This was a white seeded variety. Also seeded two different black seeded varieties and they haven't sprouted yet. Not sure if that's a product of the seed kind or not.
 
Casie Becker
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Just an update, the first black seed has sprouted today. That's more than 40 white seeds sprouted in one day, and one black seed sprouted in two days.

For what it's worth, that's the difference I'm seeing between Baker Creek seeds purchased this spring (the black seeds) and my own white seeds saved from last falls plants.
To really be an accurate comparison they would probably both have to be purchased or saved seeds.
 
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I planted a few rows of my landrace amaranth seeds yesterday. It's a month earlier than my regular planting date, and two months earlier than the prescribed date.

Why am I risking it so early? Amaranth is a warm weather plant.

One of my goals for my landrace is to thrive in the summer drought with no irritation. Last year, I grew the amaranth in low part of the farm that floods in the winter, so there was some ground moisture. It did very well, but now I want to know if it will grow in a much dryer spot. So that it can have at least some chance of surviving, it needs to have a well-established root system before the rains stop. The rains stop about the same time as our last frost date. This really sucks if you are amaranth and like warm weather.

Spring has come here early this year. It snuck in at the end of January. There are a few spots where the soil is bare, either because it's path or because it was waiting for the transplants. Working in one of those spots, I noticed how much warmer the soil is than where I have plants growing. I don't usually get this kind of soil warmth until the end of April (amaranth planting time). So I quickly loosened the soil on a path and smothered it with amaranth and sunflower seeds, along with some lettuce and something nitrogen fixing and low that I cannot remember, probably crimson clover. Lightly raked the seeds into the soil, so that some seeds will be on the surface, some about an inch beneath it, and the rest somewhere in between. Giving the seeds a variety of soil depth increases the likelihood that some of the seeds will be at the optimal depth.

I suspect there will be some germinate and grow, but whether or not I'll get a harvest from this endeavour, I doubt it. The soil is excessively poor and well drained. Every neighbour who's seen us working on that part of the yard has stopped and informed us how nothing grows on that side of the ridge. Too much drainage, too many rocks, and even if they import truckloads of 'proper dirt', it still ended in tears. Yet, I believe if we can get a bit more organic matter in the soil, it will be perfect for overwintering crops like favas and grains. They like well-drained spots that dry out when the heat arrives. And if the amaranth grows as well, then that would make a splendid show. If it grows and dies, then I'll have more organic matter to improve the soil for next year.

Besides, all I really need is one plant to produce seeds under these extreme conditions (early start, no irrigation in well-drained, poor soil) and produce a spectacular opportunity for improving my landrace project.

I have to say, I am very excited.
 
r ranson
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The seeds I planted in the last post, started coming up in two days. Most of the amaranth and sunflowers were up by the end of the week. The sunflowers are now just getting their true leaves. It's like the soil has a lovely red blush with splotches of green.

I haven't looked at the official records, but I suspect the rainfall for this month is below normal (again). The soil is already starting to dry. On the top terrace, the soil moisture is most of an inch down. On the bottom terrace, it's still gathering surface dew overnight. This first planting is on the middle terrace, which has moisture about 1/4 inch down and is good at gathering surface dew. Fingers crossed the plants can get big enough to harvest the dew soon, otherwise, I'll just have a mulch of dead seedlings.

Oh well, at least dead seedling mulch improves soil which is one of the main aims of this project. Take crappy, sandy, rocky soil and a two prong approach. 1. grow things and let nature do the selecting so that we come up with plants that can tolerate these conditions (drought and cold/hot tolerant landrace is my aim). 2. use the plants to improve the soil (failed plants as mulch, over winter pulses for nitrogen, excess plant matter for compost &/or mulch). Somehow I imagine I'll get to a middle ground where plants can grow happy.


I planted the amaranth & sunflower mix on the two other terraces. So far they are looking good, but one can definitely see the difference soil quality makes on them.
 
pollinator
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Hmm, I wonder if I can revive this old thread?

I just put amaranth in the wetlands garden for the dry season today.  I've only ever grown it as a vegetable (which is delicious, btw).  The locally available variety does not make a large seed head, so I don't think its worth harvesting as a grain crop.  Also our seeds are the shiny black variety... and I read a post on this thread about the black seeds causing gastric distress.  Can anyone else confirm that?  

Which variety is best for grain harvesting, considering I am in the tropics with heavy, acidic clay soil?

And I'm curious, R Ranson, did your early sowing survive?
 
r ranson
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The amaranth was very interesting last year.  Where the soil was good, it grew much better.  Places where the soil were really bad, the amaranth only grew two inches high, flowered, then dried out.  Other places, it grew 5 to 10 feet tall.  It moderate soil, it grew about 4 foot tall.  All, even the most pathetic amaranth, produced seeds of some sort.  

Our spring last year was mild enough that the amaranth weren't set back by frost.  I think this year is going to be a much colder spring, so I'll probably wait till May to plant them.
 
gardener
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Which variety is best for grain harvesting, considering I am in the tropics with heavy, acidic clay soil?  


Both the red and white amaranthe grew on the clay soil I trialed this year. It got about 4 feet tall. I got it started late therefor the heads got rained on before I could harvest it. The millet did a little better.
 
Maureen Atsali
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R Ranson, I also had that experience.  The amaranth I planted in poor dirt (can't call it soil) did not grow well.  It was pale and yellowish and only grew about 4 inches tall before it flowered.  Not enough leaves to make it worth while to even harvest for veggies.  And yet in the same spot, a few self-seeding volunteers came up and did okay.  Not great, but okay.

Hans, I can't grow millet.  Let me reword that: I can GROW millet, if I want to feed the wild birds.  There isn't anything left to harvest.  The birds don't seem to bother the amaranth, but like I said, this is a leaf vegetable variety, and doesn't make a very impressive seed head.

 
Hans Quistorff
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Hans, I can't grow millet.  Let me reword that: I can GROW millet, if I want to feed the wild birds.  There isn't anything left to harvest.  The birds don't seem to bother the amaranth, but like I said, this is a leaf vegetable variety, and doesn't make a very impressive seed head.  


I can understand about the birds. The grain amaranth also has an impressive seed head which reportedly attracts the wild birds.  Do you have the plastic bird netting available in Kenia?  It may be necessary to plant in an intensive bed under netting.
 
Larisa Walk
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The birds moving in on amaranth are your clue that the seeds are ripe and ready for harvest. To confirm that, rub the flower head between your fingers and some seed should fall out easily.  Cut the flower heads off and place, carefully, in a tub to transport into a dry, bird and critter-proof space to finish drying down before threshing.  Spread out on cloth or tarps to catch any seeds. The seeds are mature and viable at this early stage and rather than waiting for dry-down to happen in the field it happens in a controlled environment without birds.
 
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so much good stuff, and its alll covered ,but will add anyway. Pigweed is amaranth, the variety we call bledo which is a staple used as a pot herb. Not worth harvesting for grain, I prefer the bucket method of harvest and it that dosent work, dont other. We dont really plant it but shake out seed everywher, and we are no till.  Poly culture, not till no plant, if not dont bother. Mixed information on edibility of black seed amaranth but havent had trouble.
 
pollinator
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Would love an update on your landrace amaranth, R. Ranson! I'm in the same general area and your remarks on drought tolerance are definitely encouraging.


There is too much to do for me to baby a garden this year... so I will frame this as an intentional experiment in STUN style gardening.


I am fairly confident that some of my weeds are pigweed of some sort. I am not entirely sure if I am pleased or dismayed that this will inevitably influence my amaranth breeding... since I can't do anything about it I will aim for pleased, it must be well adapted since it's already here...


I wonder if anyone has tried planting health food store amaranth? Any idea if it is likely to be dead due to some aspect of processing?
 
pollinator
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I've been trying to read as much of this thread as possible since I have some Red Garnet Amaranth seeds on their way to me. Our dry, windy, hot spot in Haiti is hopefully going to be perfect for this plant. I'm hoping we can grow it large scale on campus to help cut down on the amount of imported grain consumed in our cafeteria, and develop a local taste for it. It seems extremely promising.

I too am curious about harvesting the seed. Has anyone successfully made flour and potentially pasta with it? Pasta is EXTREMELY popular in Haiti (where spaghetti is a favorite breakfast food), but again, not doing anything for the local economy by using imported wheat flour.

I'll keep coming back to this thread for advice! Thanks.
 
pollinator
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r ranson wrote:I too feel the pain of harvesting amaranth seed.  I'm not very good at it.

This was one of my main hopes for this topic - that someone here might have perfected the art of cleaning amaranth seed and would be willing to share it with us.  

This is my method, but I'm really not happy with it yet.

I wait until the little birds tell me it's time to start harvesting the amaranth.  Because the seeds ripen slowly, I don't mind letting the birds have their share for a day or two while I wait for a sunny day to harvest my amaranth.   Then I cut each flower head off, and shake it vigorously into a big (food safe) bucket.  The flowerheads are then lay on a sheet in the sun (away from the little birds) and left to dry a few weeks.  I have to bring them in at night because of the dew here that time of year.

When the flower heads are dry, I put one or two in a big bucket like I had for harvesting before, and with a big stick, bang away at it like a mortar and pestle.  About 20 to 40 seconds of vigorous thrashing, and the big bits get tossed to one side (to be used as mulch somewhere I want amaranth to grow next year) and I'm left with a bunch of seed and chaff.  I do this for all the seed heads, and then use sieves to sort out the mess from the seed.  I use to winnow at this stage, but I lost more seed than I saved.  

I found some fine sives in the Diso shop in Vancouver that look a bit like this:


image from here

They fit snug inside each other, so that there is about half inch gap between the scenes.  I can put three screens together like this, the biggest one on top, the smallest one on the bottom.  The bottom one is too small for the majority of the amaranth seed to go through, but it is small enough for some of the chaff.  Put a couple of handfuls of this and shake a bit.  The end result is about 90% seed and 10% chaff - which is pretty good compared to the othe other methods I've tried.  This is good enough for me to plant for seed.  If I want to eat, I winnow the rest in small batches.


Amaranth keeps on flowering until hit by the first hard frost. Seed will often ripen many weeks before that, usually after about three months. The best way to determine if seed is harvestable is to gently but briskly shake or rub the flower heads between your hands and see if the seeds fall readily. (Numerous small and appreciative birds may give hints as to when to start doing this.) An easy way to gather ripe grain is, in dry weather, to bend the plants over a bucket and rub the seedheads between your hands. My own preferred threshing method is to rub the flowerheads through screening into a wheelbarrow and then to blow away the finer chaff using my air compressor. Cutting and hanging plants to dry indoors does not work very well: the plants become extremely bristly and it is difficult to separate the seed from the chaff.



This is borrowed from Dan Jason's Salt Spring Seed page on growing amaranth and quinoa.


It looks like I'm not the only one who thought up the fun title of Amazing Amaranth.   This is what Mother Earth News has to say about it.

The author says that separating amaranth seed from the chaff is a "blend of art and science, seed cleaning can be practiced for a lifetime with steady improvement, yet never fully mastered."

Winnowing is where the “art” part comes in. Try experimenting freely over a clean tarp so you can simply sweep up any “mistakes” and start again. You won’t get every seed, so have fun with it and throw the chaff in a part of your yard where you won’t mind when a carpet of amaranth greens appears in the spring. Winnowing works because seeds are heavier than chaff, so you need to make sure you’ve sifted all the big chunks out, leaving only the pulverized, fluffy flower parts to remove.



There are some other useful bits about harvesting the grain in that article.  Very interesting read.



I generally followed this procedure when I harvested my first crop of amaranth this year except I dried the seed heads indoors in a room with a dehumidifier to accelerate the drying time.

I ran into problems with the sifting and winnowing process for the redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) I grew this year. Because redroot amaranth is a wild species, it does not have very tightly packed seed heads. This made it difficult to remove all of the woody debris from the chaff. I eventually was able to remove most of the woody stems from the chaff during the sifting process, but I still had a few small twigs mixed in with the rest of the chaff. Ultimately, I was unable to winnow out the tiny twigs still left mixed in with the black seeds. Now I'm trying to figure out how to efficiently remove the remaining twigs from the black seeds.
tall-redroot-amaranth.jpeg
tall redroot amaranth
Redroot Amaranth ready to harvest
amaranth-seed-heads-in-bag.jpeg
amaranth seed heads in bag
Cutting the seed heads and stripping the leaves
drying-amaranth-seeds.jpeg
drying amaranth seeds
drying next to a dehumidifier
amaranth-seeds-unsorted.jpeg
amaranth seeds unsorted
Twigs mixed in the same diameter as the seeds
 
Ryan M Miller
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After some trial and error, I was
finally able to remove the remaining woody stems from the redroot amaranth seeds. I passed the seeds through my sieve several times until I removed most of the remaining woody twigs. Based on my seed yield from this plant, it does not appear to be a practical amaranth variety to use for grain. Even wild lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) yields more seeds per plant than this redroot amaranth. It seems to have produced less than half as many seeds by weight than my Aurelia's verde (Amaranthus cruentus) amaranth per plant.
collected-amaranth-seeds.jpeg
collected amaranth seeds
Redroot amaranth seeds with twigs sifted out
 
Priscilla Stilwell
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I have yet to receive my Amaranth seed, but once I do, my harvesting plan goes something like this:

1. Eat tender leaves in salads and such.
2. Feed leaves to chickens, rabbits, and goats.
3. Wait for seeds to ripen and let birds eat them in exchange for their bug-patrol services and fertilizer.
4. Cut off the seed heads and re-sow a few and throw the rest to the chickens.
5. Eat the rabbits, chickens, eggs, goats, and milk.
 
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Question for you all about amaranth... does it stay upright fairy well on its own? Or would I need to provide it support if it was growing with shorter plants?

I have noticed that some tall plants hold themselves up fine but others tend to fall over and squash the plants around them. Either grow pattern is fine as long as I know what to expect
 
Ryan M Miller
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From my experience, Amaranth stays upright about as well as corn (Zea mays), but this depends on the species. My red-leaved amaranth (A. hypochondriacus) is sagging a lot more than my Aurelia's Verde (A. cruentus) amaranth under the weight of the seed heads. If you are concerned about the plants sagging under the weight of the seed heads, you could always support them with tomato cages.
sagging-red-amaranth.jpeg
sagging red amaranth
sagging amaranth stalk laying in between garden beds
 
Ryan M Miller
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My red amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) is now ready to harvest. As with last time, I am drying the seed heads next to a dehumidifier for two weeks. Out of all the varieties of amaranth I have grown so far this year, this one seems to have the largest seeds.
red-amaranth-seed-heads.jpeg
red amaranth seed heads
Heavy seed heads sagging under their own weight
close-up-red-amaranth-seed-heads.jpeg
Close up of red amaranth seed heads
close up
collected-red-amaranth-seed-heads.jpeg
collected red amaranth seed heads
drying in a bag
 
Ryan M Miller
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I have now finished winnowing my red amaranth. After only ten days sitting next to a dehumidifier, my red amaranth was dry enough to thresh the grain free from the seed heads. I have noticed an interesting pattern with the amaranth varieties I grew this year. For the wild redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus), I got 2.3 ounces of seed; for the Aurelias Verde amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), I got 2.8 ounces of seed; and for the burgundy amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), I got 5.3 ounces of seed. From these yields, assuming a seeding rate of 522,270-871,200 seeds per acre, I predicted a yield of 895 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus retroflexus, a yield of 1906 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus cruentus, and a yield of 3607 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus hypochondriacus. Given an average yield of 2,700-3,180 lbs per acre of hard red wheat, this would make my burgundy amaranth comparable in yield to wheat (https://www.statista.com/statistics/190356/wheat-yield-per-harvested-acre-in-the-us-from-2000/). If I were growing amaranth solely for grain I would plant more of the burgundy amaranth because of its high yield per acre.

Photograph-of-amaranth-seed-harvest.-Redroot-amaranth-is-on-the-left-Aurelia.jpeg
Photograph of amaranth seed harvest. Redroot amaranth is on the left; Aurelia
Photograph of amaranth seed harvest. Redroot amaranth is on the left; Aurelia
 
Ryan M Miller
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Ryan M Miller wrote:I have now finished winnowing my red amaranth. After only ten days sitting next to a dehumidifier, my red amaranth was dry enough to thresh the grain free from the seed heads. I have noticed an interesting pattern with the amaranth varieties I grew this year. For the wild redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus), I got 2.3 ounces of seed; for the Aurelias Verde amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), I got 2.8 ounces of seed; and for the burgundy amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus), I got 5.3 ounces of seed. From these yields, assuming a seeding rate of 522,270-871,200 seeds per acre, I predicted a yield of 895 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus retroflexus, a yield of 1906 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus cruentus, and a yield of 3607 lbs of seed per acre for the Amaranthus hypochondriacus. Given an average yield of 2,700-3,180 lbs per acre of hard red wheat, this would make my burgundy amaranth comparable in yield to wheat (https://www.statista.com/statistics/190356/wheat-yield-per-harvested-acre-in-the-us-from-2000/). If I were growing amaranth solely for grain I would plant more of the burgundy amaranth because of its high yield per acre.



I greatly underestimated how much seed I would need in my original post. I would need about 500-800 times as much seed per acre than I originally wrote to get the yields I predicted. The original post and the quoted text here have now been corrected accordingly.
 
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I’m looking for someone in Ohio to trade different strains of amaranth with.  I have been growing it with corn and sorghum and it does ok filling up the rest of the space between rows.  I also grew some like we grow tobacco and it got huge.  Here are some pictures.  My son is 6ft tall.
IMG_20190721_141126482.jpg
amaranth row
amaranth row
IMG_20190909_193340449.jpg
red amaranth flowering
red amaranth flowering
IMG_20190915_152542214.jpg
amaranth growing tall
amaranth growing tall
 
Ryan M Miller
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:I’m looking for someone in Ohio to trade different strains of amaranth with.  I have been growing it with corn and sorghum and it does ok filling up the rest of the space between rows.  I also grew some like we grow tobacco and it got huge.



I'm in the process of mailing someone else amaranth seeds but I would be glad to send you some amaranth seed as well. You can send me a purple mooseage and we'll talk about it further.
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