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