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Grain amaranth is an attractive plant with tender, edible leaves when young. It grows between 4 and 8 feet with red/maroon leaves with seed heads yielding many tiny seeds.
Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-16%) and contains essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. Amaranth contains three times as much fiber and five times as much iron as wheat, as well as twice the calcium of milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a high quality complete protein. Amaranth also contains a form of vitamin E, which lowers cholesterol. Cooked amaranth is easily digested, and has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period.
The seeds of amaranth produce seedlings that are tiny and somewhat fragile in comparison to crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. Amaranth seedlings can easily be blocked from emergence by a thin crust on the soil formed after a rain. Select soils that are lower in clay, and manage the seedbed to minimize chance of crusting. The optimum time for planting, is early June, but it can be planted with little yield difference from the second week in May until mid-June. After mid-June, yields start to drop off.
Wait to harvest until about a week after the first hard frost, letting the frost completely kill the plant and make the crop drier for harvesting. Amaranth seeds may start to shatter and fall to the ground if the crop is left standing too long, after a frost has occurred.
Real Seeds has a detailed photo essay on how to process amaranth.
Hope gardeners consider growing a few plants when they get some seeds at Seedy Saturday.
Cindy D from NIHM Farm, south of Powell River brought a big bag of ungleaned Amaranth to the recent 2009 pilot project meeting.
I have never grown Amaranth.
Will need to research how to grow and harvest the plant and save the seed. This has inspired me to make a series of posts in 2010, describing a little about saving vegetable/grain seeds from A(maranth………to Z(ucchini).
Invite you to share both your experiences and questions about the same vegetables, as the blog posts roll along.
Another source of seed-saving inspiration was the 15 gardeners who showed up at the meeting to process approximately 500 envelopes of locally grown seed.
Most of these envelopes have been stamped, with Seed Saving Project. That way, when you show up at Seedy Saturday on March 13th, you’ll be able to identify seeds grown for the Project by dedicated growers. That isn’t to say, that all these seed will necessarily grow well but it’s a start in that direction. Everyone involved, is committed to local sustainability and making personal efforts towards that end.
The Powell River Farmers’ Insitute has 1000 more envelopes but chances are: another 500 envelopes might get saved at the upcoming Kale Force seed packing bee on January 13th. Off to order more envelopes!