Last standing Amaranth in the Garland Community Garden Medicine Wheel (October 26, 2015)
If you like the taste of radicchio (a bitter and spicy taste) then you’ll love the young tender leaves of the amaranth. It has lots of protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Amaranth also produces a grain that is similar to quinoa or couscous. Amaranth seed grains contain approximately 12 to 16% protein.
The Aztecs believed that Amaranth gave them supernatural powers. Aztec farmers in annual tribute to Montezuma delivered tons of seed to him. Amaranth was mixed with human blood and then made into cakes shaped like replicas of Aztec gods. These cakes were fed to the faithful. Hernan Cortes ended this practice by condemning to death anyone found growing or possessing amaranth. [Source; http://www.nytimes.com/1984/10/16/science/ancient-forgotten-plant-now-grain-of-the-future.html?pagewanted=all accessed October 26, 2015]
Amaranths provide many benefits.
- They are beautiful in your garden. Two of the Amaranths in my garden grew to be ten feet tall. With their beautiful magenta tassels and lovely leaves, they are definitely a showstopper and conversation piece in any garden.
- They provide fresh greens from June up to the first killing frost.
- In the fall you can harvest the seeds (grain) from their tassels and heap a tablespoon of it into your morning cereal for extra nutrition.
All three of the tallest Amaranths in my yard have toppled with the recent rains - October 26, 2015
Planting and Caring for the Amaranth is easy.
Once the soil temperature has reached around 70 degrees F, it’s time to direct sow amaranth seeds. One gram of seed will sow a 50-foot row. An acre requires one pound of seed. Amaranth seeds are tiny round seeds—similar to black poppy seeds if the plant is from a wild variety.
Seeds from wild varieties are black, and seeds from the cultivated varieties are lighter in color. The plants growing in my yard and down at the Garland Community Garden are from a wild variety and thus these seeds are black. The tiny Amaranth seed are 16 percent protein as compared to 12 to 14 percent for wheat.
Once established, amaranth is drought tolerant and does well in the full sun. The seeds are usually ready to harvest in mid to late September. To harvest the seeds, cut the tassel and place in in pillowcase. Shake the bag to free the seeds. You will also need to use a sieve to separate the little bits of the dry flower from the seeds.
One of the several fallen Amaranths at the Garland Community Garden October 26, 2015
How do you cook the seeds?
Toss a tablespoon of amaranth seeds at a time into a hot, dry skillet. Continually shake or stir until the seeds pop. Put them as a finishing touch and added nutrition for soup, or salad. Make sure the skillet is scorching hot before you toss the seed in. The seeds remind me of celery seeds, round and tiny. Even when popped they are still tiny. Processing the grain from the Amaranth requires more time and patience than I have, but it may be just the thing for some folks. For me, I like the beauty this plant provides the garden. Its history is also interesting to consider.
COOK IT AS A HOT BREAKFAST CEREAL
Use one and a half cups liquid (water or apple juice) to ½ cup of Amaranth seeds. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all the liquid is absorbed. Serve immediately as it will become gummy if you allow it to sit.
USE IT AS A NUTRITIOUS THICKENER FOR SOUPS
A tablespoon of seeds is all you will need.