Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

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Maast
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Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Maast » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:26 am

I'm considering adding the Amaranth variety called Amaranthus Cruentus (aka Mexican grain) to my stealth garden (a garden that doesn't look like a garden) as a wheat substitute/supplement. It's supposed to be tasty, high calorie, high protein, very nutritious and the leaves are edible as well.

It's high in the things that potatoes are low in so it's a very good complement to it. However it doesn't contain any gluten so it can't be used to bake bread.

Best of all its supposed to be high yielding (about the equivalent of rice), quick growing, easy to harvest and store, robust, and very easy to grow. I don't have the room for wheat and even if I did I don't want to burn all the labor needed to get it from the plant to ready to eat.

I've never dealt with it so I'm hoping somebody will chime in with how well it's worked for them.

Thanks!

Edit:

Here's a link to the nutritional benefits of Amaranth, it has high levels of protein and is a "complete" protein in that it contains lysine. One study said “is among the highest in nutritive quality of vegetable origin and close to those of animal origin products.”.

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-gra ... he-month-0

Looking into it a bit more. It looks like its more of a replacement for rice than wheat. It can even be popped and eaten as a snack food. Seems like a great prepper crop.

Anybody ever tasted it?
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Maast » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:00 am

Oh well, in spite of the lack of response I bought some from a health food store and cooked it up. It was pretty good, kind of nutty-sweet. Made a great breakfast porridge.

I'm going to add it to the edible landscaping. The sheer numbers of seeds one flower puts out would let me drastically increase my crop size if I ever need to. Just one plant produces enough seeds to let me put in an acre if I wanted to.

It'll be joining my cattails, canna lilly and mashua as edible landscaping. Hopefully it'll self-seed each year.
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by duodecima » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:14 am

I have nothing to say because I know nothing, but please do let us know how that goes!
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Chicago Zombie » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:37 am

Your stealth garden sounds wonderful!
We eat amaranth here.
We've cooked it, added it to things like trail bars,
But the most popular way here was to "pop it" like popcorn.
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by .milFox » Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:44 am

It's pretty delicious stuff and one of the first grains cultivated by man.

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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by buck85 » Wed Sep 10, 2014 2:55 pm

I have grown amaranth.Some observations;
1. Versatile; most plants grown are only eatable at only one time in the growing cycle. Amaranth, depending on variety, could be eaten all through the growing cycle.Seeds, of some species can be sprouted,ground for flour or popped like popcorn. When thinning out plants when first sown could be eaten as a green(leaves as matures could be eat too.)
2. There many different varieties to grow, do you research and pick the right one for your area and soil
Here is a web site that sell seeds.
http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/amaranth/
This is what I grew;
http://www.rareseeds.com/mercado-amaranth/

I grew Mercado-amaranth.This species has a long growing cycle which is good for the south.Living in the North you should look for a shorter growing season plant. I was planning to cross with a native version and make a hybrid but life side tracked me.Maybe this summer start again
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Dabster » Wed Sep 10, 2014 4:12 pm

Is there a chance you can post a picture of what a stealth garden look like? Does it look like a proper English garden, the typical American backyard or wilderness?

Thanks!
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Maast » Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:46 pm

Dabster wrote:Is there a chance you can post a picture of what a stealth garden look like? Does it look like a proper English garden, the typical American backyard or wilderness?
Thanks!
Typical American back, side and front yard landscaping. It's just that the plants in them are edible in one way or another.

The canna lilly is a border along shrubbery, the mashua is planted along the fence and it puts out vines, I plant them once and they come back year after year without intervention on my part. I can't claim I planted cattails because they and the rhubarb planted themselves before I got here (basically weeds). There is also roses (rosa rugosa) and they put out rose hips and there are a few huckleberry bushes but again I can't take any credit for those, the previous owners planted them as just ornamentals.

So they're ornamentals, its just that they're useful/edible ornamentals. The idea being in a long term SHTF to eat them to extend my long term food preps and give us something fresh while we frantically reconfigure my property for high density food production using my edible ornamentals as seed stock along with the actual seeds I have prepped.

The amaranth is especially of interest because of the sheer numbers of seeds it puts out so I can go from an ornamental border to a full crop in one cycle, unlike the mashua or canna which will need a couple of cycles to multiply up to a full crop.

My best guess is it'd take 18 months to convert my little acre into a mini-farm that produces enough to keep us and some of our extended family fed. I have a few neighbors with acre/acre+ lots that I'm sure I could convince to allow me to plant if it ever was needed since I'm on very good terms with all of them. That's why 18 months for 10 people is my long term storage goal and I'm mostly there, even though its mostly rice and beans as the staples for now.
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by buck85 » Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:26 am

Read up on Quinoa. This may be a better suited grain crop for your local. Here is a good informative web site.
http://www.saltspringseeds.com/scoop/powerfood.htm
From this web site;
Growing Amaranth and Quinoa (Dan's Scoop)

Recipes

There are so many similarities between quinoa (keen' wah) and amaranth that it seems appropriate to describe them together. Quinoa, however, is a cool weather crop and amaranth is a warm weather one.

Quinoa and amaranth are two very old, high-protein plants that hail from South America. They were held sacred in ancient Inca and Aztec cultures. Both now hold great potential for self-sustaining gardens in the northern hemisphere. They grow as easily as their weedy relatives (pigweed or lamb's-quarters) and the quality of food they offer far surpasses that of our common grains. Traditional hand-harvesting methods can obtain bounteous harvests.

Quinoa and amaranth are treated as grains although they have broad leaves, unlike the true grains and corn, which are grasses. Their leaves are among the most nutritious of vegetable greens, but it is their fruit that is usually meant when these plants are referred to as "crops." And that fruit or grain is quite special. The protein content of these two foods has a essential amino acid balance that is near the ideal. They both come closer to meeting the genuine protein requirements of the human body than either cow's milk or soybeans. They are high in the amino acid lysine, which is lacking in most cereals such as wheat, sorghum, corn and barley.

Both quinoa and amaranth are quite adaptable, disease-free and drought-tolerant plants. They thrive in rich soil—as long as it is well drained—but both will, once established, produce abundant harvests under dry conditions.

The wild relatives of both amaranth and quinoa have long been familiar to North American gardeners and are often called by the same name of pigweed. The pigweed that is related to quinoa is also called lamb's-quarters (Chenopodium album), while the ancestor of amaranth is known as red-rooted pigweed or wild amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus). Both pigweeds have the amazing ability to flower and go to seed at any stage of their growth and both will cross with their cultivated progeny. The grower who wants pure strains of either quinoa or amaranth must therefore pay close attention to weeds.

Most cultivars of amaranth and quinoa grow four- to eight-feet high and, when in flower, are majestic plants whose presence emits a special radiance in any garden. Quinoa's unique flower hues are most striking at a close distance around dawn or dusk, while amaranth's flamboyant bronze and burgundy tones are dazzling in bright sunshine. Smaller ornamental amaranths such as Love-Lies-Bleeding and Prince's-Feather have been listed in garden catalogues for hundreds of years.

Soil Preference

Quinoa and amaranth are responsive to nitrogen and phosphorous. Plants grown in average garden soil will be four-feet to six-feet tall, while those grown in rich soil or compost may reach over eight feet. Optimum soil is a well-drained loam but both plants will do well in all but poorly aerated clay soils.

Varieties

Named varieties of amaranth and quinoa are increasingly available from seed companies. Most North Americans would be hard-pressed to describe the subtle differences in flavour between cultivars. Black-seeded varieties of amaranth stay quite gritty when cooked, so it is best to use these varieties just for their leaves. All the golden and light-colored amaranths I've tried are excellent cooked as whole grains and all have delectable greens.

Planting Times

Quinoa grows best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 90°F (32°C) and nighttime temperatures are cool. For most southern Canadian and northern U.S. sites, the best time to plant quinoa is late April to late May. When soil temperatures are around 60°F (15°C) seedlings emerge within three to four days. However, when quinoa seeds are planted in soil with night-time temperatures much above that, quinoa, like spinach, may not germinate. In this instance, it's best to refrigerate seeds before planting.

Amaranth is a warm season crop that requires full sun. Best germination occurs when soil temperatures range from 65 to 75°F (18-24°C). For southern Canada and the northern U.S., this usually means a late May or early June planting.

Sowing

The small seeds of amaranth and quinoa will germinate more successfully with a finely prepared surface and adequate moisture. Seeds should be sown no more than one-quarter inch deep in rows one and a half- to two-feet (45-60 cm) apart or wide enough to accommodate a rototiller between the rows without damaging the plants. Planting can be done by hand or with a row seeder. Plants should eventually be thinned 6 to 18 inches (15-45 cm) apart. (Thinnings make great additions to salad.)

One gram of seed will sow 50 feet (15 m) of row. An acre requires about one pound of seed.

Maintenance

Quinoa resembles lamb's-quarters and amaranth resembles red-rooted pigweed, especially in the early stages of growth, so it is best to sow seed in rows to make weeding less confusing. Sowing amaranth cultivars with purple leaves also simplifies weeding. Since seed is small, you can avoid considerable thinning by mixing it with sand or radish seed before sowing, as is sometimes done with carrots. Amaranth and quinoa are low-maintenance crops but weeds, especially at the beginning, should be discouraged by cultivation or mulching.

Soil moisture is probably sufficient until early June to germinate the seed. Given good soil moisture, don't water until the plants reach the two- or three-leaf stage. Quinoa and amaranth appear slow growing at first but both are extremely drought tolerant and do well on a total of 10 inches (25 cm) of water or less. As the plants reach about one foot in height, they start to grow very rapidly, the canopy closes in, weeds are shaded out and less moisture is lost through evaporation.

You may have noticed occasional lamb's-quarter or amaranth weeds succumbing to munching by insect larvae in the flowerheads and the same is sometimes true of their cultivated cousins. This won't have any serious impact on the harvest.

Harvesting

Quinoa is ready to harvest when the leaves have fallen, leaving just the dried seedheads. Seeds can be easily stripped upwards off the stalk with a gloved hand. Quinoa resists light frosts especially if the soil is dry. So long as maturing seed is past the green stage, frost will cause little damage and harvesting can be done a day or two later. Extreme hot weather and warm nights inhibit fruit set. It is important to watch the weather when quinoa is ready to be harvested: if rained on, the dry seed can germinate. If the heads are not completely dry, harvest them when you can barely indent the seeds with your thumbnail. They should then be thoroughly dried before storage.

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.

The best time to harvest amaranth commercially is in dry weather three to seven days after first frost—a condition not easily met in many places. Most presently available varieties maintain too high a moisture content to be harvested mechanically before a killing frost.

Clean quinoa and amaranth with screens, by winnowing, with a fan or other blowing device. After harvesting, it is important to further dry your crop to ensure it won't mold in storage. It can be left on trays in the hot sun or placed near an indoor heat source. Stir occasionally until it is as dry as possible. Store seed in air-tight containers in a cool dry place.

Threshing

Unlike beans or true grains, quinoa and amaranth have no hulls to remove. However, quinoa is covered with a bitter substance called saponin, which birds and deer won't touch. Because of this coating, quinoa requires thorough rinsing before cooking. One method is to put the grain in a blender with cool water at lowest speed, changing the water until it is no longer soapy. It takes about five water changes to achieve the desired, non-frothy result. Another way is to tie the desired amount of quinoa in a stocking, a loose weave muslin bag, or a pillowcase and to run it through a cold water cycle of an automatic washing machine. You can also get away with less or no rinsing by mixing quinoa with other grains or pulses, rendering the saponin hardly noticeable.

Commercial quinoa has had the saponin removed.

Amaranth has no saponin and no hulls, so can be cooked without additional preparation.

Yields

An ounce or two of seed per plant is common but you can easily get over six ounces per plant grown in your best compost. Normal commercial yields for amaranth and quinoa are 1200 to 2000 pounds (500-900 kg) per acre. Agricultural combines are still being adapted to the lightness of the seed, and full harvest potential is yet to be realized. Much higher results are obtained from labour-intensive harvesting: yields of over 5,000 pounds per acre have been reported from Central and South America.

Cooking

Basic recipe: Bring equal volumes of amaranth/quinoa and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed. Amaranth takes about 10-12 minutes and quinoa 12-15 minutes. For a more porridge-like consistency, use a greater proportion of water. Experiment to find the texture you prefer.

Quinoa and amaranth both contain about 16 percent protein, E and B vitamins, calcium, iron and phosphorous. They are easy to digest and have wonderful flavour. Their simple distinctive taste gives them great versatility for cooking purposes. They can be substituted for other grains in many recipes, though they are much more filling. Because they are not true cereal grains, they can be eaten by people who suffer from cereal grain allergies.

Young quinoa and amaranth greens make tasty salad material and are high in vitamins (especially calcium and iron), minerals and protein. Carrots juiced with a small amount of either leaves make a most invigorating drink.

Older greens are wonderful steamed, stir-fried or incorporated into curries or casseroles. Some varieties have better greens than others and are usually so indicated in seed catalogues. One of the tastiest amaranths grown for greens is called Tampala. Amaranth is also called Chinese Spinach because of its popularity as a green vegetable in that country.

Amaranth seed is often ground into flour; it contains more gluten than that of quinoa and combines well with traditional flours in the ratio of one part amaranth to four parts other grains.

Saving Your Own Seed

Amaranth and quinoa cross with their wild relatives, so it is important to weed out red-rooted pigweed and lamb's-quarters if you want to maintain pure seed. Amaranth cultivars will cross with each other as will quinoa cultivars, so grow only one kind of each or separate cultivars by as much distance as you can. Certain varieties, such as purple-leaved amaranth, are easier to select for than others. Lamb's-quarters has a greater branching habit than quinoa and smaller flowerheads.

Outlook

Quinoa and amaranth have exciting possibilities for the home gardener looking for hardy, easy-to-grow, high-protein foods. They have higher food quality than our common grains such as wheat and oats, and they don't have hulls that need to be removed by machinery prior to cooking. Instructions on most commercial packaging to cook these grains for 30 minutes might be hampering their popularization: 15 minutes simmering is long enough to provide soft but non-mushy grain. From my own success with growing amaranth and quinoa over many years, I would say that the difficulties in cultivating and preparing these two grains are relatively minor and that the pleasures obtained in growing and eating them are definitely major.
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Kathy in FL » Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:12 am

Some varieties are grown as an ornamental here in Florida. I found the bugs around here really like it. Supposedly it is supposed to take a lot of chomping by bugs before it is affected but I didn't necessarily find it any hardier against bug damage. I also found that gopher tortoises and swamp rabbits like amaranth quite a bit. The tortoises pushed over the netting and rabbits went under it. :vmad: Growing it in barrels didn't really yield enough to do much more than re-seed. They also are subject to nematode damage which I found out when I tried to "gorilla garden" some at our north Florida BOL.

That's not to discourage people from trying it, I'm just giving my personal experience. In a SHTF situation/economy I'd still take the problems with amaranth over the problems with wheat for our locale.

Buck85, wish we could grow quinoa around here although my family thinks it is about like eating birdseed. LOL.

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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by buck85 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:29 pm

buck85 wrote: Planting Times

Quinoa grows best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 90°F (32°C) and nighttime temperatures are cool. For most southern Canadian and northern U.S. sites, the best time to plant quinoa is late April to late May. When soil temperatures are around 60°F (15°C) seedlings emerge within three to four days. However, when quinoa seeds are planted in soil with night-time temperatures much above that, quinoa, like spinach, may not germinate. In this instance, it's best to refrigerate seeds before planting.

Amaranth is a warm season crop that requires full sun. Best germination occurs when soil temperatures range from 65 to 75°F (18-24°C). For southern Canada and the northern U.S., this usually means a late May or early June planting..
I wonder if quinoa could be grown as a winter crop in North Fl.?
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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Kathy in FL » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:45 pm

buck85 wrote:
buck85 wrote: Planting Times

Quinoa grows best where maximum temperatures do not exceed 90°F (32°C) and nighttime temperatures are cool. For most southern Canadian and northern U.S. sites, the best time to plant quinoa is late April to late May. When soil temperatures are around 60°F (15°C) seedlings emerge within three to four days. However, when quinoa seeds are planted in soil with night-time temperatures much above that, quinoa, like spinach, may not germinate. In this instance, it's best to refrigerate seeds before planting.

Amaranth is a warm season crop that requires full sun. Best germination occurs when soil temperatures range from 65 to 75°F (18-24°C). For southern Canada and the northern U.S., this usually means a late May or early June planting..
I wonder if quinoa could be grown as a winter crop in North Fl.?
Buck85, I couldn't get it to properly germinate along the I10/US90 corridor.

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Re: Considering adding Amaranth to my edible landscaping

Post by Snyper708 » Sat Sep 13, 2014 3:03 pm

You can also pop Amaranth and Quinoa like popcorn

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