Tastier than spinach, more nutritious than wheat

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Summarized from Organic Gardening, October 1979.

(Please note there is sure to be more current information, so search on the Net, but this summary will give you a good start.)

Organic Gardening's Rodale Center had done two years of research on amaranth at the time the article was written. The head researcher, Skip Kaufman, says: "Vegetable amaranth is a perfect crop for the home gardener. Its growing period is short in most areas of the country other than California and southern Texas. But it would fit a niche in a lot of home gardeners' plans if they planted it in July, say when they're pulling out their broccoli and cauliflower. I also think Southern gardeners can get nice, nutritious greens by growing it during their hot season when most other greens are at poor quality. The grain type could be used by growers who want to raise their own grain, but it has greater applications for large-scale agriculture. Right now we're testing which varietes are the best to grow, when to plant them, and how to plant them."

Grain amaranth's growing period at PA farm = 120 days, but maturity period not yet clean-cut--different types, different dates. Vegetable types need 30-60 days.

Kaufman re grain type: "This plant has the potential to produce more grain than a anything I've seen yet,": he says. "It is short, begins to flower and mature early, and has very few leaves in relation to the size of its seed head--which makes it an excellent prospect for the grain farmer because it wil be easier to harvest and will not blow over in the wind as readily. Last year it never got any taller than my knees. I've already cross-pollinated it into a typical grain type, which we'll be evaluating to see if the shortness comes back."

Readers' experiences have shown that amaranth will grow in many climatic zones and varying natural weather conditions, very adaptable. Does well in high humidity, even drought.

Nutritional testing of veggie amaranth: suggests amaranth greens are as healthful as other leafy veggies, like Swiss chard, spinach, kale and turnip greens. Their protein quality is high. OG research shows protein in amaranth is well-balanced, high-quality, and provides a good proportion of essential amino acids.

Protein content of grain amaranth: from 11-20%, which compares favorably with more common grains but is about half that found in legumes, such as soybeans. However, QUALITY of protein is very good. Two amino acids not usually found in other grains (methionine and lysine) are high in amaranth. Levels are both close to that in "ideal" protein.

Amaranth grain flour: excellent baking qualities. Doesn't have gluten, is very mild-tasting and can be mixed with wheat to raise protein content. Mixed together, give higher quality protein than either by itself.

Amaranth tastes good too. Nine testers tasted 19 varieties. Most of veg types would make excellent spinach substitute.

At the time, seed for grain types available from Gurney Seed and Johnny's Selected Seeds. Veg types from Park or Burpee. Again, please research Net--if you dig up anything interesting, come on back and post it here!

See also later posts on this thrad:


-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), May 31, 1999


Is amaranth masonic?

-- pcpeewee (x@Knight.columbus), May 31, 1999.

This seems a good point to ask a question I been curious about.

Has anyone out there actually grow and harvested wheat, Amaranth, or other grains in a small scale way. Not comercial farmers who have the equipment. Harvested by hand. Winnowed by hand.

Please give us the benefit of your experience. How did you set up to handle it. The details. How to cut, handle, winnow, etc. all by hand in a small operation. I've got about 3-4 acres to plant but don't have any experience with a small hand operation.



-- Got Sickles?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), May 31, 1999.

Hello Greybear and All:

We've grown wheat (small patch) and harvested by hand. Don't let the Ag Folks fool ya -- you don't need a combine! This can be done as simply as snipping off the seed heads with scissors and collecting them in a bucket. In our current rather haphazard wheat field, we have an understory of lespedeza, so when the grain is ripe we're not sure if we're going to ground cut (cut at ground level) using manual hedge trimmers and save the results for the livestock -- or just trim the heads and let the goats in to mow the leftovers.

If you plan to scythe the wheat, all I can say is: make sure you have a sharpening stone with you....the blade will dull very quickly and needs frequent touchups.

You can separate your wheat from the stems by placing them on a clean sheet on a concrete area, and then beating the tar out of them with a plastic baseball bat -- or make yourself a "flail", which is basically a nunchuk-like device. Sweep the loosened grain and chaff (everything else of similar size) into a bucket, and dump into another bucket from 4 feet or so while a stiff wind is blowing -- grain goes in the bucket, chaff goes downwind. If you've got electricity, a fan can be used as the wind-source.

Grew amaranth about 10 years ago, and now have another small stand. Some people do eat the leaves, but I found them rather dry and kinda gritty when raw (although the first "new" leaves were really very good). Amaranth seed heads are borne on the top of the plant, and when they are ripe they bend over slightly. The seeds are very small, about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of sesame seeds, and are borne very prolifically. Every plant can give a quarter pound (or sometimes more) of seed. When the seedhead is starting to dry, put a paperbag over it, cut, and hang upsidedown to dry.....the seeds loosen easily, and you can lose a lot if you don't make efforts to keep them in one place.

Amaranth seed flavor is mild and nutty -- can just use them whole in breads, if you like, for a little "poppy seed" sort of crunch. Heard that you can pop amaranth like popcorn, but have never tried.

BTW, amaranth is related to pigweed AKA redroot (which also has a similar seed head, but the seeds are glossy black and smell like mouse urine!), and will readily cross breed -- so pull all the pigweed for 100 feet from your amaranth crop.

Anita Evangelista

-- Anita Evangelista (ale@townsqr.com), May 31, 1999.

yep- looks like pigweed too.We had volunter "amaranth" last year- but it turned out to be pigweed- shucks.

Have harvested buckwheat by hand- major pain in the you know what- haven't attempted to get the hull off though. anyone have any tips on that?

re: other grains- have gotten some "hulless oats" to try- will see how they do.(variety Penuda)

check out Gene Logsden's Grain book- out of print but available in libraries sometimes- great info on small scale grain.

Planted vegetable soybeans today- "Envy" variety. Was weird to do by hand. Last time I dealt with soybeans it was acres.....

-- anita (hillsidefarm@drbs.com), May 31, 1999.

Thanks Anita. I was afraid that my vision of how to do it was as good as it got. You confirmed it. Hopping for magic shortcuts. Oh, well. I expect I'll have some time on my hands anyway.

I'm eager to complete the whole cycle from planting to harvest to grinding to baking to eating. Got the grinding and baking and eating down. (Those who have seen me in person would readily agree that I really have the eating part down.)


-- Got Seeds?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), May 31, 1999.

From Seeds of Change - Toll-free 1-888-762-7333 (24hrs), seedsofchange.com:

This company has grain amaranth. Johnny's, following, has vegetable (leaf) amaranth.

Veegtable - Amaranthus hypochondriacus (they named it after me!)

Origin - Mexico, S. America, annual.

High in lysine, balanced in other amino acids, with a protein content of 14-18%, this gorgeous plant was grown and revered by ancient civlizations such as the Aztecs of Mexico and Guatemala. It is abundant and does well in most climate zones. Can be substituted as a delicious, simple side dish in place of rice, or popped and then mixed with honey. Gluten-free, it is high in protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron and fiber. It also contains the amino acids lysine and methionine. Young leaves are tasty in salads, as well as nutritious.

Soil and culture - Amaranth is adaptable to almost all soil conditions. Direct seed in garden after danger of frost has passed.

Two types are offered, 6-8' and 4-6', both are $2.59/1 gm pack.

Johnny's Select seeds - (207) 437-4301, johnnyseeds.com

Johnny's offers two types as well, but they are vegetable amaranth. 12-18" tall, $1.85 .5 gm.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), June 01, 1999.

Lamb's Quarters (chenopodium album) is also available wild just about everywhere. It's delicious, and loaded with vitamins and iron. It tastes like spinach, and is in fact a true spinach (unlike new zealand spinach, which is commonly purchased as spinach).

I have it growing wild all over the place, but plan on cultivating a small stand of it to see how well it can do with some TLC.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), June 01, 1999.

Lamb's quarters:

Detailed information, recipes, info on other plants:


Pictires, info:


-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), June 01, 1999.

Old Git -- thanks for the excellent links.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), June 02, 1999.

Other sources for amaranth grain are

Bob's Red Mill (Oregon): see this page.

Redwood City Seed Co. (No. Calif): see this page. Redwood City is not set up to order online, but sends a catalog promptly.

A longish descriptive piece on amaranth, including harvesting instructions, is available from ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) here.

The presence of rather high amounts of oxalic acid and nitrates places some limitation on the quantity of amaranth leaves that can be consumed daily. The amount of oxalic acid is roughly the same as that found in spinach and chard. Excessive amounts (over 100 g per day?) may result in a level of oxalic acid that begins to reduce the availability of calcium in humans. This is especially a concern if calcium intake levels are low to begin with. [...] The levels of both oxalic acid and nitrates are reduced by boiling the leaves like a spinach, then discarding the water.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), June 02, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ