Agriculture Food Growing Urban


Amaranth is one of those plants, like Yarrow or Nigella, that I find interesting.

The variety that I grew is a very beautiful red and has these long stalks. The leaves are edible, like a collard green, though I didn’t find that out in time to eat these ones.

Its heads have tiny seeds which are also valued as an ancient grain. While it’s highly appreciated in third-world agriculture, predictably enough the Palmer Amaranth variety is viewed as a weed damaging to soy bean productivity in the South-East USA.

I harvested my tiny crop early in October. I took these heads, dried them slowly in a ventilated plastic bag, then partitioned off the tiny seeds.

One of the nicest things about the crop was these beautiful red sticks the stems made. I got a similar kick off the stalks off the Flax I grew. One Flax stick I keep resting on my computer keyboard. If you had enough of either of these plants these stalks would be great for weaving with.

That aspect of plants, the diverse use of products from a crop, something that is enabled by more rural labour, is a thing of the past. This is also one of the hidden losses with the high-yield grains with their stubby stalks. Those full-length stalks the stubs have replaced would have had a myriad of uses; as animal feed and not least as an amazing source of compost.

I stopped short of winnowing the seed I harvested. It’s very difficult to separate the remains of the red plumes from it. I could have persisted, but also thought the mix smelt a bit musty, so I opted to save it and sow it again next year.

As a cheeky shortcut I bought some Amaranth on the high street and made a porridge with that so as to taste it.

What surprised me was that the mustiness I had identified in my own crop was also present in this shop-bought packet. I guess that’s just how it smells! Still, the Amaranth makes a tasty porridge. The tiny grains are like miniature “bobas”.

When I was visiting Helen Nearing’s garden at Forest Farm in Maine this October I noticed that she had grown Amaranth there also. The heads here bowing with their heavy load of seeds.