Thursday, September 11, 2008

adventures with amaranth

Today we harvested huge turnips, beautiful swiss chard, and robust red russian kale for Saturday's distribution. I tilled in the rest of the cucumbers & almost all of the summer squash. And I hilled the rest of the un-dug potatoes, as they were looking a little "green" with purslane... the hiller scrapes those weeds off, and piles up more dirt on top of the potato hills. The spuds can stay in the ground for a long time, waiting until we're ready to dig them-- which is usually every week for our CSA members.

After work, I turned my gaze to the 3 Sisters Garden. It was time for the 10 foot tall amaranth flowers to be beheaded. The grain was starting to "shatter", which basically means fall on the ground-- and I want to try to eat it! So, I proceeded to perform a makeshift amaranth harvest of my own, copied roughly from some photos I saw on the web from Mexico. (
I just pictured myself in that big field with all those cowboy-hat-wearing hombres. Or all those experts in my little garden, letting me in on those long-lived agricultural secrets-- how to not spill the grain when cutting them down, how best to remove the leaves from the stalks.
I found this kiddie pool in the barn that I thought would work better than a tarp for catching the grain, and set it up in the greenhouse. Apparently you let the flower heads dry, then beat the heck out of them to get all the tiny seeds out. We'll see how it works.
I harvested from about 9 stalks, varying in shades from magenta to pink to orange to white to a pink/white mix even.
The seeds varied in color too, but mostly they were either white or black. Sometimes the white flowers had black seeds, or the pink flowers had white seeds. The small pieces of flowers will need to be separated from the grain somehow. I will probably do this with a screen, or winnowing in front of a fan.
Amaranth is a really nutritious grain, and it's been cultivated for over 8,000 years, mostly in Latin America-- it was a staple for the Aztecs. It has a really high protein content, as well as all sorts of other vitamins and minerals. You can cook it like any other grain, but what the folks in Mexico like to do apparently is pop it like popcorn and then mix it with honey! I'll try this and let you know.
I'm pretty excited about it as a staple food source because it's a relative of pigweed, which is a really nasty (successful) weed around these parts. Weeds are reacting more positively to the increasing carbon in the atmosphere-- so if we can learn to eat cultivated "weeds" we have more of a chance of survival in the future, when doinky little lettuce plants can't compete. Also you can eat the leaves of amaranth too.

And the Mammoth Sunflower. Sunflower seeds are a staple part of my diet-- now I just need to figure out how to get all these shelled...
I'll keep you posted.

No comments: