We planted Hopi Red Dye Amaranth this year and last year. It’s SUCH a beautiful plant and probably our most asked about plant. It gets about 6-7 feet tall with no fuss. I think it’s a great plant just as a decorative xeriscaping. But it’s also edible! And hot pink!
It does however, crowd and re-seed a bit vigorously, but it’s not that hard to pull out or mow when it’s small. You can eat the scarlet leaves raw when it’s small, and eat them cooked as it gets bigger. And of course, hypothetically, you can eat the grain. I got it, in fact, because I liked the idea of growing my own grain and it is supposedly high producing.
However, the grain is a beast to process. Last year we got about a cup out of 2 six foot rows because we got sick of caring about it. We popped that cup of amaranth like popcorn and it was really tasty!
This year, I decided to do another half-hearted attempt. So, when the stalks (which had re-seeded themselves) got so heavy with grain they were all falling over (late July/early August in Ohio) I hacked them down and tossed them on a sheet in the yard, in the sun to dry for a few days, till they were brown and crunchy.
This first stage was easy and necessary, since I had to cut out the amaranth anyway as it had fallen down. For the next step I put on Jared Diamond’s audiobook “Collapse” about societies falling apart because of lack of resources. Which sort of felt appropriate as we went to bizarre measures to get several cups of food. I kept telling Matt, “I’m not sure we’re going to get enough Amaranth to survive the winter? Oh wait, we don’t live in Greenland!”
SO we laid the sheet out on the kitchen floor and then rubbed the dry amaranth against a window screen to knock the seeds out. We also tried our beer grain grinder for this step, to no effect. No matter, the window screen got er done.
After this stage, we had a mix that was about half chaff and half seed. The chaff isn’t poisonous, but it isn’t appetizing either. The seeds are TINY and the chaff is SMALLER so this is tricky. I had read on-line about trying a flour sifter for the next stage of winnowing out the chaff, but that was a bust.
So, the chaff is really light, and mostly places on line recommend to blow the chaff off the grain, like with your breathing. We tried that last year and after a half hour or so were really dizzy with maybe 1% progress, I decided that I am not actually that crazy.
This year Matt innovated the blowing process and took a small fan on low, and set a bowl in front of it. Then we dumped the seed/chaff mix in front of the fan, into the bowl, thus blowing off a lot of the chaff. Ta-daa! About 5-6 passes in front of the fan got out about 90% of the chaff. All the chaff was now all over the sheet we had laid out. So yay, I have some Amaranth. We just might survive the winter!
I’m not sure why I cared so much about this silly project, except that I REALLY want to make red cornbread (amaranth bread?), and what else was I going to do on a Thursday night?