Monday, September 11, 2017

Harvesting Amaranth by Donna Duffy

Amaranth ready to harvest, photo by Donna Duffy

You can begin harvesting amaranth plants for greens almost immediately. Young greens are perfect for salads, while older greens are better when cooked like spinach. Seeds ripen about three months after planting, usually in the mid- to late summer, depending on when you planted. They are ready to harvest when they begin to fall from the flower head (tassel). Give the tassel a gentle shake. If you see seeds falling from the tassel, it’s amaranth harvest time.

Amaranth almost ready to harvest, photo by Donna Duffy

Now that the seed is ready to harvest, you can either cut, hang dry the plants and then separate the seeds from the chaff, or wait to cut the tassel from the plant on a dry day, 3-7 days after a hard frost. By then, the seeds will definitely be dry. However, the birds may have gotten to a lot more of them than you will. Another way to harvest the amaranth is once the seeds begin to readily fall from the tassels, take the seed heads in your hands and rub them over a bucket to catch the seed. The latter method will require multiple harvests in this manner to remove any remaining seeds as they dry. It also lessens the amount of debris and chaff that needs to be removed.

Regardless how you harvest your amaranth seeds, you will need to winnow out the chaff from the seed. You might try the “blow and fly” method, but do this outside! Place a cookie sheet on the ground, with one end elevated. Pour the seed onto the cookie sheet and blow towards the ramp. Seeds will roll up the ramp and back down, while the chaff will blow beyond the cutting board.

Once you have harvested the amaranth, it needs to be completely dried before you store it; otherwise, it will mold. Leave it on trays to dry in the sun or inside near an indoor heating source. Stir the seed around on occasion until they are completely dry. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry area for up to 6 months.

Amaranth can be cooked in water like rice, but it releases a lot of starch. The result is a thick, porridge-like texture. It can be cooked with a lot of excess water, or mixed with other grains (rice, quinoa, millet, etc.) if a more “rice-like” consistency is preferred. 

Try adding it to breads, muffins, or as a whole-grain thickener for soups. It can also be heated in a skillet and popped like popcorn! For more information, check out the following resources.

Amaranth guardian, Photo by Donna Duffy