Monday, January 26, 2009

Seed Amaranth trial

Michele from visited us in November last year and kindly sent us some amaranth seed that she had harvested from her crop. Heather sowed a patch measuring about 1.5m x 2.5m following the recommended method of scattering seed by hand. The results were amazing- every seed must have germinated because the area soon became a carpet of red and green. It needed a severe thinning to give plants enough space to develop. From some reading, we found out that half a kilo of amaranth seed is all that is needed to cover a whole acre- so only a handful was needed for the space we had in mind. This was followed by a second thinning a month later and they now have nearly reached the stage of developing flower heads. We can’t wait to harvest the crop and add this grain to our expanding list of food crops.

We grew the crop in our orchard with a rough chicken wire fence around it to prevent the chooks from scratching the seed up. A few plants have grown outside the fence and many of these have leaves that seem to have been nibbled on by the chooks- providing another source of chook food. We’ve read that the leaves are edible (young leaves for salads and older leaves steamed like a vegetable). The leaves are high in vitamins (especially calcium and iron) as well as minerals and protein.

Seed amaranth appears to be an ideal grain crop for this climate. It doesn’t require much water or maintenance. Next time we will sow it more thinly to reduce the amount of thinning required. We will keep you up to date in future posts. Check out Michele’s very informative and interesting blog for lots of information about her food growing experiences.


nomad said...

I have recently moved to Vancouver Island (Canada) trying to get my life back together, and one of the dreams I have is to create a place similar to what you are creating. Land here is very expensive, so it will take me a while to aquire some of my the meantime I read your column and am constantly inspired by your resourcefulness. Thanks for sharing.

Sian said...

Hi Heather & Andrew,
So glad to hear you guys survived the fires okay, though so sad for all the wildlife. I would be very interested to see your plan of the fire defence elements on your property someday.
Just to let you my experience with Seed Amaranth a few years back, it just spread EVERYWHERE & kept coming up all over the garden for the next few years too! Couldn't get rid of it!! Maybe the trick is in harvesting all the seed early enough?

Andrew and Heather said...

Thanks for your thoughts Sian, We’re working on a description of factors that helped us in the fires and should be able to post it in the next few days. In the near future we also intend running one of our regular small group tours of our place. Fire defence systems and plans will be one of the areas we cover.
Thanks for the information re Amaranth. Luckily we planted the Amaranth patch in the orchard so if it spreads we can mow it. Mind you we have nasturtiums, marigolds, cape gooseberries and several other species which have seeded prolifically amongst our vegies. We don’t find them a problem. They are all easy to pull out if necessary and provide good biomass for our compost heaps or mulch material for bare patches of the garden. The amaranth will also provide another green we can feed the chooks. Thanks for the advice though - “forewarned is forearmed”. As you say, our next challenge will be to harvest the seed at the best time.
Regards, Andrew and Heather

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