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applestar
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Pointers for harvesting amaranth/pigweed seeds?

So I let 1 pigweed grow in my desert rock garden and 1 in my veggie garden where a potato failed to come up. They both grew and GREW! The poor yucca in the rock garden was completely deprived of any nutrients, I'm sure -- though it managed to grow 2 new offsets, so it didn't suffer THAT much :roll:

Although I've no idea if I'm doing this correctly, I've started harvesting the seeds -- I sure don't want ALL these seeds to fall on the ground, so I've been giving them the tickle test -- I hold the... still green frond? (whatever the correct terminology is) and stroke it, and if black seeds fall off in my hand, I stick it in a brown bag and cut it off. I can hear the seeds hitting the bottom of the bag as I do this. :D

Thinking that the leaves would (1) delay drying and (2) add to junk when dried and crumbled, I've been cutting off the leaves, transferring the stalks from one brown bag to another. So far so good. (When I remembered to lay a newsprint on the table where I was working, I found out that a lot of seeds were falling on the table... and off the table through the gaps onto the patio -- guess I'll be finding a lot of them growing between the bricks next spring. :roll:) This process also seems to help shake out the tiny spiders that like to live in the fronds and the occasional tiny inchworms (anyone know what species they might be?)

I've poured out the seeds that were in the bottom of the bag. Shifting with different sized mesh strainers helped to get the big chaffe and powdery debris out. After that, only way I've been able to get rid of the rest has been to gently blow on it while swirling in the strainer. (I'm guessing a fan might be useful here) I found out that if I blow too hard, the little seeds will fly right out. :bouncey:

How am I doing? Also, my question is should I let the stalks dry completely now or should I strip the fronds off the stalks then let them dry? (would that speed up the drying process or would leaving them on the stalks help them to "mature" some more?) In other words, am I being too impatient about separating the seeds out? :D

liz1231
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Amaranth

Hi,
I know you posted this message last year, so I don't know if you are still interested in this topic, but I hope you are. I am in Florida and grew a bunch of amaranth from seed. It has already "flowered" and I needed to start harvesting. I had *a lot* of it because I really overplanted, having no real idea what I was getting in to. I do want to harvest and use the seeds, but am having a lot of trouble with it. I must have 50 plants and some are 7 feet tall or more, all with massive flower plumes. I have cut the plumes and am working on drying and getting the seeds. I can dry them ok and rub them into paper bags to get the seeds off, but then I am stuck. I can't figure out how to get the tiniest bits of chaff and dried leaves/dirt etc separated from the tiny seeds. Do you have any tips?

Thanks!

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hendi_alex
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Why don't you dump the material in a large wire screen colander and use it as a sieve to separate most of the seeds out of the other debris.
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liz1231
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Amaranth and collander

That's a good suggestion. I was trying a sieve I had and it didn't work right, the holes were too small even for the amaranth seeds. I don't have a colander, but I was thinking of going to the hardware store with some seeds and buying some screen and making my own sieve of some sort. Seeds of Change sells them, but they appear to be out of stock.

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hendi_alex
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What size opening do you need?
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applestar
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Well, as you observed, I didn't get any responses (where were you last year, Alex? :wink: JK), and my research didn't really turn up anything more than the "fan" method for blowing away chaff.

I basically pulled out every utensil I had in the kitchen. :wink: I have a large mesh colander, a fine mesh strainer, and a micro-mesh strainer. For larger debris, I used the spaghetti pot and steamer pot inserts with holes which let the amaranth seeds fall out. Later, I remembered that I also have the 3-stage riddle for sifting/separating soil. I think I used that as well. (This might be what you were talking about when you said Seeds of Change -- try BONSAI stores.)

AFTER these, I still had fine chaff that were the basically the same size as the seeds. These I removed with the pour-and-blow away method on breezy days.

Still a LOT of work. In the industry, they have machines that basically do all these steps mechanically. Ingenious inventions, really. :cool: Pretty interesting research -- a mention of it in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy -- a foot operated sifting shaker trays and hand-cranked bellows.... More recently a gas-powered (loud and obnoxious, no doubt) monsters, but I did come across an interesting video of a worm compost "farmer" who adapted an antique one for separating mature worms and worm compost, baby worms and eggs, and finished worm compost.... Also, a story about what really happened to Walnut Acres, a family owned organic farm in Pennsylvania.

So there seems to be equipment available to small scale farmers, but they're still too expensive for my level of operation. I wish somebody will realize that there's a market for backyard gardeners. If you're handy, you might be able to make wood frame trays with 3 different size screens/hardware cloths stapled on them hung one over the other on legs to stand over something like an under-the-bed storage box (those smooth little round seeds EASILY roll/bounce away :-() :roll: :lol: )

Good luck! I'd be interested to know what you end up doing. :D

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rainbowgardener
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lot of work for amaranth seeds!

If you've been reading my posts, you know I am a KISS gardener (Keep It Simple....). If you want to eat the amaranth (it is supposed to be high protein and nutritious) maybe there's a reason to do all that work cleaning it. If you just want to plant the seeds for next year, who cares if there's still some chaff attached? Plant it as is... Think of the chaff as organic material you are planting with your seeds.

I do a fair amount of seed saving and this year hoping to do more. I just put seeds, roughly cleaned (so there's no big stuff or green stuff that could possibly mold) into paper envelopes and store them til spring. By then they have cleaned themselves a lot more and are a lot easier to sort.

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applestar
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I actually ate mine 8)
They were very good -- kinda nutty (no unsolicited comments please! :lol: ) -- when cooked with rice. I guess I used about 1/8 C in 2 C of brown rice.
There WERE some minor chaff but they floated away when washed with the rice grains.

liz1231
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Amaranth harvesting cont.

You all are awesome. Great ideas on kitchen utensils. Yes, btw, I grew them to eat, so I have to figure out a way to really get them clean. I'll put a few away for seeds but I must have *millions,* so that won't take care of much of my problem (oh, I could send seed packs to friends as gifts!). I think the kitchen utensil scavenger hunt will be the best idea. However, what I might do is talk my husband into making me the multi-tiered trays that you suggest. Hmmm, maybe I could even sell them if they work? Though I am wondering how many crazy people are out there like us, growing amaranth seeds to eat?? At least in the US.

South American farmers have been doing this for centuries without all the farming equipment, and I am wondering how they do it....

Liz

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Making progress

Ok, your ideas for kitchen scavenging were helpful. The big plastic spaghetti colander was the best find. Then I put seeds in a bowl of water, where most of them sank to the bottom.

cynthia_h
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I don't know whether these bits will move the discussion forward, but John Jeavons is a proponent of home gardeners growing *some* grain. Here is some info about growing and harvesting amaranth from the Bountiful Gardens 2009 catalogue:

"When seeds first start to drop to the ground, cut heads and hang in protected place with good ventilation over tarp or plastic to catch seeds. When dry, rub heads to remove seeds and winnow."

From the 7th ed. of Grow More Vegetables...:

"For grain: harvest when seeds are mature and dry enough to rub out of head easily; be alert for birds. For leaves: harvest when they are large, green, and shiny and before they begin to lose their maximum green."

There's also a passing comment in the catalogue in the introductory paragraph to Grains: "Our varieties are specifically chosen for the backyard gardener and small farms that don't have specialized milling equipment."

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!potatoes!
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there's a book titled 'amaranth - from the past, for the future'...published sometime in the '70's, i think, that if i recall correctly, has designs for a home winnowing machine...i'll see if i can't dig it up sometime soon. should be simpler (or, no, i guess just faster) than just endlessly sifting...

liz1231
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The amaranth book

Good call! Here it is: [url=https://www.amazon.com/Amaranth-Past-Future-John-Cole/dp/0878572406/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=thehelpfulgar-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325]https://www.amazon.com/Amaranth-Past-Future-John-Cole/dp/0878572406/[/url]

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Amaranth--callaloo

A Jamaican came to our house to do some work recently, saw my amaranth and said, "Oh, callaloo. All the servants grow it in Jamaica." That clued me in to look for it under that name. Today at the grocery I found two brands of canned amaranth leaves marketed as "callaloo--Jamaican spinach" and "callaloo--garden vegetable." This has nothing to do with harvesting it, but I thought it was interesting, and provides another search term.

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applestar
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Thanks for the new line of research! ... and I'll check out that Amaranth book.

Not Amaranth, but I harvested and ate some Lambs Quarters recently that were *almost* seeding. Still green and only a very small few had black seeds in the seed head.

I gripped the stalk and pulled off the seed pods and leaves, then picked off the rest of the leaves until I had a loose 4-cup measurefull, then dumped the whole thing in a pot of freshly cooked brown rice (2C dry) with a pat of butter and some sea salt, mixed well and put the lid back on to steam.

Delicious! I actually didn't know that the seedhead was mature enough to have black seeds until I was eating this, or I would've saved some to plant. (They added a nice nutty crunch and black speckle in the rice -- more nutritious too.) Oh, well, so far, Lambs Quarters volunteer everywhere in the garden so I guess we're OK. I keep thinking, though that if I don't be careful, I'll end up harvesting them all and not have any seeds left.... :roll:

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!potatoes!
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i've been cutting so much volunteer lamb's quarters and the wild green amaranth out of our main garden area that the kale i cut goes bad in the fridge...none of the wild stuff is near flowering yet, but it's big, some stems nearly a centimeter in diameter, and i've found that the stems and all can be steamed, and the stems act like asparagus, super tender...nice. i'll reach for the bag of 'weeds' in the fridge 3 out of 4 times i go for greens, go figure.

the year i get nothing but thistle volunteers, that may change, but I'm beginning to get the impression that if i applied myself to scavenging the neighborhood's waste plants, i wouldn't have to plant greens at all until late summer, when the 'weeds' are finally going to seed.

GrandMomMom
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Wow!

Are you people actually telling me that you can eat pigweed???

How would I know that we are talking about the same thing?
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!potatoes!
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[img]https://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j248/khoomeizhi/for%20web/pigweed.jpg[/img]

if you're talking about this stuff, we're talking about the same thing, and IT'S DELICIOUS.

GrandMomMom
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Thank you so much for the picture of the plant in question!

I really think I am going to like this site! :D
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!potatoes!
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i hope so.

welcome.

opabinia51
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Pigweed, that's interesting; I'll keep my eye out for it. And lambs quarters, that's one I'll put in my garden next year. I've seen the name for years but, I think I'll plant it now.

Do you have Seedy Saturdays in your region?
Feed the soil, not the plants.

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!potatoes!
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?....not that i know of.

opabinia51
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Oh, to bad. they are great places for getting seeds, information and the like. Try looking it up on the web.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

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!potatoes!
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lots of seed/plant swaps around here, mostly in the spring/early summer....preliminary web searches suggest there isn't any particularly 'seedy saturday' type thing going on.

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applestar
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Ah oh. I ate my black amaranth seeds... :roll:
"First of all on Amaranth be careful--the seed of the white seeded varieties is edible and the seed of the black seeded varieties is NOT. " ( https://www.horizonherbs.com/group.asp?grp=32 )
Well they tasted good cooked with brown rice and I'm still here. :wink:

Anyway, this website also provides description on how to harvest the seeds.

thanrose
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While paler seeds may be preferred for eating, it's not true that they are inedible. I've eaten amaranth seed from wild amaranth and from vegetable amaranth. It needs to be cooked whatever the source and whatever the color. And cooking is principally to make the nutrients available for digestion. I've roasted and ground them for flour or cereal use, and added whole to breads and casseroles.

For wild edibles, and that includes garden plants that most people would neer think of eating, it's generally best to find at least two sources that clearly identify what you are eating as to time of year, method of preparation, clear identification, and wholesome environment. The mnemonic for remembering that is either TIME or ITEM depending on how you want to remember:

Identify
Time of year
Method of prep
Environment

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applestar
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Thanks, thanrose. It IS important to emphasize the safety cautions. They sometimes get lost or forgotten in enthusiasm. :roll: I like the mnemonic you gave -- very easy to remember. :wink:
(For my part, this was the first time I ever came across anyone saying the black seeds aren't good to eat, so I'm not sure what that was about, but I thought I'd just mention it. :? )

thanrose
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Yeah, it certainly made me look again. But I've been wild crafting a couple of Amaranth spp. for years, and have grown a couple of others.

I think it was only spiny amaranth that I ate in New Jersey 40-50 years ago, but I didn't have loads of reference material back then.

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