"What are we going to do with that?" was my first thought when
my husband Andy said he had planted amaranth in our garden. I'd
see amaranth in health food stores before, and I knew it was a grain,
but I had no idea how to harvest it or what we would do when it
my favorite thing growing in the garden.
Amaranth is an herb first cultivated by the ancient Aztecs.
However, we consume the fruit of the plant which is much like a
grain and so amaranth is more commonly referred to as a grain. Recent
health studies have found amaranth to be anti-inflammatory, lowers
cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease and is high in antioxidants,
minerals and calcium. It's also gluten-free, has more protein per
serving than other grains, and studies are suggesting that it may
also help you lose and maintain weight.
It's also gorgeous.
Walking into my garden, I see a lot of green with dots of yellow.
Green lettuces, green herbs, green squash plants with yellow flowers.
Yellow tomatoes ripening on a green vine. Sugar snap peas. Yellow
sunflowers on a tall green stalk. And in the midst of it all, a
dozen stalks of magenta shooting straight up to the sky before the
beautiful, velvety, tops flop over and add a casual elegance to
all the greenness. You're eye can't help but land there, and it
can't help but to keep returning there.
Between its sultry good looks and amazing health benefits, I
highly suggest ordering some amaranth seeds and getting some growing
in your garden. Even if you have no intention to eat it, the ornamental
value is worth it alone.
what do you do if you DO want to eat it? How do you harvest it and
how do you cook it. Amaranth is usually ready for it's first harvest
about three months after it's been germinated. You'll know when
by the magenta flowers suddenly becoming little white fruits (smaller
than BBs) and there will likely be a few birds happily beginning
the harvest for you. Probably the easiest way to harvest the amaranth
is to bend the flower over a buck and gently shake the flower or
rub it in between your hands to release the fruit. If you're not
going to eat it right away be sure to let it dry in the sun for
a few days to prevent it from molding in storage. The amaranth will
continue to produce well into the fall. You can also harvest the
leaves, which taste like a strong spinach, and use them much the
way you would use spinach.
cook the amaranth simply use a 1:3 ratio of amaranth to liquid (water,
milk, almond milk, etc.). Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer
for 20-25 minutes. Try it as a warm breakfast cereal. You can also
pop amaranth like popcorn. Add amaranth to a pot over high heat
(no oil) and stir it continuously until it pops. You can use this
as breading or as a crunchy topping on soups or salads. However,
I'm going to make Alegría (Spanish for "happiness") with
my first harvest of amaranth. Alegría is a Mexican candy
that is similar to popcorn balls. Pop your amaranth and then heat
up an equal amount of honey. When the honey is warm, add the amaranth
and a pinch of salt. Combine, and transfer to a greased baking dish.
After they've cooled you can cut and serve!
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band
in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For
three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest,
reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities,
and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling.
In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with
her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable
farm in the "cloud forest"the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000
feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions
for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwestcold
and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine
has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two
trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.