Saturday, September 27, 2008


A couple of months ago I had dinner at Sacatomato Ann's house. We had a look at her backyard garden and there were two things I took away from that day.

First was their great raised garden made from the concrete they had torn up from their backyard. I had been wanting to do a raised garden for some time but didn't have the extra money for all the keystones or bricks I would have needed. I loved the idea of free broken concrete. Later that week I just happened to see some men tearing up concrete. They agreed to deliver it to my house. So this is the raised garden I built.

The second thing I learned that day was about amaranth. They had quite a few amaranth bushes growing with the lovely purple flowers. Turns out that it is quite an interesting plant.

Aside from amaranth being such an attractive plant it is extremely adaptable to adverse growing conditions. It resists heat and drought, has no major disease problems, and is among the easiest of plants to grow. Simply scratching the soil, throwing down some seeds, and watering will reward you with some of these lovely plants.

Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, popped like popcorn, sprouted, or toasted. The seeds can be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent.

Amaranth flour is used in making pastas and baked goods. It must be mixed with other flours for baking yeast breads, as it contains no gluten. One part amaranth flour to 3-4 parts wheat or other grain flours may be used. In the preparation of flatbreads, pancakes and pastas, 100% amaranth flour can be used. Sprouting the seeds will increase the level of some of the nutrients and the sprouts can be used on sandwiches and in salads, or just to munch on.
(More info here.)

Turns out amaranth is a plant that many are trying to see cultivated in third world countries that have poor growing conditions. You can not only eat the seeds, but also the leaves and flowers.

I've been trying to get into new grains. I love quinoa and use it in place of rice whenever I cook at home. It's a healthy whole grain that is high in protein. It cooks the same as rice. So whenever I make anything that would normally have rice as a side, I use the quinoa instead.

I wanted to check out the amaranth and found it in the bulk bins at the Co-op. I took only 1/2 a cup home and cooked it the same way. Then I ate it as a porridge with a little soy milk, cinnamon, and stevia. Delicious. I've found another new grain to play with.
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