The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to thresh amaranth

Mature amaranth plantsOur quinoa disappeared into a deer- and bug-eaten mess this spring, but our amaranth sprang up far above my head.  By late summer, the plumes of flowers were going to seed, and the red stalks were four inches in diameter.  Clearly, the growing part of our amaranth experiment was a success.  (This photo was taken near the end of September when the plants were mostly mature.  Next year, I'll give them some supports, since about half of the plants fell over under the weight of their fruits.)

Harvesting amaranth for grainAfter the first frost, I snipped off all of the plumes with scissors and stuffed them into two paper grocery bags.  Although I've read that it's easier to thresh your amaranth if you let the seed heads dry thoroughly first, I didn't have space to spread the plumes out and I was a bit afraid of them molding in their bags.  So I moved on to processing the grain.

When I researched homegrown grains last winter, the accepted method for home-threshing seemed to be to lay out your heads of grain on an old sheet and whack them into submission with a stick or plastic bat.  The more I thought about this idea, the more it seemed like I'd end up with grain everywhere except on the sheet.  Plus, we're kinda low on sheets.

Hand threshing amaranth

Winnowing amaranthThere are several other methods people use to thresh grain at home, but as small as our experimental harvest was, it seemed easier to go with a more time-consuming method that required no elaborate setup.  I just rubbed the plumes one by one between my hands, letting the seeds fall into a clean bucket.

To winnow, I headed outside with two bowls and poured my grain from one to the other until the breeze had carried away all of the chaff.  (The chaff mostly ended up on Lucy's head since she came to sit at my feet like any faithful dog would.)  As I got more confident, I lifted the bowl higher and higher, until I could see the beautiful rain of seeds falling directly downward to ping in my metal bowl, while the light chaff floated away in another column.

Amaranth seeds with and without chaff

Jar of amaranthThere were a few bits of chaff left in my bowl even after several rounds of winnowing, pieces of seedhead that were about as heavy as the seeds themselves.  Some people pass their seeds through a windowscreen at this point, but I just picked out the half dozen big pieces and moved on.  The photos above show my amaranth before (left) and after (right) winnowing.

I threshed and winnowed about a quarter of our harvest and came up with a cup of seeds.  I figure a quart of the tiny seeds is a pretty good haul for one experimental bed of amaranth.  Next step: to see if we like the taste.

Our homemade chicken waterer is an easy DIY project for the backyard chicken keeper.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I was looking at your hammer and seeds seem much larger than what I got from my Amaranthe . What species or brand of seed did you use to get such large cities?
Comment by Anonymous Wed Aug 24 07:05:02 2016

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